List of gaps in Interstate Highways

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Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways

Interstate Highways in the 48 contiguous states
System information
Formed: June 29, 1956[1]
Highway names
Interstates: Interstate X (I-X)
System links
I-70 briefly follows an at-grade portion of US 30 with traffic lights in Breezewood, Pennsylvania

There are gaps in the Interstate Highway system, where the roadway carrying an Interstate shield does not conform to the standards set by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the body that sets the regulations for the Interstate Highway System. For the most part, the Interstate Highway System in the United States is a connected system, with most freeways completed; however, some Interstates still have gaps. These gaps can be due to unconnected segments of the same route or from failure of the road to fully conform to Interstate standards by including such things as at-grade crossings, traffic lights, undivided or narrow freeways, or movable bridges (lift bridges and drawbridges). This article deals with present day gaps, as such examples were far more numerous during construction of the Interstate Highway System and the upgrading of existing roads to meet these standards, which did not occur everywhere at the same time. Temporary gaps, such as lane closures that reduce traffic to one lane and reduce speed limits, are also excluded.

True gaps[edit]

True gaps are where two disjoint sections of road have the same Interstate highway number and can reasonably be considered part of "one highway" in theory, based on the directness of connections via other highways, or based on future plans to fill in the gap in the Interstate, or simply based on the shortness of the gap. The two sections are either not physically connected at all, or they are connected but the connection is not signed as part of the highway. It should be noted that most of these gaps (except for the one on I-95) exist because the two segments are actually two unrelated highways that were built at different times, but assigned the same number; many times, the same number was assigned to the second segment with the intention of eventually connecting it to the first segment.

Freeway gaps[edit]

Freeway gaps occur where the Interstate is signed as a continuous route, but part or all of it is not up to freeway standards. This includes drawbridges where traffic on the Interstate can be stopped for vessels. This does not include facilities such as tollbooths, toll plazas, agricultural inspection stations, or border stations.

At-grade intersections and traffic lights[edit]

Surface street section of I-78 in Jersey City, New Jersey

Several Interstates in rural areas of the U.S. have at-grade intersections (including median breaks) with minor farm access roads. This is usually due to the lack of an old highway; the need to provide access to property that was accessed via the road prior to its upgrade to an Interstate; and the high cost to construct an interchange for the small amount of traffic that would use such a connection or to build a frontage road parallel to the freeway to the nearest interchange. Other at-grade intersections are restricted to municipal service vehicles, of which make it easier for maintenance to be done in places like in the mountains as well as tollways.

  • The northbound lanes of I-5 in Washington intersect with an at-level pedestrian crosswalk approximately 100 feet south of the Canadian border. This crosswalk allows pedestrians access to a monument which is part of Peace Arch State Park.
  • I-19 between North West Avenue and its southern terminus at West Crawford Street at North Sonoita Avenue, in Nogales, Arizona consists of surface roads with traffic lights.
  • I-35 in the Flint Hills of Kansas along with I-10 and I-40 in remote areas of west Texas have several at-grade access points for cattle ranches. I-40 also has access to dirt roads in the mountains of western North Carolina.
  • I-70 uses part of US 30 along a surface road in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, to get between the freeway heading south to Hancock, Maryland, and the ramp to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This is probably the best-known instance of traffic lights on an interstate. There used to be a sign of a policeman pointing at drivers leaving the Pennsylvania Turnpike to enter US 30, saying, "You! Slow Down!" Local businesses have lobbied to keep the gap to avoid loss of business (Map).[8]
  • I-676 has a surface street section at the west end of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, because of historically significant areas. Signage and the Federal Highway Administration consider I-676 to use the surface streets; the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Department of Transportation consider I-676 to be continuous across the Ben Franklin Bridge, even though the bridge, built in 1926, is not up to Interstate standards (Aerial photo). This does not specifically violate Interstate standards, however, as the two separated segments of I-676 are in different states.
  • I-78 travels along a one-way pair of surface streets, 12th Street and 14th Street, in Jersey City, New Jersey, between the end of the New Jersey Turnpike Newark Bay Extension and the Holland Tunnel, which leads into New York City. Between the two aforementioned points are four signalized intersections.[9]
  • I-180 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has no parts built to Interstate standard; in fact the interchange with I-80 is just a simple diamond interchange with two traffic lights on I-180, however it is expressway-quality with a few grade-separations (Map).
  • I-585 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is cosigned with US 176, in which I-585 shields are present in beyond the point where it ceases to be a freeway, having passed through traffic lights. There also exists a sign that marks the road there as "I-585 Business Spur" and hence it is unclear whether that surface section of US 176 also belongs to I-585.
  • I-690 in Syracuse, New York, has a traffic light 12 days each year for buses to carry Great New York State Fair attendees from parking areas across the road to the fair.
  • The I-291 eastern terminus in Chicopee, Massachusetts, is a signalized intersection, although the route's three-digit designation (because it begins with an even digit) would indicate a closed Interstate Highway bypass or loop with no intersections. The intersection forms a three-way junction between I-291, the Interchange 6 toll plaza for I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), and a local street. Traffic exiting I-90 bound for I-291 must turn left at a traffic light beyond the tolls.

