As the famous Tom Cochrane song says, “Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long”. Well, most people probably don’t want to drive all night, but the idea is that highways, interstates and freeways in the United States are the gateways to some amazing places to travel to, and more often than not, tourists in the United States are using their cars to get places more than they are flying or taking a train. There is something about being on the open road that is freeing, but that feeling can come to a sudden stop, especially when getting into some bad traffic, bad weather conditions, or hit rush hour traffic on some of the worst roads in the United States.
This list has some of the worst roads in the country that make little sense to us as to why they were built in the first place, what use they have today and why people keep driving on them. We may take interstate roads for granted, but the reality is, they can be a hinder to a lot of potential growth in the cities they are located in, especially if they are cutting off parts of a city from each other. So check out this list and before planning your trip, try to avoid these roads, or you will be literally driving all night long to get to your destination.
The Bicentennial Highway, or Utah Route 95, stretches across the high red desert between Hanksville and Blanding and is more of a route in the middle of nowhere. End to end, Route 95 can take four hours to drive on, according to Popular Mechanics, and there is very little in between. There are no rest stops, no commercial facilities, no place to buy gas or pick up food or stop for repairs. If you don’t bring it with you, you will have to wait until you get to the end, so it’s a big risk to travel from end-to-end of the Route.
U.S. Route 1 is the longest north-south highway in the United States, as it runs 2,369 miles from Fort Kent, Maine, all the way down to Key West, Florida. But it also comes with a name it probably doesn’t want, one of the country’s deadliest highways, as according to Best Life, it has had over 1,000 fatal crashes over the last decade. It’s also the most dangerous highway in three different states, including Maryland, Maine, and Florida, which gives you a good idea how large it is, and how dangerous it can be.
The 3-mile-long Pulaski Skyway was effectively the final section of America's first superhighway, according to Popular Mechanics, but it stands today as a lesson on how to not build a highway. That’s because it wasn’t designed for cars in mind, but rather trains, as it was inspired by steel truss deck rail bridges, so the roads are extremely narrow and there is no space for a shoulder either. You pretty much have to stay perfectly in your lane or you risk bumping or making contact with the car beside you.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest continuous bridge over water, which makes for some great scenic driving if you are down in Louisiana. However, being near the water and with the type of climate, fog is a massive concern as it can roll in pretty think, so much so that police convoys are needed to usher people across the bridge, as their flashing lights can cut through the fog better than headlights. A police escort sounds great, just not when you can’t see in front of your face on a long bridge with all the water around you.
Route 550 is commonly known as the 'Million Dollar Highway' because it offers million-dollar views as drivers make their way through the Red Mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. But don’t take your eye off the road to admire the view, as sharp narrow, hairpin turns can pop up many times over the course of the 25-mile drive, and according to Best Life, there are no guard-rails to stop any car that gets a little too close to the edge, making for a scary drive.
There is so much debate about what to do with Interstate 70 in Denver, because of so many different issues. For one, according to Curbed, the Interstate cuts off multiple communities from each other and it would be restored if it was put underground, or simply redesigned to go around the communities. A $1.2 billion plan to tear down a crumbling viaduct was put in place, as well as to add four lanes, expand toll lanes and shoulders so as to improve traffic was put in place to make it a road people could actually drive on again.
The James Dalton Highway in Alaska opened in 1974 and was opened to tourists 20 years later. It’s known as the road that inspired the television show, Ice Road Truckers, according to Best Life, as it’s used for a lot of transporting oil and gas. If you do find yourself on it, make sure you have plenty of supplies, as the 414-mile road from Fairbanks to Deadhorse only has three towns along the entire route, so there isn’t much opportunity to stop for gas. Car rental companies don’t like to even rent cars to you if they know you are going on the road, and helicopters are used twice a day to find accidents and people broken down on the road.
Route 29 is located in New Jersey and has been put up for a vote a few times, according to Curbed, to be demolished because it separates the downtown district from the Delaware Riverfront, and is also blocking the view of the riverfront. Another example of a roadway blocking progress, as a new project would see plenty of environmental restoration, as well as a $2.25 billion boost to the city’s economy, all if they decide to get rid of the roadway that keeps going into the hands of voters.
Highway 99 is a 424 mile stretch of highway that runs from Wheeler Ridge to Red Bluff in California, and while most of the highway is four lanes wide, north of Sacramento it goes down to just two lanes and is very dark, in a rural location, making it very dangerous to drive on. According to Best Life, Highway 99 has 0.62 fatal crashes per mile, which can be attributed to the lack of road space and lighting. Time to put some lamp posts up.
