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Author Topic: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa  (Read 942 times)

bugo

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Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« on: September 24, 2021, 09:02:21 PM »

This is an article from the awful Tulsa World. It talks about the 1921 race riot, but later on in the story it talks about removing part of the Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) in downtown Tulsa. I-244 uses this stretch of highway, and US 412 is signed as a follow route. The eastern and southern legs of the IDL make up the secret I-444. This stretch of highway is very busy, and removing it would cause a traffic nightmare. The article claims that the noise from the expressway is as loud as a freight train is utter bullshit, and I know that from personal observations. The story tries to tie in the race riot and removal of I-244, which I find disingenuous. The activists are talking about reconnecting the Greenwood district with north Tulsa, which is also utter bullshit. Other than an AME church just north of I-244 and the OSU-Tulsa campus plus the Greenwood Cultural Center, there is literally nothing north of the highway. The Greenwood district is popularly known as Black Wall Street. Removing the highway wouldn't reconnect anything, because there is nothing to connect to. Urban renewal programs in the 1960s and 1970s removed almost every building in the Greenwood district all the way to Pine. There's nothing up there. Yes, the highway shouldn't have been built where it was, but that is where it was built and we have to deal with it. The underpass where Greenwood goes under I-244 is open and well lit, and the area feels safe, even with the freeway. It is a breeze to walk through. If I-244 were an at grade boulevard, crossing it right here would be an adventure, if not flat out unsafe. Out of all of the proposed freeway renewals, this one would do the least amount of good, because it wouldn't benefit anybody other than the anti-car cultists.

This satellite image is of the heart of the Greenwood district. You can see that removing the highway would do no good. The few buildings on Greenwood from I-244 to the railroad tracks were built after 1921, and the historical value of the area is gone. This area has become quite gentrified, and there is a minor league baseball stadium just to the west. The land has historical value, but the buildings and structures other than the Vernon AME Church are not historic. It is sad that the district is gone, but it is and can never be brought back. Never forget 1921, and never let it happen again.
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Scott5114

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2021, 09:43:34 PM »

I mean, good luck with that. OKC was wanting an urban arterial built in place of the old I-40 when it was torn down, but no matter how many meetings they had with ODOT, that is nowhere close to what they got. And that's with the city having to take over maintenance of whatever ODOT built. If the government of the state's capital city can't even get ODOT to do what it wants, a handful of activists in Tulsa stand no chance.

Anti-highway activists in Tulsa are nothing new, though. There was a big group called Tulsans Against Turnpikes that formed to stop the Creek Turnpike. They even went so far as to vandalize construction equipment. We can see how seriously they were taken.
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bwana39

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2021, 12:12:05 AM »

Yes, it is the standard reconnect something that is so disconnected than any type of connection was broken before the protesters were even born. While the people groups who may have genuinely been displaced decades ago are brought into the protests, even in the face of urbanism, it is the people who will develop the new property that are the ones that stand to gain. Remove the freeway and new development is available where none was previously possible. You sell the newness of it all and suddenly it is the place to be. Give that 15 to 20 years and again it passes to the next place.

Removing a freeway may spur localized development, but it rarely or never actually helps the people who lived there decades ago when the freeway was built and generally gentrification displaces the lower income people that the removal is "supposed" to help.
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Henry

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2021, 12:08:36 PM »

Let's face it, Tulsa is not Detroit or Baltimore, but there is plenty of history lost that freeway removal and rebuilding cannot get back. Where would the traffic go if there was no I-244? Yes, it probably should've never been built through Greenwood, but there are lots of residential areas north of the freeway that would've been just as vocal in opposition. As it is, this is a game that nobody wins because of the worsening traffic a boulevard conversion would bring, and the threat of gentrification, as stated above.
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Anthony_JK

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2021, 01:04:26 PM »

Yes, it is the standard reconnect something that is so disconnected than any type of connection was broken before the protesters were even born. While the people groups who may have genuinely been displaced decades ago are brought into the protests, even in the face of urbanism, it is the people who will develop the new property that are the ones that stand to gain. Remove the freeway and new development is available where none was previously possible. You sell the newness of it all and suddenly it is the place to be. Give that 15 to 20 years and again it passes to the next place.

Removing a freeway may spur localized development, but it rarely or never actually helps the people who lived there decades ago when the freeway was built and generally gentrification displaces the lower income people that the removal is "supposed" to help.

The key phrase here is "urban removal"....where redevelopment of a neighborhood is done by promising its residents new jobs, only to build to attract newer, wealthier people to that neighborhood, mostly by kicking out the current residents.

One of the very reasons why the I-10 Claiborne Elevated teardown in New Orleans was shelved (at least temporarily for now) was that very concern that the new development of Treme through the new boulevard would be used as a stick to remove current residents and rebuild that neighborhood as more upscale for wealthier imports. That's quite an irony considering the appeal of "restoration" of old Black neighborhoods cut down by freeways that the New Urbanists exploit in their anti-freeway zealotry.

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triplemultiplex

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2021, 05:35:13 PM »

Devil's Advocate: complete/improve the Gilcrease Expressway to remove thru traffic (including the under-construction portion) and then it becomes less unreasonable to shit-can Tulsa's downtown freeways.  Brand new can of worms to build a freeway thru the Osage Res, but it would provide all the thru connections currently used by those downtown freeways.  One would be left with five stubbed freeways feeding downtown likely still putting most commuters within a few blocks of their destination.

I don't think it would fully solve anyone's problems, though.  You can never undo the damage that was caused. My observation of freeway cancellation and removal in Milwaukee shows that the abandoned r/w either sits fallow for decades if the neighborhood is too economically depressed, or it gets snapped up by market-rate development and prices out those who currently live in the neighborhood.

The last 50 years with the Park Freeway illustrate this nicely.  It took over 30 years to begin to redevelop most of the land cleared for the Park Freeway west of I-43.  Land cleared for the same freeway east of the Milwaukee River got snapped up by developers very quickly and high-end rentals went up immediately, even in Milwaukee's early years of decline in the late 70's and early 80s. 
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skluth

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Re: Now they're talking about tearing down I-244 in downtown Tulsa
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2021, 08:58:42 PM »

While I'm in favor of some freeway teardowns (e.g., I think the Park Freeway removal in Milwaukee was good. The Claiborne Freeway should be removed though the neighborhood will change because that's what cities do.), tearing down I-244 in Tulsa won't help the neighborhood much, won't undo the damage done decades ago, and will cause problems elsewhere.

It reminds me of the insane effort to remove I-70 (now I-44) in St Louis just north of downtown. I have a feeling the Tulsa effort is much like the St Louis effort which was the desires of white hipsters and urbanists with no input from the local African-American population. It would have negatively impacted the African-American community in St Louis as it was easily the best way to drive from the largely black North City and North County to downtown and to the job-rich industrial area just south of downtown. This was before the Musial Bridge so the highway's removal would also have disconnected the North Side from the also largely African-American East St Louis and adjacent communities.
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