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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Great green uses for wasted infrastructure

Kaid Benfield

Posted June 20, 2011

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The American Society of Landscape Architects has terrific, informative videos on its site.  Their latest shows how to make much better use of ‘dead spots’ in transportation infrastructure, such as the areas under elevated freeways.  Those spaces, for example, tend to be among our most dysfunctional, yet with imagination they can be used to begin knitting neighborhoods back together instead of bifurcating them.  Other examples include ‘parklets’ in the public right-of-way next to sidewalks and, of course, the now-classic example, making recreational trails out of abandoned railroad beds.  Enjoy and learn:


The one thing I wish this video had done was bring the rails-to-trails issue up to date.  Many regions are now finding it important to bring rail transit back to those once-abandoned lines.  Now the greatest green accomplishments in these civic spaces are not just building the trails, but demonstrating how rails and trails can best coexist in adjacent space.  Maybe a followup video? 

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

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Brent EffordJun 21 2011 07:11 PM

Your last paragraph is spot on, Kaid. The big need in most urban areas is new passenger rail infrastructure, particularly light rail, and former freight railroad rights of way are commonly re-used for this purpose.
Most rail corridors have ample width for a working rail line AND cycle/pedestrian space. Also, many light rail lines in Europe are laid in grass, so that the corridor becomes a green strip which provides a pleasant environment for adjacent bike/ped paths.

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