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Ten-Lane Elevated Highway Breaks Ground Downtown


Image via Wikipedia.

LOMEX is coming to Lower Manhattan. But what might sound like just another addition to the city's fast casual dining landscape is in fact a massive civic engineering project that promises greater speed and convenience for countless New York-area motorists.

"It's been much of my life and afterlife's work to elevate the role of the automobile in New York," said the project's creator and champion, Robert Moses, in a wavering tenor. Following the reappearance of the so-called master builder of mid-20th Century New York City at a recent City Planning Commission hearing — the planner communicating posthumously with the help of a spirit medium — Moses' surprise appeal for the decades-old Lower Manhattan Expressway project quickly garnered unanimous approval from visibly shaken committee members. 

Once completed, LOMEX will connect the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge with the Holland Tunnel — razing large parts of the Lower East Side, Chinatown and SoHo in the process — and expedite tens of thousands of motorists through some of the city's most densely populated neighborhoods each day.

But given the substantial increase in Downtown real estate values since the project was first proposed decades ago, applying eminent domain to relocate the reported 2,000 families and 800 businesses located in the pathway of the project may prove costly, putting a significant strain on city coffers.

"With combined construction and resident relocation costs, the project will not exceed $510 million," said Moses (a figure equivalent to nearly $10 trillion when expressed without expononentials). Moses proposed to offset LOMEX costs with commensurate increases in transit fares and newly proposed pedestrian and bicyclist license registration fees, noting that while nearly all taxpayers contribute, motorists have long borne the brunt of New York's highway infrastructure costs.

But in spite of the project's green-lighting, LOMEX has garnered vocal detractors who pledge to carry on the fight against the inbound expressway, which they claim will divide Downtown neighborhoods.

"[LOMEX] is anathema to our urban environment...We stopped an elevated highway from destroying our communities in the sixties and we will do it all over again," said an ashen-faced Jane Jacobs, the one-time foe of Moses and spiritual godmother of the All Powerful Bike Lobby, whose translucent likeness was recently channeled at the White Horse Tavern, the author and activist's old haunt, located just blocks north of the expressway's proposed Holland Tunnel terminus.

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