I-5 could become Seattles High Line.
I-5 could become Seattle's High Line. ANDREW S. WILLIAMS/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

What is better than putting a lid on I-5 in central Seattle? Removing it altogether and replacing it with a row of business and residential buildings. This is what Doug Trumm at The Urbanist recommends. His argument: Pulling down the flying section of the highway would liberate about 50 blocks for developers. The land around I-5 is expensive, and so all of that land the highway hogs has got to be worth a fortune. Another important thing: I-5 is getting old and is in "rough shape," but SDOT does not have the money needed to get the massive thing into good shape. Our highway infrastructure was made at a time when Keynesians ruled economic thinking. The government was politically able to fund and maintain huge public works. But we now live in the time of austerity. What ever cash the government has must not service these Keynesian dinosaurs but its debt to bondholders.

And so we have I-5 smack-dab in the middle of our city and no money to really pay for it. Tear it down? Sounds reasonable. Keep in mind that Vancouver B.C. doesn't have the massive wound of a highway in its core, and traffic there is better than it is here. But my feeling is that any land freed up by the destruction of I-5 would go to even more luxury condos. Also, destroying that damn thing would not be cheap. A solution? Somewhere between the lid and demolition.

I recommend turning that part of I-5 into a park or, to put a vivid image in your mind, a kind of High Line. Decommission I-5, put soil on it, let things grow on it, and let people walk up and down it. We might also consider making it into one of Sarah Bergmann's Pollinator Pathway—a course of plants that connect with other parks and the outside of the city. Wild things would have a way in and out of downtown. And I-5 would decay beautifully like an ancient castle in a forest. Best of all, we could enjoy a dash of the "world without humans" right in the heart of the densest part of the state.