Ugly two-digit Interstate Highway segments and thoughts on how to improve them

The following list identifies some segments of two-digit Interstate Highways where the aesthetics along the freeway are far less than pleasing. The list represents segments where there is little to impress a traveler and may in fact repel them from returning. Issues that cause this may include, but not be limited to blight, decay, deteriorating structures (including the highway), disrepair, pollution, heavy industrialization, landfills, abandonment, odorous smells, trash, environmental damage, visual clutter (an abundance of signs, power lines, cell towers, etc.), and/or a general impression of decline.

  • I-37 in Texas from Up River Road to TX-286 (both in Corpus Christi)
  • I-55 in Missouri and Arkansas from I-57 to the Mississippi River Bridge at West Memphis, Arkansas
  • I-64/77 in West Virginia from the northern start of the WV Turnpike to Chelyan
  • I-55 in Illinois from the Mississippi River Bridge to I-70
  • I-55/70 in Illinois from I-70 to I-255
  • I-70 in Ohio from I-77 to the Ohio River Bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia
  • I-75 in Michigan from US 10 to the US 23 split south of Flint
  • I-75 in Michigan from the Ambassador Bridge to M-39
  • I-75 in Michigan and Ohio from I-275 (south of Detroit) to I-475 (north of Toledo)
  • I-76 in Philadelphia near the the Walt Whitman Bridge
  • I-80 in Illinois from I-294 to the Indiana state line
  • I-80 in Ohio and Pennsylvania from I-680 to I-376
  • I-80/94 in Indiana from the Illinois state line to I-90 just east of Gary
  • I-90 (Chicago Skyway) in Illinois from I-94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) to the Indiana state line
  • I-90 (Indiana Toll Road) in Indiana from East Chicago, Indiana to I-80/94 just east of Gary
  • I-95 in New Jersey from I-287 to I-80
  • I-95 in Pennsylvania from I-276 to the Betsy Ross Bridge
  • I-95 in Pennsylvania from I-476 to I-76

Granted, Interstate Highways are not necessarily meant to be beacons of beauty, but they also do not need to be blight corridors. In fact, freeways often travel through beautiful areas and serve as the introduction of many places to visitors.

Blighted segments are particularly harmful to a state’s image when they are at gateway location (shown above in italics), given the importance of first impressions. As a result; Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all have their work cut out for them, if them wish to generate a more positive feeling towards those entering their state at a gateway location.

Some options to improve ugly Interstate Highway corridors could include:

  • Add landscaping, gardens, and architectural treatments along the highway itself.
  • Establish specific economic development incentives along these corridors.
  • Enact and/or enforce stricter environmental cleanup laws.
  • Enact and/or enforce stricter blight and zoning laws.
  • Accentuate positive community aspects along the corridor.
  • Add regular community pride and cleanup campaigns.
  • Offer incentives to restore or replace abandoned structures.
  • Maintain the highway itself and not let it fall into disrepair.
  • Lower the highway to below grade level to limit the view of surrounding areas.
  • In some urban instances where appropriate, convert the freeway back to the original grid pattern so the adjacent neighborhood(s) can heal.
Wolf Lake on the Indiana/Illinois border – Source:

An example of an on-going success story comes from Hammond, Indiana, which is tightly wedged in between Chicago’s south side neighborhoods and Gary. While the segments of I-90 on either side of the city are included on the list above, the portion passing through Hammond is not, due to the impressive efforts taking place there. Hammond has improved its image to those driving through the city on I-90 by adding the following:

Wolf Lake Boardwalk (2014) – Source:
Wolf Lake Pavilion – Source:
  • Adding an impressive network of interactive cycling and walking trails across the city, including adjacent to I-90 as it crosses Wolf Lake.
Map of Hammond’s trail network – Source:

Hammond, Indiana has admirably demonstrated that the aesthetics along a once-blighted Interstate Highway segment can be improved and enhanced. While these changes are pleasing to those traveling through the community, they are even more important for those living there 24/7/365. Hopefully, steps such as those taken in Hammond or suggested in the list above can help initiate a movement across the entire community, thereby benefiting all of those who reside there.

This entry was posted in Active transportation, adaptive reuse, architecture, bicycling, Cars, cities, civics, culture, economic development, economic gardening, environment, Highway displacement, highways, historic preservation, infrastructure, land use, landscape architecture, logistics, Maps, marketing, nature, pictures, placemaking, planning, politics, pollution, recreation, revitalization, spatial design, sprawl, third places, tourism, Trade, transportation, Travel, urban design, urban planning, walking, water trails, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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