How highways wrecked American cities

How highways wrecked American cities


The Interstate Highway System was one of America’s most revolutionary infrastructure projects. It also destroyed urban neighborhoods across the nation.

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The 48,000 miles of interstate highway that would be paved across the country during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s were a godsend for many rural communities. But those highways also gutted many cities, with whole neighborhoods torn down or isolated by huge interchanges and wide ribbons of asphalt. Wealthier residents fled to the suburbs, using the highways to commute back in by car. That drained the cities’ tax bases and hastened their decline.

So why did cities help build the expressways that would so profoundly decimate them?

The answer involves a mix of self-interested industry groups, design choices made by people far away, a lack of municipal foresight, and outright institutional racism.

Read more on Vox:

And see before-and-after maps of how highways changed cities like Cincinnati, Detroit, and Minneapolis:

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100 Comments on "How highways wrecked American cities"


  1. nothing wrong with highways connecting cities. But why IN cities? It makes no sense to just work in a city. The result is that (50 years later), most American cities are ghost towns, boring, ugly, very poor. In Europese they wanted to do similar things but people protested. So here the suburbs became ugly, boring and poor. There is a major difference however. The European inner cities now have become extremely hip, trendy, and popular while at the same time, people started to realize how ugly, poor, depressing, and boring the suburbs are. Result? It's nice to live in the inner cities and the suburbs are becoming better and better. The main question is why the US (but also Canada) doesn't follow. With just a few easy and cheap (important for you guys, I know! ;)) steps, you can greatly improve your downtowns. Start, for example, with allowing little stores to come back. The great chains basically destroyed social live. Put them (like in a lot of places in Europe) outside the city centers, along the highways, easy to reach with a car. With local stores (food & other necessities), cafés, bars, a cinema, sport facilities, etc… next to each other you increase the quality of life. Next, add some "street furniture", some art (might look useless, but actually helps a lot!), some fountains, some "real" parks, etc… Important as well is to remove at least 1 or 2 lanes of the streets. American city-streets usually have at least 4 lanes (2 for driving, 2 for parking). However, a lot of cities and towns also have open air parking places. The trick is simple: leave the cars at the parking places, remove the 2 extra lanes of a street, make the pedestrian area bigger, and your city becomes more friendly. Why? Because you literally bring people closer to each other. Believe it or not, you can see a good example of this in tiny Deadwood, SD. What you do is bring back jobs, recreate city life, improve living conditions. There is nothing wrong with capitalism. We all have capitalist economies. The problem is that (ironically), exactly like their communist enemies is Eastern Europe, (North) American capitalist developers forgot one major aspect: beauty.
    People need atmosphere, need joy, need beauty, need what the Germans call "gemütlichkeit", the Dutch "gezelligheid", the Danes "hygge", the spanish "buen vivir", the Japanese "mattari", etc… (not exactly the same, but similar)… Not just at home, but also in the outside world. On the streets, in the cities.
    (do I already sound like a hippy? Believe me, I'm a big fan of Eric Cartman ;))

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  2. If I designed a highway system with an unlimited budget, there would be a ringroad around the outskirts of the city with a tunnel going under the city to serve as a bypass, perhaps with one or two exits in the middle of the city

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  3. This is probably my first ever dislike. The background music is very distracting; ruined it for me.

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  4. So corporations planned it and politicians gave it ok to go, government (with our taxes) paid for it and last corporations end up with alot more $, lol only in America

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  5. Actually, it built US. To make something, you have to break something. Dont fret much on it

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  6. This article talks about how some influential residents stopped a freeway from going thru their neighborhood. https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-710-freeway-history-20170524-htmlstory.html

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  7. How did this tur n in to a race thing? Im so sick of hearing about it. Oh the white people did stuff… Please. Prob not even true.

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  8. Video started well but then devolved into a racial and ambiguous "means to protest" type dibble

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  9. I watched Urban Renewal destroy Oklahoma City alive, I lived down on Main Street, Harvy Hotel, with my litle wife, 19 years she 18, we watched the entire city destroy by huge wrecking machines, The place looked like a war zone fot years, money ran out 1970's and it stalled. All in Vain, All The jobs are gone, Robbersons Steel, Western Electric Huge Plant on Reno 1 square miles mgf. plant I worked at after my Son was born 1971.

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  10. Was interesting until you started saying it was a race thing, couldn't watch it. Leave it alone.

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  11. That music at the beginning is really a tad too loud and kind of distracting guys, pay a bit more attention to your mixdown next time please!

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  12. HAHAHA LOOK AT JAKARTA'S RINGWAYS OR RINGWAY TOL ROADS ITS JUST RINGWAYS LITTERALLY INSIDE THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL CITY

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  13. Be like Sydney and build tunnels right under the city centres. Why don’t you build tunnels underneath?

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  14. Honestly I rather the highway of been built through a poor area then lower Manhattan like wtf its a buety

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  15. I live in Melbourne, Florida, and in spite of all these consequences, I welcome greater connectivity. Outside of the larger cities (Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, etc.), Florida is notorious for lackluster urban planning. The word “efficient” is not applicable to many street layouts. Almost everything here lies between I-95 and US-1, so it’s fairly easy to move north or south, then head inward from there. (Crossing the rivers/lagoons to go beachside is another story.) But any movement that’s not directly north-south or east–west requires winding and zigzagging through a convoluted labyrinth that just doesn’t make sense.

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  16. You do know Eisenhower thought the Interstates would go around cities, don't you?

