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Chicago Studies the Innovative I-670 Highway Cap in Columbus

Walker Evans Walker Evans Chicago Studies the Innovative I-670 Highway Cap in Columbus
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A new blog post on the Chicago Tribune website reveals that transit planning experts in the Windy City are closely studying our I-670 Cap in the Short North to learn some best practices for their own projects. The I-670 cap was developed to help bridge the gap on High Street between Downtown and The Short North by concealing the sunken highway below and to provide space for street-level retail businesses, which currently includes MoJoe Lounge, Bar 23, Sushi Rock, Hyde Park and Eleven.

We spoke with architect David Meleca back in 2009 about the development of this project, which you can listen to in mp3 podcast form by clicking here.

While it’s exciting to see Columbus used as a benchmark for innovative urban planning solutions, we unfortunately are hesitant to follow our own lead and recreate our own successes. The ongoing redevelopment of Interstates 70 and 71 through the eastern and southern borders of Downtown will see decorative improvements and caps for greenspace, but no additional retail space or private development at this point in time. A rendering of the renovated Long Street bridge (below) shows that only the south side of Long Street will see a green cap, while the north side of Long Street will not.

As Blair Kamin, the author of the Chicago Tribune blog post points out, the 670 cap at High Street was completed for the low cost of less than $10 million. Meanwhile, the overall cost of the entire 70/71 reconstruction project is estimated to clock in at over $1.6 billion. If all twelve of the Downtown city street bridges that span highways 70 and 71 were reconstructed with retail highway caps at $10 million apiece, their cumulative cost at $120 million would still be less than 10% of the cost of the $1.6 billion project overall.

The question that Columbus residents should be asking themselves is if 10% of a project should be allocated to innovative urban design that cities like Chicago will want to continue to study and replicate, or if we’re willing to settle for something lesser to save a few dollars out of our state’s $6.8 billion transportation budget?

Do you think that the I-670 Cap has been beneficial to the success of the surrounding areas such as The North Market, Arena District, Short North and Convention Center? Do you want to see similar successes in other areas of Downtown that rest along side our interstate highway system?

Share your thoughts with us below.

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