Highway revolts in the United States

Highway revolts have occurred in cities and regions across the United States. In many cities, there remain unused highways, abruptly terminating freeway alignments, and short stretches of freeway in the middle of nowhere, all of which are evidence of larger projects which were never completed. In some instances, freeway revolts have led to the eventual removal or relocation of freeways that had been built.

In the post-World War II economic expansion, there was a major drive to build a freeway network in the United States, including (but not limited to) the Interstate Highway System. Design and construction began in earnest in the 1950s, with many cities and rural areas participating. However, many of the proposed freeway routes were drawn up without considering local interests; in many cases, the construction of the freeway system was considered a regional (or national) issue that trumped local concerns.

Starting in 1956, in San Francisco, when many neighborhood activists became aware of the effect that freeway construction was having on local neighborhoods, effective city opposition to many freeway routes in many cities was raised; this led to the modification or cancellation of many proposed routes. The freeway revolts continued into the 1970s, further enhanced by concern over the energy crisis and rising fuel costs, as well as a growing environmentalist movement. Responding to massive anti-highway protests in Boston,[1] in February 1970 Governor Francis W. Sargent of Massachusetts ordered a halt to planning and construction of all planned expressways inside the Route 128 loop highway, with the exception of the remaining segments of the Central Artery and the segment of Interstate 93 between East Somerville and the Charles River. However, some proposals for controlled-access freeways have been debated and finalized as a compromise to build them as at-grade expressways.



In Phoenix, Arizona, regional planners had long planned a general belt loop and several freeways crossing the Salt River Valley through much of Phoenix, with the key feature to include a central-city portion of Interstate 10, running just south of McDowell Road. I-10 had been built westbound to a point southwest of downtown, where it curved and merged into Interstate 17. The largest unconstructed section of I-10 in the country, beginning just east of the Arizona-California border, was still its planning stage when a debate began for the Phoenix section. Designers had evolved the proposed Papago Freeway from a typical surface grade to a massive, elevated structure, rising 100 feet through the central city, with "helicoil" interchanges and a lengthy park under the structure. Led primarily by influential Arizona Republic publisher Eugene Pulliam (grandfather of future Vice President Dan Quayle), a massive public relations opposition battle began, citing the freeway sprawl of Los Angeles as a model Pulliam did not want Phoenix embracing. The rhetoric became so heated that in 1973 a non-binding public advisory election was held, resulting (largely due to Pulliam's regular orial tirades) in an overwhelming "no" vote for the existing plan. The city and the Arizona State Highway Department (now Arizona Department of Transportation) scrapped the plans without further efforts for the central city segment. As the completed east-bound portion of I-10 advanced closer, transportation planners pushed for some resolution. By 1984 traffic gridlock had reached the point where planners devised a new plan, with I-10 still running although roughly the same alignment, but instead with the central city portion tunneled through downtown, with a large park on top. The revised I-10/Papago Freeway was opened in 1990.


San Francisco[]

In San Francisco, public opposition to freeways dates to 1955, when the San Francisco Chronicle published a map [2] of proposed routes. Construction of the elevated Embarcadero Freeway along the downtown waterfront also helped to organize the opposition, articulated by architecture critic Allan Temko, who began writing for the Chronicle in 1961. The 1955 San Francisco Trafficways Plan included the following routes that were never completed:

The 1960 Trafficways Plan deleted several of these routes but added another:

In 1959, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to cancel seven of ten planned freeways, including an extension of the Central Freeway. In 1964, protests against a freeway through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park led to its cancellation, and in 1966 the Board of Supervisors rejected an extension of the Embarcadero Freeway to the Golden Gate Bridge.[4]

Opposition to the Embarcadero Freeway continued, and in 1985, the Board of Supervisors voted to demolish it. It was closed after sustaining heavy damage in 1989's Loma Prieta earthquake and torn down shortly thereafter. The entire portion of the Central Freeway north of Market Street was demolished over the next decade: the top deck in 1996, and the lower deck in 2003. Two other short freeway segments were demolished in the same time period: the Terminal Separator Structure near Rincon Hill and the Embarcadero Freeway, and the stub end of Interstate 280 near Mission Bay.


In Oakland, California, the Richmond Boulevard Freeway would have run along Valdez Street, Richmond Boulevard, Glen Echo Creek, and Moraga Avenue from 20th Street to SR 13. It was approved by Oakland voters in a 1945 bond issue, but was canceled August 16, 1956, when the city of Piedmont was unable to pay for its portion of the route.[5] In 1949, the Richmond Boulevard Protective Association had protested the route and its planned destruction of their homes.[6]


In Berkeley, California, the Ashby Freeway would have run approximately along the line of Ashby Avenue from Interstate 80 to California State Route 24. The Berkeley Department of Public Works and Planning Commission proposed possible routings for it in 1952, and were met with 5,000 signatures on a petition in opposition. Nevertheless, the commission included the route in the 1955 Berkeley Master Plan. A 1957 public hearing drew 100 protesters. The 1959 Alameda County transportation plan attempted to relocate the proposed freeway to the Oakland-Berkeley border, but Oakland was no more receptive to the freeway, and the Berkeley City Council voted to stop planning it in 1961.


In Bakersfield, California, the SR 178 freeway terminates two miles east of the SR 99 freeway. The section through downtown Bakersfield and the Westchester residential district was never completed due to opposition from Westchester residents. The controversy continues to this day, as the Bakersfield City Council's plans to widen Highway 178 through the Westchester area are being strongly protested.

Los Angeles[]

Orange County[]

In Southern California, a number of environmental organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation and others, along with the California State Parks Foundation, banded together to stop a planned extension to the SR 241 Foothill South Toll Road. The groups contend that the project threatens the fragile San Mateo Creek Watershed and would result in the loss of a significant portion of the popular San Onofre State Beach Park. In 2006, the coalition filed a lawsuit against the Transportation Corridor Agency – the agency responsible for the project – stating that deficiencies in the project's environmental impact report violated the California Environmental Quality Act. The groups were joined in the lawsuit by the California State Attorney General's Office.

San Diego[]

State Route 252 was intended to connect Interstate 5 to Interstate 805. Ramps were constructed on I-805 at 43rd Street before the project was canceled in 1994 due to neighborhood opposition. The new freeway would have occupied a swath of land dividing Barrio Logan. Much of the land intended for freeway construction is still unoccupied. The interchange ramps from I-805 now end in a shopping mall parking lot.

San Luis Obispo[]

Cuesta Freeway was intended to connect SR 101 in San Luis Obispo with an interchange at Marsh Street exit to Cuesta College. This proposed section was post to be the new route for SR 1. The new route was adopted in 1965 by Caltrans and would cost more than $2 million a mile for the 7.1 mile expansion. The plan for the new route was rejected by major opposition from the community at the October 11, 1971, San Luis Obispo city council meeting.[7]



During the 60s, there were a number of proposals for new expressways. These included the Skyline Freeway from Commerce City to Morrison, the Hampden Freeway through Englewood, the Columbine Freeway which would have gone up Santa Fe, Downing, and Park Avenue West before leaving Denver via North Pecos Street, the Mountain Freeway which would have replaced all of Alameda, and The Quebec Freeway from I-70 all the way to I-25.

A planned Interstate 470 beltway around Denver met opposition, including from Governor Richard Lamm, an environmentalist, who promised to "drive a silver spike" through the project.[8] Eventually, a compromise was reached, and the beltway was built, using three different designations: State Highway 470, E-470 and the Northwest Parkway. Currently, a gap remains in the beltway, as it stops short of reaching the Denver suburbs of Broomfield and Golden, where fierce opposition to the road continues. Golden is opposed to completion of the beltway; Broomfield supports it, and has been exploring alternate routes.



In 1973 environmentalists filed lawsuits that effectively killed construction of the planned Interstate 291 beltway west of Interstate 91, the proposed Interstate 484 expressway through the downtown, and the proposed Interstate 284 expressway between East Hartford and South Windsor, and Interstate 491 from Wethersfield to Manchester. After these freeways were cancelled, the State of Connecticut used the funds allocated for their construction to rebuild and expand existing freeways in the Greater Hartford area. In 1992 the Route 9 Expressway was extended north from I-91 in Cromwell to Interstate 84 in Farmington, completing what would have been the southwest quadrant of the I-291 beltway; the northwest quadrant of the canceled beltway is partially served by the 4-lane arterial Route 218 west of I-91 (Route 218 does not connect to I-84 or Route 9, leaving an approximately 7 mile gap in the northwest quadrant between I-84/Route 9 and Route 218). The Connecticut Department of Transportation eventually built its current headquarters on land originally acquired for I-291, where it was to intersect US-5 in Newington.

Eastern Connecticut[]

Interstate 84 was originally planned to continue on an easterly course to Providence, Rhode Island, closely following US 6 through Tolland and Windham counties. Environmental concerns in Connecticut and Rhode Island led to the cancellation of this extension, and I-84 was shifted to the existing Wilbur Cross Highway (which had been designated I-86; this number has since reappeared on a partially completed expressway in northern Pennsylvania and Upstate New York) between Hartford and Sturbridge, Massachusetts in 1983. The already-completed portions of this extension was redesignated as Interstate 384 and US-6 Windham Bypass. CONNDOT and the FHWA intended to construct the US-6 Freeway through Andover, Bolton, and Coventry to link I-384 and the Windham Bypass. After 40 years since it was first planned, CONNDOT, the FHWA, and local officials remained deadlocked with the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over the routing of the US-6 Freeway. Since the agencies involved could not come to an agreement, CONNDOT abandoned plans the US-6 Freeway in 2005. The department instead rebuilt the section of US-6 the freeway was intended to bypass in 2000. The section of US-6 between I-384 and Willimantic remains a two-lane road, but rebuilding that segment straightened curves, added shoulders and turning pockets, and reduced the number of roadways and driveways intersecting the road to improve safety.

Fairfield County[]

Local opposition, particularly in the town of Wilton, convinced a federal judge to halt construction of the U.S. Route 7 Expressway (originally envisioned to be a segment of the then-proposed Interstate 89 through western New England) between Norwalk and Danbury in 1972. State and federal highway officials subsequently prepared an environmental impact statement for the expressway, and a Federal judge allowed construction to resume in 1983. By then however, the cost of construction had skyrocketed and there were no longer any funds available to complete the expressway, as all highway funds were diverted into a massive statewide highway repair program in the wake of the Mianus River Bridge collapse months earlier. Two short extensions of the Route 7 freeway were completed near the Danbury Fair Mall in 1986, and from Route 123 to Gristmill Road in Norwalk in 1992, before funds for further construction were exhausted. The proposal remained on the books until the CONNDOT canceled expressway plans in 1999 in lieu of widening the existing Route 7 to 4 lanes, citing a lack of funding and no feasible route that would avoid the environmentally sensitive Norwalk River basin. Some in Connecticut have been seeking to revive the expressway proposal, including those who originally opposed it, citing the rapidly increasing volume of traffic and the number of fatal accidents on the existing Route 7 over the past 20 years. Further north on US-7 however, officials in Brookfield have long pushed CONNDOT to construct a new US-7 freeway to the west of Brookfield. After decades of environmental studies and intense debate, construction on the Brookfield Bypass began in 2007 and opened in 2009.

Similarly, CONNDOT planned to construct a new freeway for Route 25 between I-95 in Bridgeport and I-84 in Newtown. Construction began on the Route 25 freeway in 1968, and the existing portion between I-95 and Route 111 in Trumbull opened in 1975. Opposition from environmental groups and residents in the towns of Monroe and Newtown forced CONNDOT to eventually kill plans for extending the Route 25 freeway north of Route 111 in 1992. The department has instead focused on widening the existing 2-lane roadway, which is supported by Trumbull and Monroe. However, Newtown remains opposed to any upgrades that would change the existing 2-lane profile of Route 25 through its town.

Since its opening in 1940, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has floated various plans to widen the Merritt Parkway, all of which have been thwarted by the efforts of conservationists who oppose the destruction of the Parkway's uniquely designed bridges and rustic character.

New Haven[]

The Oak Street Connector was a proposed east-west freeway originally envisioned to connect New Haven with Danbury, largely paralleling Route 34. Construction on the initial (and only completed) segment in downtown New Haven from Interstate 95 to York Street began in 1957, with its opening in 1959. Opposition to the freeway in New Haven increased as homes and businesses between York Street and Route 10 were razed to extend the Route 34 freeway, resulting in lawsuits that halted further construction on the highway in the late 1960s and 1970s. Further west, residents in the town of Orange opposed the Route 34 freeway as it would pass near a reservoir that supplies the region with its drinking water. Opponents further west along Route 34 in Monroe and Oxford filed additional lawsuits to block construction of a bridge across the Housatonic River to bypass the existing crossing at Stevenson Dam, fearing the new crossing would cause irreparable damage to Bald Eagle nesting sites and increase truck traffic through both towns.

Two other small sections of the planned Route 34 freeway were completed: a short freeway stub from Route 34 to a directional interchange with Interstate 84 in Newtown (originally built for the cancelled Route 25 freeway extension) built in the mid-1970s, and a short freeway segment near the Maltby Lakes in Orange that was completed in the 1980s but never put into service. The completed section in Orange is now used as a commuter parking lot. The State of Connecticut sold off land originally cleared for the Route 34 freeway between York Street and Route 10 in New Haven in 2002, effectively ensuring the freeway could not be extended beyond York Street. Meanwhile, officials and community groups in New Haven began pressing the State of Connecticut to remove the existing freeway through downtown. In 2011, the city of New Haven and State of Connecticut reached an agreement to remove the Route 34 freeway west of the New Haven Railyard and construct a 4-lane landscaped boulevard in its place. A portion of the land recovered from the freeway would be sold for development, while the remainder reserved as park space. Demolition of the Route 34 freeway began in 2013, with completion scheduled for 2016. Similarly, the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to remove the freeway stub at I-84 in Newtown and replace the directional interchange with a diamond interchange. ConnDOT also plans to build a rest area in the location of the current freeway stub once its removal is complete.


South Florida[]

In the 1970s, most of South Florida's expressways were canceled due to voters choosing to direct funding away from roads toward mass transit projects and the planned Miami Metrorail. Hialeah in particular is anti-expressway, as many proposals for expressways in the city have been canceled due to community opposition.

Tampa Bay area[]

In the 1970s, there were plans for several freeways in the Tampa Bay area, but most were canceled by 1982. The high cost of acquiring right of way in this densely populated area, as well as community opposition, were the key factors in canceling most of these freeways. Instead, planners decided to widen existing roads.[17]


Local opposition was responsible for the death knell of a number of freeway projects in Metro Atlanta, including the intown portion of the Stone Mountain Freeway from the existing U.S. 78 freeway to what is now Freedom Parkway in downtown Atlanta, and the intown portion of what would have been Interstate 485. The northern part of that freeway was built as Georgia 400, while the southern portion of the highway exists as Interstate 675. The highways would have intersected in a large stack interchange complex roughly where the Carter Center exists today, east of downtown Atlanta. Interstate 420 would have skirted the city limits of Atlanta to the south, running from Interstate 20 in Decatur to Douglasville. The center portion of what would have become I-420 was constructed, and exists as Langford Parkway.

Additional local protests and legislative action ended planning and construction of the Outer Perimeter and the Northern Arc, which would have surrounded Atlanta about 20 miles (32 km) outside of the present Perimeter Highway.



Environmental groups and the city of Bloomington have long protested the completion of Interstate 69 through southwest Indiana, and have long favored an alternative route for I-69 that follows I-70 and US-41 through Terre Haute and Vincennes. Their opposition has pitted them against residents in the southwest corner of the state and the cities of Evansville, Petersburg and Washington, which have long supported construction of the highway. Opponents had held up construction of I-69 through southwest Indiana for 40 years through lawsuits, legislative maneuvering, and acts of vandalism. Supporters of the highway have accused opponents of attempting to isolate the southwest corner of Indiana from the remainder of the state with their efforts to block I-69 construction. Ultimately, construction on I-69 began in 2008, and completed between Evansville and Bloomington in December 2015. Additional construction to upgrade SR 37 to Interstate standards on the Bloomington-Martinsville section was completed in October 2018. The remaining section of I-69 from Martinsville to I-465 on the south side of Indianapolis is scheduled for completion by the end of 2024.

In the northwest corner of Indiana, the Illiana Expressway was a proposed toll road as a southern bypass of Chicago. Originally, the Illiana Expressway was envisioned to start at Interstate 57 in eastern Illinois, then intersect Interstate 65 near Lowell, Indiana before turning northeast, crossing US-30 near Valparaiso before terminating at the Indiana Toll Road. Due to opposition from environmental and community groups; and operators of the Indiana Toll Road, the section east of I-65 was dropped, but the Illiana Expressway was extended westward to Interstate 55 in Illinois. Opponents filed a lawsuit to block construction of the Illiana Expressway in 2013, with a federal judge ordering a halt to work on the toll road in 2015. Officials from the Federal Highway Administration, Indiana and Illinois appealed the court's ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2015.[18] Meanwhile, in January 2015 Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner removed the Illiana Expressway from the state's five-year transportation plan, effectively stripping funding for the Illinois portion of the highway. Indiana Governor Mike Pence followed suit in suspending Indiana's portion of the Illiana Expressway in February 2015.[19]


When I-10 was built through New Orleans, Louisiana, a segment of formerly tree-lined ground along Claiborne Avenue was destroyed to build the elevated highway; because Claiborne Avenue was the main thoroughfare in a poorer, African-American neighborhood, many in the community considered this to be racially prejudiced. While local efforts to stop this route of I-10 were unsuccessful, the disruption motivated residents to oppose further planned freeways through historic neighborhoods.

The proposed Vieux Carré Riverfront Expressway would have run along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Local preservationists worked to build popular support to stop the proposed elevated expressway in the 1960s.[20]


Freeways Interstate 95, Interstate 83, and Interstate 70 are not directly connected to each other inside Baltimore city limits because of freeway revolts led by activist and later politician Barbara Mikulski. Mikulski became a U.S. Representative and later a Senator after rising to prominence with freeway revolts. In particular, I-70 was stopped through Leakin Park, and terminates at the Baltimore City line at a Park and Ride, just inside the I-695 Beltway, rather than its planned terminus at I-95 exit 50 (currently US 1 Alternate: Caton Avenue), while I-83 terminates in downtown Baltimore at Fayette Street instead of connecting to I-95 at exit 57. Additionally, Moravia Road was never built beyond I-95 exit 60; it was supposed to be connected to the Windlass Freeway (MD-149), which was canceled as well. A small portion of the Windlass Freeway was constructed, and it is now signed as I-695.[21] Additional roads that would have formed a more complete freeway network in the city were abandoned or redesigned, leaving some short sections (the former I-170, which was left unconnected to any other Interstate highway, so US 40 was re-routed onto it), or rights of way that were built as city streets rather than freeways (Martin Luther King Boulevard).

The Washington Outer Beltway was also met with decades of opposition in Maryland's suburbs of Washington, D.C. Though it met with fierce opposition for 50 years, the section between I-370 and I-95, known as the Intercounty Connector and signed as Maryland Route 200, ultimately opened in 2011.


The 1948 plan[22] for Boston's inner suburbs included eight limited-access highways: the Central Artery and the East Boston, Western, Northern, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest Expressways.

Over time, several of the planned highways were constructed:

In 1970, Governor Francis W. Sargent ordered the Boston Transportation Planning Review, a review of all freeway plans within the Route 128 beltway around Boston. As a result, several freeways were canceled in 1971 and 1972:

The Northern Expressway was granted an exemption because it was nearly complete. Its final 3-mile (4.8 km) segment was completed in 1973 with a section from East Somerville to the North Station area of downtown Boston.[26]

The Central Artery had cut a swath through Downtown Boston neighborhoods, creating one of the greatest eyesores in urban America during the 1950s. Because of this, it would earn its nickname "The Other Green Monster", both a play on its greenish color and on the name of the tall left field wall in Fenway Park. Starting in 1991, the Central Artery was rerouted into a replacement tunnel network, and the elevated highway was demolished and replaced by linear parks and new buildings, in a massive project known as the "Big Dig".

There was also a plan in Western Massachusetts of an upgrade of U.S. Route 7 from Lee to Pittsfield and points north of there. The highway was to have a 60-foot (18 m) median. There was also plans of a spur off to Dalton of Massachusetts Route 9. Local opposition led to the demise of the Route 7 Freeway.



