Route Zero: A CarbonFreeWay

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Project Team

Authors: Corina Fuenmayor Herrero, Chrysothemi Kouloumentas, Yoo Jin Lee, Nupur Roy

Institution: Columbia University

Instructors: Kaja Kühl (Coordinator), Lee Altman, Anna Dietzsch, Shachi Pandey, Thaddeus Pawlowski

Studio: The Climate Crisis: Designing A Just Transition For Small Cities; Graduate Urban Design, Spring 2021

Project Description

Highway construction has scarred and traumatized America's poorest neighbourhoods, especially those in which Black families and recent immigrants once thrived. Since the construction of Route 65, Manchester-Chateau has experienced declining population, health and infrastructure. The residents of this neighbourhood, where the highway is the most over-sized, are engaged in a continuing battle to rehabilitate the neighbourhood-wide dereliction that began with the coming of PA65 almost 60 years ago.

Prompted by the Biden administration's commitment to building climate-conscious infrastructure, we are working with community members and urban development experts on a proposal to decommission PA65 and physically remove it in Manchester-Chateau. We aim to provide in its place a catalyst for renewed social infrastructure, local economic development and regional ecological restoration. Our proposal, Route Zero, is a new transit typology that aims to heal the trauma left behind by what was once called urban renewal.

In contrast to 'Transit Oriented Development', we propose 'Place Oriented Development' which is people focused and environmentally friendly. Challenging the cycle of capitalizing on transportation for development, Route Zero is a natural ecosystem that will use public transit in the form of a light-rail to stimulate, operate and maintain comprehensive environmental rehabilitation. As our vision for Manchester-Chateau demonstrates, Route Zero will serve as a catalyst for renewed social infrastructure, local economic development and regional ecological restoration.

Studio Description

At the beginning of the most critical decade to sustain this planet for future generations – and at the convergence of multiple crises, the 11 student projects developed in the Spring of 2021 in the MSAUD Urban Design studio at Columbia University are intended to generate conversation, visualize possible futures, and inspire communities to seize this moment and envision a just transition away from fossil fuels, exploitation, and systems of racial inequities to a future that is regenerative and just. Sixty percent of Americans now live in cities of under 50,000 residents. While much design and planning energy is focused on our largest cities, considering the nation’s smaller cities and towns as the prototypes for deep change has the potential to be replicated with great impact. These small cities of the Hudson Valley, as well as neighborhoods like Manchester and Chateau in Pittsburgh, offer an opportunity for transformative thinking to be tested, refined, and implemented with agility and flexibility. Their reliance on regional systems and networks, in turn, suggests the possibility to replicate and iterate on these models to transform larger urbanized regions.