Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

James, Ryan

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment


The presence of interstate highways in rural areas improves access to nearby rural

communities and changes those communities’ spheres of influence. Research into

understanding how improved access from interstate highways affects rural communities

is needed. This case study was designed to investigate how rural communities changed

on the basis of population, vacancy, median home value, and median contract rent in the

short term after an interstate highway was completed nearby in the early 1990s.

The communities included in this study are incorporated cities, towns, villages

and census-designated places in non-metropolitan counties with at least one incorporated

city, town, village and census-designated place within 12 miles of an interstate

exit/entrance ramp on interstates that were completed in the mid-1990s. These include

83 rural communities in Illinois, 40 communities in Louisiana, and 6 in Missouri.

Using multivariate analysis of variance, I examined how rural communities

changed in the short term after an interstate highway was completed nearby. Using a

geographic information system and remotely sensed imagery, a more detailed analysis of

the changes experienced by the rural communities in the northern Illinois area of my

study was conducted. The results of the study suggest that the establishment of interstate

highways near rural communities in the early to mid-1990s did not drastically change the

rural communities close to the highways in the short term on the basis of population,

median home value, vacancy rate or median contract rent. These results are contrary to

what some politicians who advocates for building rural highways for economic

development purposes claim will happen after a rural highway is completed. These

results are consistent with recent research by Voss and Chi suggests that interstate

expansion did not necessarily bring prosperity with it, and it may at best simply serve to

support growth trends which were in place before the highway expansion began.


71 pages




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