Removal of downtown freeway made Seoul cooler — by several degrees

Removal of Seoul’s 1970s elevated freeway to daylight Cheong gye cheon, the city’s sacred stream, literally cooled the city down, according to the traffic engineer who made it happen.

Dr. Keith Hwang, who is on a speaking tour in Vancouver, told a gathering of Vancouver planners, architects and engineers Wednesday that restoration of the stream through the heart of the city, where 14 lanes of traffic roared for more than 30 years, dropped downtown temperatures several degrees.

(Translink’s Buzzer blog had the best summary of Hwang’s comments here.)

Among the other findings three years after the $400 million project concluded:

  • only 1.3 per cent of downtown residents reported more congestion;
  • land values rose sharply in the neighbourhoods near the stream, sparking new development; and
  • there was a 2.3 percent reduction in traffic into the Central Business District.

Perhaps even more significant was the impact across South Korea, where many cities undertook similar programs to daylight streams and create downtown green spaces. In every case, business has improved, property values have risen and congestion has not worsened.

More than 150 attended Hwang’s public forum Tuesday night and Gordon Price, of SFU’s Urban Studies Program, is looking to see if he can squeeze more people into his upcoming panel discussion April 7 on the prospects for tearing down the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts.