Can building freeway caps be made economically feasible? Can they be made to pay for themselves or at least defray a significant part of the cost through public private partnerships or selling development rights? What is a freeway cap?
Like Boston’s “Big Dig,” which is credited both with massive costs and problems and with enormous revitalization, freeway caps cover freeways with usable land. However unlike the Big Dig, they take advantage of freeways which are already lowered via a canyon or excavation that occurred when the freeway was built. Thus, the most expensive component of the “Big Dig” is removed.
Los Angeles was well along the way to building two freeway caps over Highway 101 and creating parks on top – one downtown and one in Hollywood – before California’s redevelopment law was repealed. Some people in San Diego envisage a freeway cap that would reconnect its downtown to its famous Balboa Park but there are no real plans for building one, as is discussedin this YouTube Video, Freeway Caps- Pleasant But Pricey.
Do these projects need to be parks in order to benefit the community? Is private development on top politically, legally, or economically feasible? A panel discussion was held a few months ago to brainstorm strategies for keeping the Los Angeles freeway cap projects alive, including selling development rights, reported the California Planning & Development Report. Among the information divulged: CalTrans owns and jealously guards the air rights over freeways and in the present economy there is not enough development demand to build the density or height to significantly offset freeway cap construction costs.
Freeway caps can go along way to repairing the damage to communities from 3/4 of a century of making automobile mobility the top priority; and to make better use of valuable downtown acreages. Hopefully, continued focus and discussion can find ways to make them economically feasible.
Freeway Caps- Pleasant But Pricey – YouTube, KPBS