By Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It may be our region’s most-hated highway: The Cross Bronx, considered by many to be an unhealthy scar on the landscape.

Now, a proposal is gathering momentum to “cap” the highway, creating open space and parkland.

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As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reports, just yards from where people live and children play is the Cross Bronx Expressway, ugly and unhealthy.

“The South Bronx has an asthma hospitalization rate that is double to triple the citywide average,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres.

Torres said it’s time to cover this asphalt scar with a so-called “capping project.”

Video for a similar proposal in Los Angeles gives an idea of the possibilities: Decking would cover the sunken roadway to create green space on top. Special vents would clean exhaust from vehicles on the newly-covered road.

“And it passes through various filters, including an electrostatic filter, and then exhausts out into the atmosphere,” said Peter Muennig of Columbia University.

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It has been done on a smaller scale in Dallas and elsewhere. At 2.5 miles, the Cross Bronx proposal would be the biggest on the East Coast.

The preliminary price tag for this “capping project” is $760 million. That comes out to $360 million per mile.

Rep. Torres wants the Biden administration to prioritize the project as part of the American Jobs Act proposal.

“Capping allows us an opportunity to reconnect neighborhoods,” said community activist David Shuffler.

Shuffler says it’s impossible to overestimate how this highway divided and devastated his community. He believes creating green space there would boost health and slash asthma rates.

“It is better to keep people out of the hospital than have them being cured on the back end,” he said. “Saves lives.”

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Advocates know it will be a long road building support and securing funds. They’re in it for the long haul.

Tony Aiello