#IWD, ED&I, EmbraceEquity, Equity Diversity & Inclusion, International Women's Day, IWD 2023 Projects, IWD2023, Women's History Month

In celebration of International Women’s Dayon March 8, we shared how we #EmbraceEquity not only in the workplace, but in our work. Get an inside look at how our teams are embracing equity through their projects and positively impacting the lives of women as well as underserved communities around the world.

Follow this year’s conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as the AECOM Blog.

Built to speed travelers from one point to the other, highways in the United States historically were planned and constructed with little concern for the communities they displaced or divided. Now — with a renewed focus on equity — cities and states are working to mitigate the resulting impacts.

While removing a roadway from the national highway system might seem cause for concern, for an underserved community in the Bronx, New York, it was cause for celebration.

Since its completion in 1963, the 1.3-mile Arthur Sheridan Expressway greatly restricted the community’s access to its neighboring river waterfront, and the few routes available for pedestrian access were confusing, congested and circuitous, presenting an additional barrier to the waterfront recreation areas.

Residents were outspoken about the need for improved connectivity to the waterfront and parks, and our team, as part of a joint venture and in an effort to address the voiced concerns, collaborated with various city, state and federal agencies to convert the expressway from an urban principal arterial/interstate to serve as an urban principal arterial — making it essentially a boulevard— bridging the gaps in the community’s accessibility to their neighboring natural recreational spaces.

While coordinating public information sessions and meetings with local community boards helped us engage the residents, developing this unique project required extensive traffic analysis, engineering and landscape design innovations. Working as a team, we removed the historic barriers to the parklands and waterfront, enabling residents to finally take advantage of the recreational space the neighborhood offers. This included adding transportation and recreation options by establishing a two-lane bike path in the median of one of the local avenues.

In addition to advancing accessibility, the pedestrian safety was also our top priority. To achieve this, we installed high-visibility pavement markings and 16-foot-wide refuge islands with bollards. We also added three signalized crosswalks and shortened crossing distances by using a protected signal phase. As a result, pedestrians — including students from neighboring schools — are now able to cross the boulevard to visit the park without concern about conflicting traffic. We also added buffers and plantings in the median, providing street trees and a vertical-faced decorative barrier on each side of the boulevard.

Through this project, we were not only able to improve the community’s quality of life and establish a safe, equitable, more pleasurable driving and walking experience, we also provided a blueprint for other impacted, underserved communities across New York State and the country to make similar transformations.

Originally published Feb 28, 2023

Author: Elizabeth Thompson