Undivided and narrow freeways[edit]

Two-lane stretch of I-93 through Franconia Notch in New Hampshire
Two-lane stretch of I-81 on the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing part of the Saint Lawrence River
The Mackinac Bridge, which carries I-75, has no hard shoulders, and only has a 4-inch-tall (10 cm) divider between the opposing directions

This section addresses two-lane freeways and other narrow or undivided freeway sections of the Interstate, excepting instances of continuing routes using one-lane ramps and merge leads. Narrow gaps between opposing directions with jersey barriers taller than four feet (1.2 m) are excluded from this section; therefore the separation criteria is really either a 4-foot-tall (1.2 m) wall, or a 100-foot-wide (30 m) median, whichever is greater.

Movable bridges[edit]

A six lane freeway in an urban area with a vertical lift bridge in the distance. A green sign with flashing lights on the right side of the road reads Drawbridge ahead 700 feet.
I-280 westbound approaching the movable Stickel Bridge over the Passaic River in New Jersey

By Interstate standard, all bridges on the Interstate system must be fixed as to not interrupt the flow of traffic. Several bridges on the system, however, are movable:

Other movable bridges on the Interstate System have been replaced after spending many years as part of the system. These include:

  • Interstate 75 had a bascule bridge from 1960 to 1988 at Zilwaukee, just north of Saginaw; the high-level Zilwaukee Bridge replaced it on December 23, 1987, for northbound traffic, and on September 19, 1988, for southbound traffic.[16] Interstate 675 was built as an in-town bypass of the bascule bridge prior to the construction of the tall Zilwaukee bridge. Since the completion of the tall Zilwaukee bridge in 1987, I-675 has had less traffic than its capacity; though it is a feasible detour for bridge, or other maintenance between both ends of the loop.
  • Interstate 280 formerly had a drawbridge, the Craig Bridge, in Toledo, Ohio. The fixed-span Veterans' Glass City Skyway replaced the drawbridge on the Interstate Highway in 2007.

Freeway-to-freeway crosspaths without direct connection[edit]

Connection gaps[edit]

Auxiliary Interstates (also known as three-digit Interstates) are intended to connect to their parent either directly or via a same-parented Interstate (like I-280 in California being connected to I-80 via I-680). Often, these connection gaps occur to eliminate concurrencies between other three-digit routes. Freeway gaps (signed or unsigned) that officially connect auxiliary routes to the parent are excluded.

Current day examples[edit]

  • Interstate 210 in California does not currently connect directly to Interstate 10 - it connected to I-10 until 1998, when California State Route 57 replaced the portion of I-210 through Covina and San Dimas to provide a proper connection to current State Route 210. State Route 210, built as an extension to replace Route 30, connects to I-10, and California is petitioning to have that portion signed as Interstate 210 as well. When that happens, this gap will close. I-210 also does not connect to any of the spurs of I-10, with the exception of a short, unsigned, unfinished section of Interstate 710 which connects to Interstate 110 and State Route 110 only via surface streets.
  • None of the spurs of I-78 (I-278, I-478, I-678, I-878) connect to its parent, nor is there any surface-street with a state route designation with the same number that continues with a solid connection. (see disputed gaps below)
  • Interstate 585 near Spartanburg, SC uses a business loop, albeit in freeway form of Interstate 85, but this puts the example in some dispute of consensus (see disputed gaps below)
  • Numerous three-digit Interstate routes are unsigned on some portions, which would lead some to think they were "connection gaps". However these aforementioned "connection gaps" don't even have internal unsigned concurrencies on other Interstate highway segments between the "parent route" and signed terminus.

Disputed gaps[edit]

Gaps where different criteria constitute contradictory circumstances.

