In the interstates early years, most of the public eagerly awaited the broad, safe new roads. But by the mid-1960s, public concerns over the environment and disruption of neighborhoods forced the federal and state government to include social and environmental impact in their calculations. In 1973, these concerns brought changes that channeled federal highway funds to mass transit, bikeways, and pedestrian walkways as well as highways.
Santa Monica Freeway, 1965
Many local governments saw the interstate program as an answer to urban transportation problems. New roads, they believed, would increase economic growth. But roads in urban areas sometimes ran up against community resistance. A few were never built; some were reshaped by community input.
Washington, D.C., protest poster, drawn by Sammie Abbott, late 1960s
Community groups successfully protested a proposed interstate that would have taken traffic through Washington, D.C
Proposed Design for Papago Freeway (I-10) interchange, Phoenix, 1968
Papago Freeway (I-10) as built, Phoenix, 1991
In the 1960s, Arizona state officials planned to run I-10 through the middle of downtown Phoenix, and they designed a stack of access and egress ramps. Locals opposed the design and, in 1973, voted to stop the roads construction. State highway planners returned to the drawing board. The new plan took into account archaeological sites and historic buildings along the route. A key part of the road was routed underground and covered with new public parkland. The public voted to approve the construction plans in 1979.