Highways Wrecked Cities 60 Years Ago — Has Denver Learned Anything Since?

Here’s a video by Vox that offers a breezy history of highways and how the government rammed them through cities — usually at the expense of disadvantaged neighborhoods that lacked political power.

Denver knows how that worked out. Residents of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea have dealt with the pollution, noise, and blight of I-70 since the 1960s. Now Governor John Hickenlooper’s roads department wants to widen the highway by four lanes through north Denver, duplicating the mistakes of the past even though, as Hickenlooper surely knows, more lanes will generate more traffic and pollution.

What about that park Colorado DOT plans to build on top of the highway, you say? It would cover less than a quarter mile of the 12-mile widening. That is the fig leaf Hickenlooper hides behind when he says making the highway wider will “reconnect communities.”

There’s a better option — rerouting the highway and restoring the street grid. Other cities have reversed the mistakes of urban highways, and the gloom and doom predictions of endless traffic jams never materialize. Instead they get walkable streets and more space for people to live, work, and play.

Denver could do the same, if Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock stop the insanity of building a 1950s road project in 2016.