Key Pages:

Interstate 95 Home

The Interstate Highway System

A History of I95

The 95/195 Interchange

The Interstate highway as...:

- Barrier

- Access and Mobility

- Marginal Space

- Monumental Architecture

Notes and Photographs from Fieldwork:

- 12-09-07

- 12-11-07

- 12-20-07

Interstate Highway Links

Bibliography and References

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology


Search Brown


Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Ease of access and mobility to and from discreet places with centralized functions through the homogenized intermediary space of car+highway AKA 'freedom cage'

In acting out the purposes of mobility and access, the 95 is quite successful, on specific terms of centralization and discreet encapsulation of activities. Using the alliance of the automobile and the highway, a person can have a home in an area devoted to residential activity, work in another discreet zone, and undergo recreation at another specific set of locales. Rather than a contiguous landscape of merging and related areas, the automobile and highway provide a unified liminal zone that provides access to discreet zones of activity. Car+highway= the homogenized space of transportation by which other spaces and places are linked. The Providence Place Mall, the Westin Hotel, and the Rhode Island Convention Center are places very well allied with the automobile and highway. On and off ramps connect the 95 and the 10/6 nearly directly to the extensive parking facilities, allowing direct connection from the space of transportation to the interior spaces of encapsulated and intentional activities (photos and a little more on this area in Fieldwork 12-20-07: I-95).

In Providence the separation of discreet activities with ease of access and deployment is also apparent with the highway's relationship to emergency services. The 95 was built with direct southbound access to Rhode Island Hospital, which makes sense as Hospital is located in the southern part of the city and this makes it accessible to ambulance and other emergency traffic from the north. The Public Safety Complex, where police and fire services are deployed from, is also located right next to the 95, on the west side of the Washington Street overpass. In addition to easy access to the west side and downtown, both south and north bound highway access is available within in three blocks.

The location of the central post office on Corliss Street, between the 146-95 split and close to onramps to both highways, provides prompt access to shipping of mail to the north, south and northwest, and is in accord with an interstate highway objective dating as far back as 1940 (Moon 1994), to serve the needs of the postal service.


Commerce is perhaps the nebulous ideal best served by the interstate highway. As Thomas McDonald, a former Chief of the US Bureau of Public Roads said: "The roads themselves helped us create a new wealth, in business and in industry and land values. So it was not our wealth that made our highways; rather it was our highways that made our nations wealth possible" (US House of Reps 2007, 5). The use of the Interstate Highway System for the hauling and distribution of things is somewhat paramount; things get places on the highways. In 1998, freight shipping on highways accounted for 71% of total freight transportation by weight and 80% by value (Capka 2007). The highway is a place of things and their great weight and values. And it is said to be cost effective and profitable, with transportation costs only accounting for 3-4% of the value of goods transported (US House of Reps 2007). However, there is a downside as well! "Congestion costs $67,000,000,000 annually in productivity" (US House of Reps 2007, 3)!

Tool-being and the freedom cage

Highways and traffic are like a mutually reinforcing positive feedback loop; more cars and shipping need more highways, more highways encourage more cars and shipping, and so on. To the system user, it is traffic that makes the highway lose its functional transparency, traffic makes the highway like a broken or malfunctioning tool and brings its problematic existence into focus (Heidegger 1996, Harman 2002). The highway and the car lose their lustre of freedom and motion and become a the opposite, a cage within a standstill. The liminal space becomes interminable, money is lost as goods go undelivered, fuel burns idly for cars to crawl where they were meant to fly.