Putting Humpty Dumpty Cities back together again


Source: pinterest.com

Source: pinterest.com

Some may wonder what in the world this nursery rhyme has to do with cities. Well, it’s essentially a metaphor for those cities that were devastated by freeway construction in the 1950s through 1980s. Much in the way Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and was broken into pieces, many cities across North America fell off their pinnacle and were torn apart by highway construction projects.

Park East Freeway in Milwaukee - Source:  wisconsinhighways.org

Park East Freeway in Milwaukee – Source: wisconsinhighways.org

Some cities were fortunate enough to not be bisected by linear ribbons of concrete, while others have decided to remove some vestiges of their Humpty Dumpty past. First, here’s a list of actual Humpty Dumpty Cities that have removed entire freeways, segments of freeways, moved them underground, converted them into boulevards, or are planning to do so, in order to put their city back together again.

  • Akron, OH, USA – Inner Belt Freeway (planned removal)
  • Baltimore, MD, USA – U.S. 40 (removal underway)
  • Baltimore, MD, USA – Jones Falls Expressway or I-83 (proposed by citizens)
  • Boston, MA, USA – The Big Dig (I-95 – moved underground with a boulevard above)
  • Buffalo, NY, USA – State Route 5 Skyway (review underway)
  • Chattanooga, TN, USA – Riverfront Parkway (converted to a boulevard in 2004)
  • Chicago, IL, UA – Lakeshore Drive (proposed by a citizen group)
  • Cleveland, OH, USA – West Shoreway (planned conversion to a boulevard)
  • Detroit, MI , USA – I-375 (planned conversion to a boulevard)
  • Hartford, CT, USA – Aetna viaduct or I-84 (proposed conversion to a boulevard)
  • Long Beach, CA, USA – Terminal Island Freeway (planned conversion to a local road)
  • Louisville, KY, USA – I-64 (proposed by a citizen group)
  • Milwaukee, WI, USA – Park East Freeway (demolished in 2003)
  • Minneapolis, MN, USA – I-394 Spur (proposed by streets.mn)
  • Montreal, QC, Canada – Bonaventure Freeway (planned conversion to a boulevard)
  • Nashville, TN, USA – Downtown Loop of I-24, I-40, and I-65 (planned removal and conversion of portions to a boulevard)
  • New Haven, CT, USA – State Route 34 (partial funding has been received)
  • New Orleans, LA, USA – Claiborne Freeway (removal options under consideration)
  • New York City (Manhattan), NY, USA – Westside Highway (demolished and converted into a boulevard and bike route in 2001)
  • New York City (Bronx), NY, USA – Sheridan Expressway (under consideration and study)
  • Niagara Falls, NY, USA – Robert Moses Parkway (conversion to a boulevard near the gorge began in 2013)
  • Portland, OR, USA – Harbor Drive Freeway (removed in 1974 and converted into a waterfront park)
  • Portland, OR, USA – I-5 (proposed by a citizen group)
  • Rochester, NY, USA – Inner Loop (planned removal)
  • Louis, MO, USA – I-70 (proposed by several groups)
  • San Francisco, CA, USA – Embarcadero Freeway (demolished in 1991 and rebuilt as a boulevard)
  • San Francisco, CA, USA – Central Freeway (partially removed in 1996 – portions remain in use)
  • San Francisco, CA, USA – I-280 spur (proposed)
  • Seattle, WA, USA – Alaska Way Viaduct (once the boring machine is repaired it will be removed and rebuilt as a boulevard)
  • Syracuse, NY, USA – I-81 (proposed by a citizen group)
  • Trenton NJ, USA – State Route 29 (planned conversion to a boulevard with funding being sought)
  • Washington, DC, USA – Whitehurst Freeway (planned conversion to a boulevard)

Sources are listed at the bottom of the post.

Fortunately for Humpty Dumpty Cities, with a little ingenuity and time, they can be pit back together again.

Second, here’s my list of some of the mid-sized to larger cities in the USA and Canada that were largely spared the social and geographic disruption of their urban fabric by freeway construction across the heart of the community. These can be considered cities that escaped the Humpty Dumpty scenario either by fate, protest, lack of size at the time of development of the Interstate Highway System, or just plain dumb luck.

  • Allentown, PA, USA
  • Altoona, PA
  • Anchorage, AK, USA
  • Anderson, IN, USA
  • Annapolis, MD, USA
  • Appleton, WI, USA
  • Athens, GA, USA
  • Billings, MT, USA
  • Biloxi-Gulfport, MS, USA
  • Bloomington-Normal, IL, USA
  • Boulder, CO, USA
  • Bowling Green, KY, USA
  • Burlington, VT, USA
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL, USA
  • Champaign-Urbana, IL, USA
  • Clarksville, TN, USA
  • Columbus, Ga, USA
  • Davenport, IA, USA
  • Decatur, Il, USA
  • Elkhart, IN, USA
  • Erie, PA, USA
  • Evansville, IN, USA
  • Fargo, ND, USA
  • Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • Fort Smith, AR, USA
  • Fort Wayne, In, USA
  • Gainesville, FL, USA
  • Great Falls, MT, USA
  • Hagerstown, MD, USA
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • Hattiesburg, MS, USA
  • Huntington, WV, USA
  • Kalamazoo, MI, USA
  • Kenosha, WI, USA
  • Kingston, ON, Canada
  • Kokomo, IN, USA
  • Lafayette, IN, USA
  • Lancaster, PA, USA
  • Las Cruces, NM, USA
  • Lawrence, KS, USA
  • Lewiston, ID and ME, USA
  • Lexington, KY, USA
  • London, ON, Canada
  • Madison, WI, USA
  • Melbourne, FL, USA
  • Morgantown, WV, USA
  • Muncie, IN, USA
  • Newport, RI, USA
  • Odessa, TX, USA
  • Ogden, UT, USA
  • Quebec City, QC, Canada
  • Owensboro, KY, USA
  • Racine, WI, USA
  • Raleigh, NC, USA
  • Regina, SK, Canada
  • Rockford, IL, USA
  • Cloud, MN, USA
  • Salem, OR, USA
  • Sarasota, FL, USA
  • Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
  • Sioux Falls, SD, USA
  • South Bend, IN, USA
  • Springfield, IL, MO, and OH USA
  • Sudbury, ON, Canada
  • Tallahassee, FL , USA
  • Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
  • Tyler, TX, USA
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Victoria, BC, Canada
  • Warren, OH, USA
  • Wilmington, NC, USA
  • Winnipeg, MN, Canada
  • York, PA, USA


This entry was posted in Active transportation, Advocacy, Alternative transportation, Canada, Cars, cities, commerce, downtown, economic gardening, geography, historic preservation, history, infrastructure, land use, Maps, new urbanism, North America, placemaking, planning, revitalization, spatial design, sustainability, transportation, urban planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Putting Humpty Dumpty Cities back together again

  1. I live in Chicago and am personally familiar with the situation with the north section of Lake Shore Drive. I submitted my own detailed sketches and ideas for some reconfiguration. I haven’t tried yet to see what’s on the website for this project, what everyone’s suggested. I’m not in the group urging it all be removed. Others can look for this project online and see what’s going on.


  2. innocent_bikestander says:

    Oh my goodness! I think it a little remiss of you not to mention the great and mighty Jane Jacobs who stopped the freeway that was going to rip through Manhattan, as was proposed by Robert Moses!


  3. innocent_bikestander says:

    I thought that was the entirety of your second half 🙂


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