In the 1970s, after significant protest about the Chrysler Freeway (I-75) destroying the Black Bottom neighborhood, Mayor Coleman Young used the issue as political capital by decreeing the cancellation all freeway projects in Detroit. City Council soon followed his wishes. This included three interconnected major projects, the final ten miles of Interstate 96 along Grand River Avenue from the Jeffries to the Northwest corner of the city, the already in progress conversion of Mound Road to the M-53 freeway from Detroit City Airport to the Van Dyke Expressway, and a planned extension of the Davison Freeway on both ends which was to be a connector with both Interstate 96 and the Jeffries Freeway on its west to the Mound freeway conversion on its east.

Ignoring the initial protests, a huge freeway-to-freeway interchange was constructed for the Davison extension at Exit 186 of the Jeffries, and a massive stacked freeway-to-freeway interchange was also constructed on Exit 22 of I-696 at Mound Road. Both of these intersections see much less traffic than they were designed for.

With the cancellation of the Grand River freeway conversion, I-96 was rerouted west of its interchange with Grand River at Exit 185, paralleling the CSX rail line along Fullerton Avenue before turning northward at Exit 182 to overtake Schoolcraft Avenue. I-96 continues westward as an extension of the Jeffries Freeway through Redford and Livonia with Schoolcraft serving as a service drive until I-96 connects with I-275.

The cancellation also scrubbed plans to connect the Mound Road freeway which had already cleared the land to the existing M-53, Van Dyke Expressway, although further development of Macomb County has revived speculation on at least this portion of highway. The land impact would be minimized along the Mound Road corridor, as Mound was constructed as a multilane divided highway with a particularly wide median, suggesting that MDOT planned for this stretch to be upgraded to a full freeway at some point in the future.

While the revolts indeed had stopped the freeways from being built through several Detroit neighborhoods, many homes, neighborhoods, and even historical buildings had been destroyed to make way for interstate freeway construction, by the controversial means of Eminent Domain. All the saved neighborhoods suffered urban blight regardless.

Oakland County[]

In the 1970s, Interstate 275 was planned to bypass Detroit and Pontiac, connecting with its parent route, Interstate 75, near the city of Monroe at the southern end, and Clarkston at the northern end. I-275 was slightly realigned when it was determined that it would be more feasible to align Interstate 96 along Schoolcraft Avenue instead of the more heavily developed Grand River Avenue as originally planned, and part of I-275 would now carry I-96.

As construction progressed on the massive ramps that would connect I-275 to the existing interchange of I-96 and the western terminus of I-696, fierce opposition rose up from residents within several Oakland County communities, including Commerce Township, through where much of I-275 would have run. Environmental concerns were cited, as well as fears of dropping property values. As a result, the construction of I-275 north of I-96/I-696 was canceled. A stub from the former eastern leg of I-96, redesignated part of M-102, to what would have been northbound I-275, was left behind, as was a ramp that ran parallel to the westbound I-96 ramp that would've carried northbound I-275 and connected with the ramp from M-102.

The stubs, as well as previously unbuilt bridges and ramps, were opened in 1994 as a freeway extension was built up to 12 Mile Road. This extension was designated as M-5. Between 1994 and 2002, M-5 was extended further northward along the right-of-way that had been reserved for I-275, but as a grade-level expressway with traffic lights at 13 Mile, 14 Mile, and Maple Roads, and a grade-level railroad crossing between Maple Road and M-5's northern terminus at Pontiac Trail. Local residents continue to resist further expansion, even as Commerce Township slowly succumbs to urban sprawl.

In addition to the resistance against I-275, a planned extension from Northwestern Highway to I-275 was shelved in the 1970s as part of the same revolt. Although talks of reviving the Northwestern Extension continued for decades, development of the land along the proposed extension's right-of-way, including a strip mall right at Northwestern's current terminus, has effectively ended any chance of such a freeway being constructed.


There were once plans for a northern bypass route of downtown Minneapolis; this bypass was to be signed as Interstate 335. Grading for I-335's connections to I-35W and I-94, as well as land acquisition and demolition for the road's right-of-way, had already begun when local residents protested I-335's proposed path through their communities. Stub ramps on I-35W, some of which are now part of the Johnson Street interchange, remain as clues to where I-335 would have begun; more stub ramps can also be found on I-94 at the North 3rd Street interchange.

New Jersey[]

As planned in the 1960s, the Somerset Freeway, which would have connected Interstate 95 from Trenton to Interstate 287 near Metuchen, would have cut through some wealthy established properties around Princeton. In addition, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, whose roadway runs from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New York City, feared that the paralleling toll-free highway could take away traffic (and revenue) south of the I-287 interchange. In 1982, an act of Congress allowed the Somerset Freeway to be dropped, but stipulated that I-95 would be rerouted, via the Pennsylvania Turnpike into New Jersey. This I-95/PA Turnpike interchange, was constructed starting in 2013, and opened in 2018.[27] When completed, the new interchange made I-95 a continuous route between Miami, Florida, and Houlton, Maine.

A similar plan involving Interstate 78 would have bisected the town of Phillipsburg, but NJDOT and PennDOT, under opposition from local residents, decided to reroute I-78 south of the Lehigh Valley area. This led to the downgrade of I-378 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania from an Interstate highway to a PA State highway route. The completion of I-78 through the Watchung Reservation in Union County was also delayed until the early 1980s due to litigation opposing its route through the park.

