Urban freeways have phenomenal opportunity costs. You look at the SE/SW Freeway, and you see a highway which doesn’t actually deliver that big an increase in road capacity over a grid. In the process it sucks up a lot of additional land of significant value, and it reduces the value of whole neighborhoods by establishing huge barriers between sections of the city.
The additional automobile connectivity gained by extending a freeway into a dense urban area is small, and absolutely not worth the lost land value. Neither is it a reasonable use of urban land to hold freeway miles designed to carry through traffic. If other institutions want to pay a central city to bury a freeway so that through traffic can have an uninterrupted straight-line journey, then fine, but central cities shouldn’t volunteer to undermine the value of their greatest asset–dense, gridded neighborhoods near job and residential centers.
Some will complain that those job centers thrive because of suburban commuters into the central city. I don’t think we should understate the role of District residents and transit commuters in supporting the District job market, but that’s somewhat beside the point. The question is: if we got rid of these urban freeways and replaced them with boulevards and (perhaps!) better transit options, what percentage of drivers-
1) Would stop driving, and
2) Would not switch to transit, and
3) Would not move to a more convenient location?
Not a huge number. And then ask, to what extent is the value of those lost suburban commuters offset by the increased value of the salvaged urban land, and the residences and commercial space it supports?