When I was just out of college in San Francisco, the city decided to tear down one arm of the Embarcadero Freeway. At the time it connected the Bay Bridge and wound along the waterfront. Today the neighborhood that swept into the shadow of that overpass is vibrant and a walker’s paradise. Now when you visit, traversing the city takes longer but it’s an adventure through interesting neighborhoods and slows you down long enough to enjoy the city more. Freeways versus parks? Score one for green belts.

Later in Seattle, I sped along an overpass, usually crowded with cars and trucks, but on my bike! On special Sundays it was closed to all but bicycles, pedestrians and roller bladders. Great fun and I imagine the popularity of that experiment has led to Seattle considering tearing down a significant swash of asphalt.

Why would a city take on the expensive challenge of demolishing a freeway? Money. It’s more often less expensive to remove the structure rather than repair it. What about already beleaguered commuters who would be forced to find alternate routes and longer drives?

City planners envision walking places, improvements in the quality of life, increased populations and jobs. Freeway wrecking is being considered in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Milwaukee. In Akron an aging six lane highway was demolished to open up the area to more business and parks. The results have been mixed. It’s a case by case scenario.

Freeways versus parks? Longer commute versus revitalization? The stress of more traffic and a longer commute is not something I’d care to face. But if I couldn’t change my job to avoid the commute and had the flexibility, I just might move into the new neighborhood opening up where there once was a freeway and then walk to work. What would you choose if the decision were yours?

Copyright 2011, Elaine Masters, RYT, Trip Wellness Specialist, Speaker and Award-winning Author of Drivetime Yoga and Flytime Yoga. Books and audio available at www.DrivetimeYoga.com