New York[]

New York City[]

Several expressways in New York City, mostly planned by Robert Moses, were canceled because of public oppositions, including two that would have been built through Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

The Lower Manhattan Expressway was planned to carry Interstate 78 from its current terminus at the end of the Holland Tunnel through Lower Manhattan to the Williamsburg Bridge with a connection to the Manhattan Bridge at Canal Street. The Expressway would have been built directly through such neighborhoods as Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the Lower East Side, much of which was characterized as old and "run down" by the mid-20th century. After a long battle, the expressway was canceled in the 1970s by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller due to fears of increased pollution and negative effects on such cultural neighborhoods as Little Italy and Chinatown.

The Mid-Manhattan Expressway was planned to run directly through the busy Midtown Manhattan business district just south of 34th Street, and would pass very close to the Empire State Building. The Expressway was to carry Interstate 495 from the Lincoln Tunnel (where I-495 was to continue to the New Jersey Turnpike) to the Queens Midtown Tunnel where it would connect to the Long Island Expressway. The expressway was originally very popular among local leaders, and Moses had gone so far as to run the Expressway right through Manhattan skyscrapers. However, fears of increased vehicular traffic in the already congested city brought cancellation in 1971. This led to the downgrade of New Jersey's portion of I-495 from an Interstate highway, down to a New Jersey state route in the 1980s.[28]

Expressways in the boroughs outside Manhattan had been planned but later canceled, including the Bushwick Expressway, an extension of Interstate 78 through Brooklyn and Queens that would run from the Williamsburg Bridge (at the end of the Lower Manhattan Expressway) to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Also, the Cross Brooklyn Expressway, a faster commercial route paralleling the Belt Parkway from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to John F. Kennedy International Airport, was canceled. The Bushwick was canceled largely due to the cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway. For this reason, none of I-78's spur routes connect to I-78; the closest connection would have been made by Interstate 478 via the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

Other expressway cancellations included the Queens-Interboro Expressway, which would have connected the Queens Midtown Tunnel with southern neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens; and the Cross Harlem Expressway, which would have run in the vicinity of 125th Street in Harlem from the Triborough Bridge to the Hudson River (plans also included building a bridge at 125th Street to New Jersey over the Hudson).

In Queens, the Clearview Expressway abruptly ends in the neighborhood of Hollis. It was slated to continue south to John F. Kennedy International Airport, but was canceled. The proposed segment near JFK Airport was built as the JFK Expressway between 1989 and 1992.[29] In The Bronx, the Sheridan Expressway was to run from the Bruckner Expressway in the South Bronx to the Westchester County Line where it would meet with the New England Thruway). However, this extension was canceled and today the Sheridan Expressway runs a very short route from the Bruckner Expressway to the Cross Bronx Expressway. In Staten Island, the Richmond Parkway was left unfinished north of Arthur Kill Road due to community and environmentalist pressures because it would have cut-through and thus destroyed the Staten Island Greenbelt which is one of the largest natural areas in the New York City parks system.[30] For many of the same reasons, the Willowbrook Parkway which would have shared an interchange with the Richmond Parkway was also left unbuilt south of Victory Boulevard.[31] Also in Staten Island, the construction of much of the Shore Front Drive was stopped for good when the city handed over Great Kills Park, which contained a long stretch of the parkway's right-of-way, to the National Park Service.[32]

Local groups protested the construction of these expressways through their neighborhoods. Completed expressways such as the Cross Bronx Expressway, which is largely cred for the destruction and dereliction of the Tremont neighborhood, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, stirred resentment and opposition to further construction.

Long Island[]

New York City was not the only part of New York to face an onslaught of freeway revolts. Long Island had dozens of roads planned by the New York State Department of Transportation, as well as Suffolk and Nassau Counties, although not all the roads were intended to be freeways (see List of Suffolk County (New York) Road proposals). On two occasions, Suffolk County built roads and allowed them to be redesignated as state highways, in the hope that the state would upgrade them when the county couldn't. The following is a list of roads throughout New York State that were either canceled, truncated, or stalled.

Hudson Valley[]

Capital District[]

Buffalo-Niagara Falls[]

Buffalo-Niagara Falls was also not immune to freeway revolts. An extensive system of highways and parkways were planned to be built in the counties of Niagara and Erie.[34]

Other regions[]



Cuyahoga County, Ohio proposed three freeways that would bisect Cleveland’s eastern suburbs and parkland including Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and East Cleveland. The Clark Freeway was to connect I-271 with downtown Cleveland via Shaker Boulevard, the Shaker Lakes, North Park Boulevard and East Cleveland. The Lee Freeway was to run north from an interchange with the Clark Freeway at Shaker Lakes over Lee Road to the Heights Freeway that would have run east–west approximately where Monticello Blvd and Taylor roads are.[35] Local residents blocked all three highways. One of several key actions was the 1966 formation of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes.[36][37]


Cincinnati also had a freeway revolt: the Colerain, Queen City and Taft Expressways were never built (though a particularly congested segment of Queen City Avenue was eventually bypassed in 2005) and the Red Bank Expressway, designed as a freeway connection between Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 50, was built instead as a surface artery, albeit with limited intersections. There are prominent ramp stubs at the interchange of Interstate 74 and Beekman Street that would have connected I-74 to the Colerain Expressway.

