Brian Stouder left an interesting comment on the previous post about my “Longing for a City” talk:
If I was going to ask a question – it would have been what you thought of the old Fort Wayne’s massive mistake of NOT adding an expressway along with the railway elevation project, back in the day. My dad (who grew up in Fort Wayne in the ’30’s and 40’s, and came of age in the ’50’s) always used to express mortification at our city’s decision to skip the expressway – and the reasons for that rejection.
Indeed, the News-Sentinel ran a very big and informative feature series on just that subject something like 10 or 15 years ago (written, in whole or in part, by Alan Derringer, as I recall) which confirmed all the things my dad always used to say.
If the expressway had existed, the bypasses wouldn’t have the glitter (and the concurrent development) that they attained, and the city would be all the more vibrant – in my opinion.
Which begs the question – why WOULD we really “miss” (at least the attitudes) of old Fort Wayne? They certainly had consequences.
The reasons for that rejection, if I remember correctly, was pure and simple racial prejudice, at least according to The News-Sentinel article referenced above.
Now, that’s a lousy reason, but I’m not sure an urban expressway — that would later have become Interstate 69 — is an 100 percent positive thing.
One obvious problem is the destruction of in-the-way neighborhoods and buildings, and considering we’re talking about the 1950s, who knows what treasures we would have lost.
But a second problem is the cleaving of the city in two along this manmade border. An interstate highway is a dead zone through a city with too-few connections, and those connections are stark bridges and dark underpasses.
But what do you think? Would the benefits of an urban expressway have outweighed the detriments?
— Photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Transportation