Have you ever been driving down the highway and as you take the last exit you realize that the road keeps going but that you can’t drive on it? Even notice a large amount of land cleared near a highway but nothing has been built on it? What you are seeing are the remains of unbuilt highways. During America’s highway building boom of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, thousands of miles of new roads were cut through the nation. But there are many that never left the drawing board, whether because of funding problems, environmental issues, or community opposition.

Many cities had planned massive loop highways and spurs that were shot down during the Freeway Revolts of the 1970s. Boston, New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans, and San Francisco, among others, had vast networks planned but these roads destroyed so much of the tight urban fabric that their citizens felt that they did more harm than good and demanded that they stop being built. The Catch 22 is that many of these same cities face traffic problems because major arteries were not built to help existing highways, but had they been built they would have attracted even more traffic. Much of the funding that was to go toward highways was instead allowed to go towards building mass transit lines instead. San Francisco’s BART and Washington D.C.’s METRO were two brand new systems built with highway monies. Though these systems helped, highways still influenced suburban growth and now these cities are faced with even more traffic then they expected.

Now with the power of Google Maps I can show you what many great cities would have looked like if the highway men had had their way.

New York City


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Boston, MA


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Providence, RI


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Albany, NY


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San Francisco


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Washington DC


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Los Angeles


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6 thoughts on “Unbuilt Highways

  1. Your proposed route for I-95 North is somewhat in error. The actual route is slightly to the east of your proposed route. I remember when the properties in Lynn and Saugus MA, were taken for the route on the west side of Winnipurkit Avenue, in Lynn MA, less than one mile each from my Grandparent’s house on Chestnut Street in Saugus MA, and my Aunt and Uncle’s house on Holyoke Street in Lynn MA. Your route is correct until it hits Lynn Woods, where the highway was supposed to cross the 12th hole of the Gannon Municipal Golf Course in Lynn( on a paper map issued by the old Essex County Bank), then proceed thru Peabody MA, crossing Batholomew Street, Lynnfield Street and Centennial Drive (a.k.a. old Route 128), joining with the 128/I-95 interchange at what is now the Centennial Drive Industrial Park in Peabody.

    My Grandmother was very upset about the loss of a small corner grocery store on the east corner of Winnipurkit Avenue and Boston Street that was also taken for the route. All of the taken properties were sold by the state and new houses were constructed on the affected parcels to replaced the ones that were demolished for the highway.

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