  • I-265—the Indiana portion of I-265 does not yet connect with the Kentucky portion. Each of the two segments, circling the outskirts and suburbs of Louisville, ends before crossing the Ohio River, making them completely in separate states, thus following numbering guidelines. Plans for constructing a bridge to connect the two segments have been finalized, though the project is far from complete.[17]
  • None of the spurs of I-78 (I-278, I-478, I-678, I-878) connect to its parent. I-78 was planned to extend through New York City and end as two branches, where I-295 and I-695 now end at I-95. I-478 comes the closest, and would have intersected if the Westway project were not canceled; I-278, the only I-78 spur to leave New York City, was planned to extend northwest to I-78 at Route 24. Since all the spurs are interconnected, only one of them needs to be eventually connected to its parent route for all of them to conform to numbering standards.
  • I-585 used to connect with I-85 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but I-85 was moved to a new bypassing route, and now I-585 ends at the I-85 Business loop. The signed connection to I-85 is via a surface section of US 176.
  • I-90 at the Chicago Skyway—historically, the Skyway was commonly considered to be, and was signed as, part of I-90 (originally I-94). However, around 1999, the City of Chicago determined it may never have applied for approval to sign it as an Interstate. (It also is not designed to Interstate standards.) The city re-signed the Skyway, and it is now mostly posted with "TO I-90/94" signs with a few older signs remaining. However, the Illinois Department of Transportation has always and continues to report the Skyway as part of the Interstate system, and the Federal Highway Administration still considers it as such. A FHWA legal memo says "There is no doubt about it. The Chicago Skyway is officially part of I-90 that (has) always been included in the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways."[18][19]
  • The northern end of the I-99 freeway ends less than a mile from I-80 in Pennsylvania, and motorists can continue north on US 220/PA 26 along surface street to grade-level ramps to access I-80, which is planned to overlap in the eastward direction with I-99 northbound, once the extension of I-99 is completed.

Other gaps[edit]

  • In five cases—Interstate 66, I-76, I-84, I-86, I-88 —the same primary interstate route number is used on two separate, unconnected lengths of roadway, one in the eastern portion of the country and one in the western portion. These gaps are intentional — the two segments of roadway are not planned to be linked together, nor is there any official or causal concurrency to rectify their discontinuity, seeing there is no signed or documented concurrency on other east-west routes whatsoever.[citation needed] Another reason for this circumstance, has to do with the idea that the east and west are so many thousands of miles away, that it gets less confusing to acknowledge "repeated" numbers on those sides of the country as well as the fact that some otherwise taken numbers can be repeated to spare the availability of unused numbers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. (Summer 1996). "Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, Creating the Interstate System". Public Roads (Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration) 60 (1). Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Report to SCOH May 19, 2012". [dead link]
  3. ^ "Alliance for I-69 Texas - More Houston Areas Freeway Added to Interstate 69". 
  4. ^ Malme, Bob. "I-73 Segment 4". Self-published. Retrieved November 19, 2009. [dead link][unreliable source]
  5. ^ Malme, Bob. "I-73 Segment 9/I-74 Segment 10". Self-published. Retrieved November 19, 2009. [dead link][unreliable source]
  6. ^ Malme, Bob. "I-74 North Carolina Progress Page". Self-published. Retrieved August 28, 2009. [dead link][unreliable source]
  7. ^ Rose, Joel (August 21, 2010). "At Last, I-95's Missing Link Hits The Road". National Public Radio. 
  8. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (November 22, 2001). "The Town That Stops Traffic: Travelers Encounter Way Station as Way of Life in Breezewood". Washington Post. p. B1. 
  9. ^ Google Inc. "Intersection of 14th St (ostensibly 78 West) and Erie St". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc.,-74.042729&spn=0.001785,0.004828&z=18&layer=c&cbll=40.731839,-74.042516&panoid=5dvrrt9-DUeW4FQkik1ltg&cbp=12,273.3558391375674,,0,3.999999999999998. Retrieved August 28, 2009.
  10. ^ "I-64 Corridor Improvements". 
  11. ^ Weingroff, Richard (April 7, 2011). "Interstate System Conditions and Performance". Highway History. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 20, 2012. 
  12. ^ Project staff. "Home". Columbia River Crossing. Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  13. ^ Read, Richard (July 5, 2013). "Bridge Funds to Nowhere: Some of the $175 million in work for the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing might be useful someday, but much of it is just gone". The Oregonian (Portland, OR). p. A1. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  14. ^ Highway Information Services Division (December 31, 2007). Highway Location Reference. Maryland State Highway Administration. Retrieved April 15, 2009. 
  15. ^ Highway Services Division (2010). "Movable Bridges on State Maintained Highways" (PDF). Maryland State Highway Administration. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  16. ^ Staff writer (September 19, 1988). "Zilwaukee Bridge Now Open North, South—Partly". Toledo Blade. p. 1. 
  17. ^ "Home". Ohio River Bridges Project of Kentucky and Indiana. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  18. ^ Office of Operations. "Tolling and Pricing Program". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  19. ^ Samuel, Peter (June 29, 2005). "Skyway Is Interstate 90 Unless State Withdraws Reports: Feds". TollRoadsNews. Archived from the original on September 22, 2008. 

External links[edit]