In addition, the Cross County Highway, which was designed to connect the eastern and western sides of I-275 through Hamilton County, was built, but never fully completed. For years, the highway existed in two separate segments; the eastern segment was built between Galbraith Road and Montgomery Road (just east of I-71) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the mid-1970s, the western stretch was built from Colerain Avenue (U.S. Route 27) to the western side of I-275. While these segments were finally connected in 1997, and the highway was renamed the Ronald Reagan Highway, the three-mile (5 km) stretch between Montgomery Road and the eastern side of I-275 was never built due to protests from wealthy residents of The Village of Indian Hill, who convinced officials to stop the highway's construction from occurring in the city. This resulted in the lack of a direct freeway connection between existing Interstate 74 and its proposed extension along Ohio State Route 32 to the east toward the Carolinas.



In the 1960s, the Riverside Expressway was planned to be built in Tulsa along Riverside Drive and a former railroad right-of-way. The route would have started at the Inner Dispersal Loop (I-444) and continued south along present-day Riverside Drive. Activists led by Betsy Horowitz started campaigning against the planned expressway in 1968. Much of the opposition came from the Maple Ridge neighborhood, where part of the route would have passed. The Riverside Expressway was cancelled in 1972, following a federal lawsuit that blocked funding needed for its construction. Its cancellation also made possible the creation of Tulsa's River Parks system.[38]



Shortly after World War II, the city leaders of Portland, Oregon commissioned famed transportation planner Robert Moses to design a freeway network for the city. Moses produced a proposal which called for numerous freeways to crisscross the city; of this proposal six freeway routes made it to the planning stage. Four of the six were eventually constructed (in some cases in the face of intense opposition); these are:

However, two other planned freeways—the Interstate 505 freeway, and the Mount Hood Freeway, were far more controversial. Each proposed route cut through established city neighborhoods. An intense battle arose over the Mount Hood Freeway, a proposed routing of U.S. Route 26 and Interstate 84 (then 80N) that stretched from the Marquam Bridge out to the city of Sandy at the base of Mount Hood. One section of the freeway—an expressway stretch between Sandy and Gresham with an uncompleted interchange—was built; but the remainder was controversial.

The 1972 mayoral race, with Neil Goldschmidt representing the anti-freeway side and Frank Ivancie representing the supporters of the freeway, became a de facto referendum on the proposed route. The election was won by Goldschmidt and the freeway was canceled. The proposed federal funds for the project were instead made available for a planned light rail line, built in the 1980s to connect Portland with Gresham and now part of the MAX Blue Line. This light-rail network is steadily expanding, including sections along Interstate 205 in room that resulted from the controversy.

Soon after, the Interstate 505 proposal was also canceled; a shorter freeway "stub" was built instead, and U.S. Route 30 was routed on a new alignment through an industrial area (and away from the residential neighborhood that its prior alignment—and the I-505 proposal—ran through). A stub ramp is all that remains of the unbuilt proposed section of the interstate.

In addition to the cancellation of three proposed freeway routes, Portland saw another milestone in the freeway revolts: the destruction of an already-existing freeway. The first freeway to be built through the city—Harbor Drive (along the western shore of the Willamette River), which was, at the time, the route of Oregon Route 99W—was closed in May 1974, demolished and replaced with Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which opened in 1978. 99W was moved onto nearby Front Avenue (the stretch of 99W through Portland would be later decommissioned), and little evidence remains that there was once a freeway along the waterfront. The removal of Harbor Drive was not very controversial; the construction of I-5 on the river's East Bank, and I-405 through the downtown core, had made Harbor Drive unnecessary.

Elsewhere in Oregon[]

Other Oregon freeway revolts occurred in Salem and Eugene. In Salem, the Interstate 305 project was shelved and replaced with the Salem Parkway, a highway along the same alignment but with at-grade intersections. In Eugene, the Roosevelt Freeway and West Eugene Parkway projects were canceled,[39] and the Belt Line Road was severely curtailed; only the northwestern segment of the proposed beltway was ever built.



There were plans for the Cobbs Creek Expressway, which would have started at Interstate 95 and run up the western edge of Philadelphia, along with the Crosstown Expressway, which would have connected back to I-95 near downtown. Both freeways were part of a planned routing of Interstate 695. Because of community opposition, neither freeway was constructed. (Additionally, the position of the Crosstown Expressway portion of I-695 between the Schuylkill and Vine Street Expressways would be considered redundant, particularly because of its close proximity to the Vine Street Expressway.) Several non-interstate freeways inside Philadelphia were also cancelled, including the Pulaski Expressway (PA 90) which would have connected the Betsy Ross Bridge and I-95 with Roosevelt Boulevard, along with the Roosevelt Expressway Extension (an upgrade of Roosevelt Boulevard from Old York Road to Adams Avenue) and the Northeast Expressway (a new alignment for US 1 from Adams Avenue to Street Road in Bensalem). Outside the city, an Interstate 895 was planned to connect the Philadelphia suburbs of Bristol, Pennsylvania and Burlington, New Jersey.

