Flashback Friday: Expressway revolts in Dade, Broward, Pinellas and Hillsborough

Miami's_Midtown_Interchange,_circa_1960s (1)In the 1960’s urban planners were preparing for explosive growth in the Tampa Bay area and southeast Florida. Population was exploding in both areas and various proposals for expressways were floated and eventually adopted by regional planning councils.The network of expressways proposed would have displaced existing neighborhoods and would have cost millions in local tax dollars.

Having seen the damage Interstate 95 did to African-American neighborhoods in Miami and Interstate 4  and 75 (later renumbered as I-275, with I-4 terminated at the new junction with 275, and I-75 rerouted east of Tampa and southward towards Miami/Fort Lauderdale) did through urban Tampa and St Petersburg, suburban and working class white residents were determined to prevent a similar displacement in their neighborhoods. African-Americans also were determined to prevent more highways from dissecting and destroying historic urban neighborhoods.


Ultimately citizens began to organize and oppose the building of new expressways. In the Tampa Bay area, a number of ambitious road projects in Hillsborough County were shelved due to intense citizen opposition while in Pinellas the cost of acquiring land proved prohibitive.

I remember well the tail end of the expressway revolt in the Tampa Bay area as the idea of upgrading US 19 to full expressway status in Pinellas County and the building of I-175 and I-375 west of I-275 in St Petersburg and the building of a highway north of Tampa around Lutz were major issues when I was a kid. The expressway revolt in southeast Florida had happened about a decade earlier and well organized citizen groups saw multiple planned roads killed. Pinellas County eventually saw many intersections replaced with flyovers and large portions of US 19 between Clearwater and St Petersburg enhanced with frontage roads to give an expressway-like level of rapid movement.  This essentially takes the route of the cancelled Tampa-St Petersburg and Belcher freeways which were both shelved in 1978.

In addition, the recently approved Gandy Freeway and Gateway Express projects fill part of the role that the cancelled Pinellas Highways of the 1970’s and 1980’s were supposed to address.

Pinellas County did not react to the proposed highways with the anger that was present in Hillsborough particularly around the Crosstown Expressway system, and the Northwest Hillsborough Expressway.  The Tampa Bay Beltway was also met with severe opposition in the northern and eastern suburbs of Tampa and though technically still on the books, has never been funded.

In southeast Florida, the comprehensive local highway plan of 1969 had met much opposition and only a handful of the proposed roads in Dade and Broward counties were built. Later in the 1980s opposition to expressways were a major political issue in Palm Beach County especially among Democrats. The extension of the Sawgrass-Deerfield Expressway into southern Palm Beach County was killed as was the effort to build an expressway from Wellington to West Palm Beach.

The expressway revolts in major urban areas were becoming a regular occurrence and helped build coalitions between suburban upper-income residents and African-Americans in the cities. The expressway revolts helped create the elements of bi-racial coalition politics which was absent in Florida prior to the 1970s. In Miami, the coalition helped force the building of Metrorail and Metromover rather than the construction of several new expressways. While Metrorail has had its struggles, Metromover is the most successful downtown people mover in the country and has seen a major boost in ridership as Downtown Miami has continued to grow rapidly since the late 1990’s.

Below is a list from 1969 South Florida Highway plan. Bolded roads were built. Italicized roads were built in a modified fashion and proposed roads in block letter were never built.

  • Le June Expressway (Was to run from Miramar to the University of Miami)
  • Hialeah Expressway (Was to run from Collins Avenue to the West Dade Expwy along 79th st)
  • Interama Expressway (Was to run from 167th St to Downtown along Miami Ave.)
  • Opa-Locka Expressway (Became Gratigny Pkwy and is less than 1/2 the proposed length)
  • South Dade Expressway (Now the Don Shula Expwy)
  • West Dade Expressway (Now the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike (H.E.F.T.), though it was originally proposed to come a little deeper into Miramar along the current Miramar Parkway)
  • Snapper Creek Expressway (Built as planned)
  • Snake Creek Expressway (Was to run along Hallandale Beach Blvd. from University Expwy to AIA) (Portion west of Turnpike became HEFT)
  • Cypress Creek Expressway (Was to run from AIA to University Expwy)
  • University Expressway (Was to run from Parkland to Miramar along current Nob Hill Rd…..moved west, shortened and narrowed to become Sawgrass Expressway)
  • Deerfield Expressway (Was to run from University Expressway to US 1)
  • Rock Island Expressway (Was to run from Port Everglades Expressway to Deerfield Expressway along current Rock Island Road)
  • Sheridan Street Expressway (Was to replace Sheridan Street from University Expwy to AIA)
  • Port Everglades Expressway (Now I-595 and I-75 west of Sawgrass Expressway )
  • University Parkway (was to run from University Expressway, later Sawgrass to Flavor Pict Road in Boynton Beach along the boundary of the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refugee.
  • South Dixie Expressway (extension of I-95 to Florida City)

Photo credit: “Miami’s Midtown Interchange, circa 1960s” by Florida State Road Department – https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/104495. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Miami%27s_Midtown_Interchange,_circa_1960s.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Miami%27s_Midtown_Interchange,_circa_1960s.jpg

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