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There is no beautiful overpass

Posted February. 06, 2014 06:36,   


One of the things that add ugly and cold-blooded feelings to a city is overpasses. Once you take an overpass, you are tempted to get out of the road as fast as possible. That may be the reason that you usually speed up on an overpass. Things are not different under the overpass. There is no one who wants to walk below the overpass. It is a place that gets little sunshine and interrupted views. Overpasses are a necessary evil in a city. They are necessary for smooth traffic, but the fewer the better.

The first overpass in Korea is Ahyeon Overpass in Seoul completed in 1968. Sohn Jeong-mok, a former public servant of Seoul city government, recollects that in 1967 when the construction of Ahyeon Overpass was in progress, then-Seoul Mayor Kim Hyeon-uk proposed a plan to connect the east and west parts of Seoul through Miarigogae, Cheonggyecheonro and Shinchon/Hongje. This plan provided a momentum to build Cheonggye Overpass in 1971. However, the two overpasses failed to be connected. According to him, it was because people thought it was too much to build an overpass passing through Sejongro, the “central road” of Korea. Besides, the connection did not seem very necessary then because east-west traffic flows looked just fine from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae’s standpoint.

Overpasses have a limited life unlike ordinary roads. The maintenance cost rises as they get older, so at some point they become unaffordable anymore. Nowadays, overpasses may be useful in the outskirts of a city, but it is doubtful that they are still effective in downtown areas. You may be able to speed up for a little while on an overpass, but often get stuck in traffic again at its end. In fact, there has been no serious traffic congestion since Cheonggye Overpass was demolished. Instead, the landscape has been improved and the business district has been vitalized.

Ahyeon Overpass is to fade into history. People are not allowed to stop their cars on an overpass. So, anyone would have thought of just pulling up in the middle of the overpass and looking down at the city. The city government of Seoul has decided to open Ahyeon Overpass to the public from 11 am to 4 pm on Feb. 8 before demolition. This event would provide a good chance to enjoy the urban landscape as well as the sense of freedom from a place that has long been occupied by cars. This seems like a pretty good way to say goodbye to Korea’s first overpass.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)