The Cross-Bronx Expressway is an example of when a highway means more than residential homes. Post-war efforts saw highway projects reshape roads in the United States, and to make way for those roads, homes were razed to the ground. According to Popular Mechanics, more than 5,000 families were forced to move in New York when the 8.3-mile Cross-Bronx Expressway ran right through their neighbourhood in what was a very populated section of the Bronx. Because of it, neighbourhoods to the south went downhill fast, as they were cut off from normal street flow and commerce located on the other side of the highway.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a double-decker highway that runs 2.2 miles along the central Seattle waterfront, which according to Popular Mechanics, brought much debate in the city, as people wondered why anyone would want to block the waterfront of Seattle in exchange for a highway. No one wants to look out their window and see a highway instead of beautiful water. And it also eliminated cross street travel, so there is a movement to get the viaduct torn down to restore the beautiful waterfront view and improve traffic flow with a tunnel instead.
Interstate 25, also known as the Valley Highway, is in Denver, Colorado and was built between 1944 and 1948. At the time, according to Popular Mechanics, the population of Denver was just 600,000, but it has grown to over 2.4 million and the Interstate simply can’t hold up to the traffic. Certain sections of the road are always backed up. And it also doesn’t help people getting off, as standard interchanges are a mile apart, but on Interstate 25, they are ¾ and ½ mile apart. It’s difficult to put signage up for this, meaning passengers miss their turnoff plenty of times.
If your interstate is described by locals as “rougher than a corncob” it’s not a good review. Interstate 10, which runs east-west across the state of Louisiana is often called the worst interstate in the country, according to Popular Mechanics. The road is crumbling, and many believe it is doing so because of the soft turf on which they are built. It’s said that you will hit a bump every 50 feet on the Interstate, making for a very bumpy ride.
The Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia takes plenty of time to travel on, thanks to the many bottlenecks on the highway, according to Thrillist. On average, six hours of every day are filled with crawling traffic that brings on plenty of behind-the-wheel anger as drivers try and get to their destination, only to find bottlenecks slowing them down, as more cars try and get out and others try and get off. Pretty much expect traffic to grind to a halt if you are traveling on the Schuylkill Expressway.
On Interstate 376 there is the Greenfield Bridge, located in Pittsburgh. The issue is, the bridge has been falling apart for decades, which is a big problem since pieces of it are falling onto the highway, according to Thrillist. So the simple solution was to build another bridge. That makes perfect sense, except that the bridge wasn’t to replace the Greenfield Bridge, but rather, to catch the falling pieces of it. So rather than demolish the crumbling bridge, it was decided a better idea was to just build a giant catching glove under it.
Interstate 880 in San Jose was named the second worst for fluctuation traffic in the United States, as one minute you could be enjoying a peaceful drive, and the next, you’re bumper-to-bumper in traffic. It can be one of the worst things when driving, where you get the illusion that you are making great time, only to be ground to a halt and forced to sit and wait, only dreaming of the open roads you used to have just a few short minutes ago.
Interstate 35 goes through Austin, Texas, and if you need to know how bad the interstate road is, you only need to know that the fastest highway in the United States, SH 130 toll road, with speed limits of 85mph, was built so that people could bypass it entirely, according to Thrillist. That speaks pretty highly as to how bad the road is if you have to build an even faster highway to get around the highway already there. The split between the upper and lower deck of the Interstate is known for its 20-minute wait times.
Interstate 635 is part of a massive problem in Dallas, along with two other highways, which is costing plenty of money. No, not in repair costs, but in working hours. That’s because, according to Thrillist, over $1 billion a year is lost from people just sitting around in their cars in gridlock doing nothing on the highway. Come to think of it, every time you sit in traffic, it is money you are burning, because as the saying goes, time is money, especially if you could be doing something productive rather than honk your horn.
The 405 Freeway in Los Angeles doesn’t need much exampling to realize it makes no sense. You only need to see the photos from Thanksgiving where it is bumper to bumper, to understand that the freeway has major traffic problems. Nearly 8.5 hours per day it is fluctuating traffic, more than any other city in the United States, according to Thrillist. When the traffic is known as ‘Carmageddon’ you know it is bad and totally out of hand. There are even traffic jams at the late hours of 2 am.
