All gone. An entire multi-lane highway disappears and in its place, a serene river that flows right through the heart of Seoul. Quite simply, the Cheonggyecheon is a great example of urban renewal. I came across this whilst walking around after dinner and to see it today, I could not even imagine how at one time, this entire stretch was concreted over with a raised expressway built over it!!
And yet that was the case for many decades. So, when the proposal was put forward to demolish the freeway and restore the almost dry Cheonggyecheon stream, it was met with strong opposition.
To be frank, I would have been sceptical as well. To remove 10.9 kms of a major arterial highway and replace it with a river and park? My first thought would be that the entire area would turn into one huge traffic jam nightmare! And yet, the Korean’s went ahead with it, spending US$281 million including pumping 120,000 tons of water daily from the Han river.
Today, its hard not to appreciate the benefits to locals and visitors. Since its opening almost 10 years ago, the stream has introduced fish, birds and insects back into the surrounding areas. It even works to cool down the temperatures by 2-3 degrees. And most amazing of all, traffic has actuall improved! Traffic flow has actually sped up! Some refer to this as a real life example of Braess’ paradox discovered by mathematician Dietrich Braess who found that you can actually improve traffic flow by closing existing major roads! Try explaining that to motorists today and you will be labelled a loony.
I really quite enjoyed my brief walk around here. I just wished I could stay longer but once again, it was time to head back to the hotel. Had to turn in and of course go to work tomorrow. One things for sure though, I have to head back here sometime.