Renewing America’s Interstate Highway Corridor

ORGANIZATION NAME: Whole Systems Design, LLC


SUMMARY: “The largest infrastructure project in American history – The Interstate Highway – is reinvented to become the backbone of an adaptive reuse strategy for the continent. 1,870,000 acres of mown land within the corridor is retrofitted using perennial crops and market-access to become a resource generator rather than a sink.”

PROBLEM SPACE: “The United States Interstate Highway System is one of the nation’s most valuable capital and cultural assets. Conceived during the era of inexpensive fossil fuels, the current system is ill-adapted to a renewable resource economy. The Highway is also placeless in a nation reclaiming local economies and identities. Highway corridors of the future must not only provide renewable mobility pathways but must themselves become productive.

The prevailing land management practice along the 1.87 million acres of intensely valuable land (accessible, low-angle, and visible) is mowing. A monoculture of landscape begets a monoculture of experience – the primary cultural encounter of the Interstate being one of anonymity, speed and mass-marketing. One of our largest national assets has become a cultural and economic sink.

A Renewed Interstate Corridor based on regenerative, perennial agriculture will sequester carbon, bioremediate freshwater and increase ecological vitality. Biomass, solar, and wind power are produced and distributed while wildlife corridors are integrated to minimize fractured continental ecosystems. The interstate system would also provide resource distribution hubs and increase access to diversifying local markets.

It is time to renew America’s interstate highways to be a national economic engine while serving as a primary network for continental resiliency.”

SOLUTION: “Areas along I-89 in central Vermont will be identified and developed to produce biomass and other forms of renewable energy. These pilot projects will test feasibility, management strategies, design elements, strategic partnerships and other aspects needed to create a model that is effective, viable and scaleable.

The steps needed to do this include building collaboration among stakeholders through a shared vision; identification of most optimal areas; site design; project implementation; management/monitoring, and utilization of resources generated.

Pilot projects will begin with the most easily implemented aspects of the proposal since investment and infrastructure redevelopment only occurs when models prove viable. Aspects of the proposal such as redeveloped rest areas and integrated wildlife corridors will be conceptualized but likely not developed until later phases. Renewing the Interstate would begin first by the lowest hanging fruit – making the acreage itself more compelling and productive.

Management and data collection would be facilitated through a combination of State and University partners wherein student research and other academic projects utilize the pilot projects as field labs in the areas of community development, transportation, and renewable energy systems. Other innovative models established in Vermont over the past several decades have proven effective using this strategy.”