A section of Pennsylvania Route 23 was once planned for an expressway upgrade, and construction on one segment of the expressway began, but lack of funding at the state level halted construction of further segments. The grading and several overpasses for the expressway still exist, but as a mostly unpaved section that has since gained popularity as the "Goat Path Expressway".[40] As of 2008, the route is still under consideration by PennDOT, and appears in the Commonwealth 12-Year Transportation Plan.[41]


A freeway revolt also occurred in Pittsburgh, where stub ramps near the Birmingham Bridge exist from the cancellation of the unbuilt Oakland Crosstown Freeway. Other canceled freeways include the South Hills Expressway, Pittsburgh-McKeesport Expressway, and the East Liberty Expressway.


Interstate 40 in Tennessee was planned to go through Memphis's Overton Park but public opposition, combined with a United States Supreme Court victory by opponents, forced abandonment. The eastern portion of the road had already been built inside the Interstate 240 loop and this non-interstate highway is now named Sam Cooper Boulevard while the northern portion of the I-240 loop was redesignated as I-40.


The Trans-Texas Corridor plan was cancelled due to widespread opposition from environmental groups, fiscal conservatives, and property rights activists. The 4,000-mile network of supercorridors, were envisioned to be 1,200 feet in width and accommodate separate carriageways for automobiles and trucks; rail lines, and utility conduits. Opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor plan was so strong that then-Governor Rick Perry and other high-level state officials were threatened with impeachment had they given final approval to move forward with construction.[42]


The inner city segment of Texas State Highway 225 was originally planned to begin in downtown Houston and traverse the city's predominantly Hispanic east side as the Harrisburg Freeway, but was never built due to neighborhood opposition and environmental concerns. Ghost ramps are still visible today at the west end of the freeway's planned route at Loop 610, while they were once visible on the I-69/US 59 elevated downtown, prior to reconstruction in the late 1990s.



The Burlington Beltline was a planned highway envisioned in the 1960s to be built around the Burlington metropolis with the freeway cutting through the waterfront for access to the core business district. The only part of this built to federal specifications was Interstate 189, a short two mile spur. Various parts of the Beltline have been built piecemeal as both divided and undivided two lane freeways.

Central and Northeastern[]

Another conceived freeway (proposed to be designated as either I-92 or I-98 in different versions of the plan) that has been continually protested is a proposal by the state of Maine and business interests in Maine and Vermont for a freeway extending from Montpelier at I-89, crossing to St. Johnsbury, meeting up with I-93, then splitting right after crossing into New Hampshire. The freeway would cut straight across northern New Hampshire into Maine, where it would cut down to Maine's coastal cities. The freeway has been called a critical link for loggers in Maine to reach Western markets in the U.S. and Canada.


Existing I-95/395 two-lane barrier-separated reversible HOV facility located in Northern Virginia. The segment shown in the photo was proposed for conversion to HO/T operation as three lanes, but was dropped from the final project.

Construction of I-66 inside the Washington Beltway was blocked by environmental litigation until a compromise was reached that limited it to a four-lane limited access highway that is HOV only during rush hours.

Construction of a third reversible lane to be operated as HOT for a half day in the direction of rush hour traffic on Interstate 395 was blocked by Arlington County, Virginia and Alexandria, Virginia through successful environmental litigation. As a result, the 95 Express Lanes end at the Alexandria border.

Washington State[]

The R.H. Thomson Expressway, connecting Interstate 90 to State Route 520 through the Central District, Madison Valley, and Washington Park Arboretum, and the Bay Freeway, connecting Interstate 5 to State Route 99 in South Lake Union near Seattle Center, faced mounting protests beginning in 1969. The death of these two highways is generally considered to be the 1972 referendum that withdrew their funding.[43]

In the 1960s, the state legislature proposed Interstate 605 as a second bypass of Seattle. Similar proposals were made in 2000 and 2003. While the routings have varied, public opposition has shut down each of the projects.

After the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle was damaged by an earthquake in 2001, there was a significant political movement to not replace it, including large majorities voting against both replacement options, but the Washington State Department of Transportation voted to allocate funding to build a tunnel to replace the viaduct. A large number of citizens, including Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, vowed to stop this tunnel. However, construction to replace it is now finished.

In 1964, the Spokane Metropolitan Area Transportation Study was formed to fulfill requirements of Federal Highway Act of 1962, and in 1970, along with the Department of Highways, released the "Corridor Study for North Spokane and North Suburban Area Freeway". It recommended a north–south freeway along Hamilton and Nevada streets (the corridor between Nevada and Helena). Though a full freeway interchange connecting Hamilton Street with I-90 (exit 282/282A) was built, residents successfully blocked any further construction through this area. The remaining section of the freeway stub is now Washington State Route 290. The North-South Freeway (now known as the North Spokane Corridor) was reawakened in 1997 when a new corridor was chosen, and is currently under construction.

Washington, D.C.[]

Plans to build Interstate 270, Interstate 95, Interstate 295 and Interstate 66, as well as a proposed Interstate 266 over a new Three Sisters Bridge through Washington, D.C. and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs were canceled in 1977 due to public opposition.[44] This is why Interstate 395 (the originally planned I-95 Center Leg Freeway) ends at New York Avenue and Interstate 95 goes around the Capital Beltway rather than continuing through the city.[44] Funds for several of these projects were redirected to the construction of the Washington Metro.


In Milwaukee, several planned freeways were either never built, partially built, or partially built but subsequently demolished and replaced with an at-grade boulevard.


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