How did a Mayor struggling for political control of a city in crisis and activists with nothing but pens, feet, and voices stop something as seemingly inevitable as an interstate highway development?
What is the legacy 50 years later? In Cleveland, common folklore points to the east-side of the city as dis-advantaged by a lack of quick highway access. But would the highway have been worth the cost? Would you trade in Buckeye neighborhoods in Cleveland, the Shaker Lakes, the Larchmere District, and the Cedar Lee district to chop a few minutes off of a commute?
The Cedar Lee Theater, located along Lee Road- part of a planned corridor for the north-south Lee freeway.
Today, Cleveland grapples with the challenges of a transit system dominated by the automobile. The land area devoted to parking takes away from other city features, like green space, housing, or more businesses. Street-life has become less active and pollution exacerbates asthma and other health problems. What is the future of the Freeway City? Will a move to electric cars reduce tail pipe pollution? Will continuously circulating, self-driving cars reduce parking needs? Will the Opportunity Corridor, built along part of the corridor favored for highway development in the 1960’s, improve access?
The Larchmere Porch Fest converts a public street into a neighborhood concert space.
Like cities across the country, Cleveland is working to reduce the dominance of the automobile in urban neighborhoods. A growing bike network connecting Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs makes it easier to navigate the city by pedal. An open streets movement is working to reclaim streets as public spaces for building community, not just moving cars. Safely walkable and bikable neighborhoods make the city more livable and improves the health of its residents. Perhaps, 50 years after the defeat of the east-side freeway, this can be our legacy for Cleveland to celebrate 50 years from now.
Freeway City is a part of the Moving Places series, a project of Blue Heron Productions, based in Cleveland Heights. Writer-director Brad Masi provides a unique blend of natural history and engagement with sustainability issues facing the city today.
Brad Masi, Writer/Director of Freeway City
Click here for more information about Blue Heron Productions.
This program is made possible in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support generously provided by Joe and JoAnne Masi.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.