Highway conversion in New Haven as a model for I-16 flyover removal

I sort of doubt that TSPLOST will pass on July 31st, which could make this whole discussion moot, at least for a few years.

I’m firmly with the urban planners who think that removal of the I-16 flyover, which would get a small share of the TSPLOST revenues, makes sense from every angle: traffic flow, economic development, the push for “complete streets”, tax revenue, residential development, and on and on.

But I didn’t know of a project of similar scale in New Haven until I saw a tweet from Streetsblog this morning about it.

From the New Haven Regitster in 2010, when the project was still on the drawing board:

“Details of New Haven’s “Little Dig” got fleshed out Thursday as the city awaits a decision on a major federal grant that would go towards the conversion of the Route 34 connector to an urban boulevard.

Allan Hodges, senior environmental supervisor with Parsons Brinkerhoff for the New Haven project, also worked on the “Big Dig” in Boston where highways were hidden in tunnels and the reclaimed land in that city was turned into a 30-acre greenway.

He sees a similarity with New Haven’s project, which at its conclusion, will add 11 acres of developable land back to downtown, a reconnected street grid to the Hill and safer, pedestrian-biker friendly South Frontage and North Frontage roads.”

The area of New Haven being redeveloped by converting highway to urban boulevard

Savannah’s economy is by no means a direct comparison to New Haven’s, especially given that Yale scientists are in close proximity to the portion of Route 34 that will be converted. Still, from the New Haven Register in 2010, when funding was secured:

The total project is expected to bring 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs over time and $700 million in private development in the next five years.

And now comes word of a major tenant for part of the reclaimed land:

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has announced that Alexion, a large biotech company currently based in Cheshire, Connecticut, will relocate its global headquarters to New Haven. Alexion is set to receive up to $51 million in incentives through Governor Malloy’s “First Five” program, which helped facilitate the move, but the company was also attracted to New Haven by the city’s state-of-the-art facilities, biomedical economy, and burgeoning urban core.

Again, I know there are lots of differences between this parcel and the portions of the Historic District and the acreage just west of MLK that will be reclaimed for private use when the I-16 flyover is removed. But the general principles are the same:

  • put government owned land back on the tax rolls.
  • improve pedestrian and vehicular connectivity in Savannah’s core.
  • create all sorts of chances for both residential and commercial development.