    And sprawl is more a product of city taxation than Interstates: developments in the 'burbs don't pay for streets & sewers, making houses there cheaper.

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  17. 1:35 DC hardly has any highways…… The Metro Area of Maryland and VA do, however

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  18. This is a big problem in minecraft when youre building a city…who wants to build highways

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  19. Poor people are not all Black and wealthier folk are not all white. Your stereotypes are showing….

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  20. We need more public/rapid transit. Highways are nice since they connect so many cities and places but they are unnecessary to build between cities and places really close by. Using where I live as an example (a city of almost 90,000 20 miles-ish from Indianapolis), lots of people drive from whatever city they live in such as Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, etc to Indianapolis for work. It would make so much more sense to just have transit lines going between the cities to move the thousands of people going to and from work in Indy back to the suburbs. A highway cuts through near where I live and during rush hours makes all the streets surrounding so congested with so many people coming back from or going to work.

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  21. 3:00
    The truth about Paradise Valley and Black Bottom in Detroit:
    These neighborhoods were segregated neighborhoods where African-Americans had to pay white slumlords excessive rents for old wooden shacks because the African-Americans were not free to buy or rent elsewhere in the city.
    I say this as a Detroiter.

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  22. My hometown (Springfield MO) is one of the few major cities that doesn't have a huge freeway going through it. That being said the freeways in the area are CONSTANTLY being upgraded (*US 65*). South side infrastructure was virtually non-existent 25 years ago and today, you have the new James River Fwy, W. Bypass, and Kansas Expressway (south side residents have trying to prevent an extension of Kansas for decades now).

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  23. In LA some freeways were built simply to segregate neighborhoods when wealthy African Americans were moving into white neighborhoods, like the Sugar Hill neighborhood

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  24. In LA some freeways were built simply to segregate neighborhoods when wealthy African Americans were moving into white neighborhoods, like the Sugar Hill neighborhood, where the 10 is now, the whites moved out and the city turned the neighborhood into a slum through rezoning the area into multi family housing, then demolishing the neighborhood for the 10. Ridiculous to go to that extreme to avoid living next to non whites, but it sounds like something the alt right would advocate for.

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  25. In LA some freeways were built simply to segregate neighborhoods when wealthy African Americans were moving into white neighborhoods, like the Sugar Hill neighborhood

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  26. This feeds on greed, as stated 'no' planning and not enough affordable public transport.
    No doubt the automobile is the largest killer of us all.
    The system thrives on making people dependent on 'it', for water, food and shelter.
    The "Terminator" , the rise of the machines , has reduced society to slavery, the very opposite it claimed it would do.

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  27. We kind of have that blight creeping into the city I've lived in my entire life. All the 'African Americans' love to move here a few hours away from Chicago because it's a cheap bus ride of $31 and they can move in with their families and sell a fuckton of drugs to make money without the police bothering them so much like they do in Chicago. Problem is there are constantly shootings happening now every summer when you used to never hear about them so good job on them 'African Americans' for bringing the blight back

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  28. When you watch a vox video wondering if it would call highways racist and you know what it did. Highways are apparently racist

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  29. The whole point of the highway systems originally was to transport military troops and equipment, then… I don’t know how public transportation got involved😂

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  30. Whites cannot run away forever. Sooner, or later, they will have to deal with the cultural tensions, and cultural decay, which come with open borders, and multi-cultural immigration policies.

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  31. Was the intent to have neighbourhoods along the highways or to have economic development (offices, companies, trades, industry) along them? I do think the intent was not to connect appartments by highways. These were rightfully and planned moved to the suburbs.

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  32. So basically, gentrification and racist design aimed at disrupting poc businesses and communities in large cities. How shocking.

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  33. This comment section:
    50% Simcity reference
    30% in [insert country] our highways go around cities"*
    20% "LOL according to Vox the US government was racist in the 1950s haha how ridiculous"
    * often not true (Birmingham, Genoa, Berlin, Glasgow…)

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  34. USA is basically one big capitalistic corporation. From roads to healthcare to military. It’s all for profit.

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  35. President (General) Eisenhower also placed in bill that Highway must be straight and to be built so that if needed for purpose of war can be used as landing strips for military aircraft.

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  36. President Eisenhower was impressed by the German autobahn system as compared to inferior comparative road transportation in other places in Europe. Robert Moses the urban planner deserves noteworthy mention for his conception of New York City's highway system, particularly the Cross Bronx Expressway and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway accomplishing there the goals of the urban planners describbed in this video. Alas the neighborhoods lost to concrete ribbons.

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  37. As much as I agree with the sentiments of educating people on how the auto industry created the conditions for their own success, eminent domain is a legit thing if you approach it from a purely logical place. As a general idea, you can't have extremely small interest groups hold up progress and efficient markets/trade for their own individual comfort etc. Sometimes as much as I love my house or neighborhood, you have to allow better suited uses of land to replace less 'useful'. Whether the definition of useful is more artistic, aesthetic, cultural, profitable, or whatever, depends on the type of society the people want to create, but the mechanism for change should exist in my opinion.

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  38. Boston has a ring road but everyone just take I-93 through Boston. if your coming from the south shore on route 24 go on Route 1/I-95 and you will go around Boston. also it meets up with I-93 anyway

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  39. They built them in case of attack they can easily move divisions across the country easily without a hassle

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  40. In Canada I’m Toronto we have a massive highways system in there we have like 8 400 series highways running though Toronto there all massive 8 lane highways

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  41. Because it made our nation insanely obsessed with driving, which contributed to climate change and hatred of people with disabilities like me.

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