The 610 Loop is often called the Bermuda Triangle of highways in the United States because so much is lost in it over the course of the year. According to the Thrillist, over 1.2 million man-hours are lost each year with drivers sitting around in gridlock trying to get to their destination. It is estimated that over $100,000,000 is lost per year because of this section of highway. Imagine how great the economy would be doing if this little part of the road was fixed properly, as it makes no sense financially to leave it the way it is.
Interstate 66 roads are often said to be worse than the roads in Hawaii. Now, why is Hawaii so bad? Well, it’s roads are built on active volcanoes, while Interstate 66 is in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, according to Thrillist. Coupled with terrible roads is the traffic that seems to never end, and drivers will say to avoid it at all costs, because even late at night, there is traffic on the road, making it difficult to get to any destination.
In math, the quickest route is from point A to point B, no matter what it goes through. In Buffalo, that includes going through a park, as part of the Scajaquada Expressway runs right through Delaware Park, according to Curbed. Obviously, the community wants a redesign that would take it out of the park, reduce the noise in the neighbourhood and the traffic, but so far, there has only been a reduction in speed and a call for people to use the bike paths more.
A recurring theme in this list would be highways cutting off neighbourhoods, and Interstate 345 is no different in Dallas. The two-mile elevated highway cuts off neighbourhoods from the downtown core, according to Curbed. Many people are asking for it to be removed, as it would free up 245 acres of land for development, which could be room for over 27,000 homes and create 225,000 jobs. It’s a reason so much of the urban landscape hasn’t been able to develop in Dallas.
Interstate 375 is located in the United States auto-capital, Detroit, Michigan, so the chances of anything being done are next to nothing, despite many people asking for this four-lane highway to be demolished. According to Curbed, many believe it should be removed, not because of gridlock, but because there is a lack of traffic altogether, due to Detroit’s slumping economy. A boulevard would reunite Detroit’s Riverfront with other communities and really help the community grow. It makes no sense to have a highway that isn’t used, but yet it is hurting the area.
Interstate 980 runs right through neighbourhoods in Oakland, California, cutting them off from each other. Originally, the plan was to build another bridge off I-980 to connect Oakland to San Francisco, and include a massive shopping center, according to Curbed, but those plans never came through, but the interstate did, and it left what many are calling a scar across the entire city of Oakland that really could be replaced by boulevards and light train service, as well as more communities for people to live.
Route 710 is a highway built in Pasadena that was built in 1964. The part that makes no sense is that the highway was built on some of the most valuable lands in the city, and hundreds of houses were demolished to extend to the highway to many of the freeways in the area, according to Curbed. It has caused plenty of uproar, as developers would love to produce homes on the land and develop it for residential and commercial use, considering the value of the land underneath.
The Inner Loop in Rochester, New York created plenty of havoc when it cut off multiple parts of the city from one another. But by 2020, the population of the city is expected to rise 400 percent, and according to the New York Times, much of that is because the Inner Loop is getting removed. It’s another example of poor planning of a highway that harms communities instead of promoting them, and it’s a shining example of what happens when they are gone and communities can grow again.
San Francisco had to remove a few highways because of earthquakes, but Interstate 280 has remained, cutting a path through major communities. According to Curbed, there is a movement to remove the interstate and replace it with a boulevard, which would reunite the communities of Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, and SoMa. And with all that land back, it can transfer into housing opportunities and allow space to develop rail lines as well. There is more to a growing population than just a highway system, as people need a place to live as well.
On Interstate 81, the viaduct is a 1.4 mile stretch in Syracuse, New York that is reaching the end of its life, so city officials have to figure out what they want to do with it now. According to the New York State Department of Transportation, the options are to rebuild the elevated highway, replace it with a surface boulevard or build a $2 billion tunnel across the city. Many are hoping they just demolish it and let traffic use many other interstates available, as the current traffic isn’t enough to rebuild a brand new system.
The state of Oregon rests on the Pacific coast of the United States and the Oregon Coast Highway offers some amazing views as it travels from Los Angeles through Oregon and into Washington State. The portion is known as the Oregon Coast Highway, however, is a dangerous drive, however, as it averages 34 fatal crashes a year over the course of the 363 miles it runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. So remember to keep your eyes on the road and if you want to see the Pacific Ocean, stop your car and take a look.
Sources: curbed; guinnessbookofworldrecords;nytimes; thrillist