Theses Master's

The Lasting Legacy of Transportation Planning: Spatial Exclusions Shaped by the Interstate Highways

Kim, Soyeon

Five decades ago, interstate highways radically changed the landscape of the US. It brought economic prosperity and convenience to drive, but with the expenses of the life of historically underserved communities. This thesis aims to uncover the dark history of interstate highway construction, which left an everlasting scar on spaces by intentionally destroying the settlements of Black and low-income communities. With the concept of spatial exclusion, this thesis analyzes the intentions behind and impacts of interstate highway construction, particularly related to the built environment. The historical records Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, and Miami, FL vividly exhibits the unjust intentions to remove Black neighborhoods using interstate highways. In those three cities, over seventy percent of interstate highway routes were aligned on “redlined” neighborhoods. In Atlanta, GA, I-20 and I-75 construction caused the massive loss of building footprints and street networks, as well as the conversion of land use on the redlined site. In contrast, the non-redlined site unaffected by interstate highways shows a slight change in buildings, land use, and street networks. In the end, this thesis broadens the discussion to the attempts to demolish the highways but argues the recent interventions also have similar flaws since they did not directly address the inequality problem. This thesis ultimately advocates the need to empower historically underserved communities as a more fundamental change to prevent future spatial exclusion.


  • thumnail for KimSoyeon_GSAPPUP_2021_Thesis.pdf KimSoyeon_GSAPPUP_2021_Thesis.pdf application/pdf 2.7 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Wu, Weiping
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
January 5, 2022