Can a Freeway be Beautiful?

The Most Beautiful Urban Highway

I passed this interesting plaque on my walk up to Walden Pond Books yesterday morning. (I was going to redeem a credit — I had traded in a stack of old novels and wanted to get some books about teaching.) The plaque is kind of a head scratcher. “The Most Beautiful Urban Highway in the USA?” It seems almost a contradiction in terms. I have nothing in particular against the MacArthur freeway, but if this is an example of the “most beautiful” in the USA, well, hmmm.

Parade Magazine gave the award. It was published in 1966 and I haven’t been able to turn up the article or an image of the magazine cover yet, but I’ll keep looking.

UPDATE: Following up on VSmoothe’s suggestion I trekked down to the Oakland Library’s Newspaper and Magazine department. Two very helpful librarians (Kerstin and George) helped me zero in on the correct roll of microfilm. Kerstin searched a database the library subscribes to and found two articles in the Oakland Tribune referring to the Parade Magazine award. That gave us the date we needed and in a matter of minutes I had a printout of the cover and article from the March 5, 1967 issue of Parade. See the images below. (Click for a closer look).

The main award given by Parade actually went to a 23 mile section of Interstate 87 through the Adirondack Mountains between Lake George and Pottersville in Warren County, New York. I-87 was chosen by the panel of expert judges because it “embodies the principles of good design, beauty and utility.” Four other rural roads were honored with special mentions. The article went on to describe the MacArthur freeway:

“In addition, this year, for the first time, the judges gave a special award to an urban highway — the MacArthur Freeway in Oakland, Calif. The panel was effusive in its praise of the way this road routed through the built-up city neighborhoods and suburbs, followed the contours of the land with minimum disruption of property. They were also impressed by the colorful plantings that screened the freeway from the sections it passed through and cited it as an example for other city highways to follow.” — Parade, March 6, 1967

Parade, March 6, 1967, featuring Robert McNamaraParade Article

Thursday May 27, 2010 — Mark —