The SDOT blog and Grist both recently profiled a Vancouver lecture by Dr. Keith Hwang, the current president of the Korean Transport Institute. In 2001, Hwang orchestrated the tear down of a crumbling elevated freeway that ran through downtown Seoul, South Korea. After years of public advocacy, the freeway was replaced in 2005 with 5.8 kilometers (3.6 miles) of public walking space centered around the Cheonggye stream (which was buried beneath cement for years).

Downtown Seoul, before and after
  • SDOT blog
  • Downtown Seoul, before and after
From SDOT's blog:

One of the most interesting things we learned from Dr. Hwang is that, in total, 14 lanes of traffic were removed, to be replaced by only four lanes of traffic. Recently these were further reduced to two lanes. The city system has been able to absorb this level of capacity reduction. For context, these lanes carried about 160,000* vehicles daily for a city with a population of 10 million.

And Grist has a more complete narrative of the events that led to the tear down and what happened in Seoul shortly after:

* A central business district revitalization plan is now underway
* Another elevated freeway in Seoul was removed and replaced with a surface street soon after
* A 16-lane road in Seoul was reduced by half and a massive public plaza built with the additional space
* A major street interchange in front of Seoul's City Hall was replaced with a public plaza
* An urban streams renaissance spread across the country, with citizens everywhere wanting to restore their local rivers and streams
* Property values adjacent to the corridor increased by 300 percent
* Species of fish, birds, and insects have increased in and around the river
* The "urban heat island" effect was diminished in Seoul, with temperatures in the vicinity of the river on average 5.6 degrees F lower than surrounding areas

Okay, tunnel-loving trolls of Slog: Can you please explain to me again why replacing the Viaduct with surface/transit is an unrealistic, non-viable, gridlock-inducing nightmare?

*An accompanying video on SDOT's website puts the number at 180,000 cars per day. Jump ahead to the five-minute mark to see the monster get disassembled.