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A stack interchange is a free-flowing grade separated junction between two or more roads that allows turning in all directions. A stack interchange has the highest vehicle capacity among different types of interchanges. Stack interchanges are most expensive, both in terms of land and construction costs, and can be subject to closure during icy weather.

Four-level stack

Four-level stack
The four-level stack (or simply four-stack) has one major road crossing another on a bridge, with connector roads crossing on two further levels. This type of interchange does not usually permit U-turns. Interestingly, the four-level stack creates two "inverse" dual-carriageways—the turn ramps crossing the middle section have traffic driving on the opposite side of oncoming traffic to usual (see diagram for clarity).

The first stack interchange in the world was the aptly-named Four Level Interchangemarker (renamed the Bill Keene Memorial Interchange), built in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, at the junction of U.S. Route 101 and State Route 110. Since then, Caltrans has built eight more four-level stacks throughout the state of Californiamarker, as well as a larger number of three-level variants (where the least-used left-turning ramp is built as a cloverleaf-like 270-degree loop to save money).

One of the first four-level stack interchanges was constructed over Interstate 84 in Farmington, Connecticutmarker, for the controversial Interstate 291 beltway around the city of Hartfordmarker. Most of the I-291 beltway was later cancelled, and the sprawling stack lay dormant for almost twenty-five years. In 1992, the extension of Connecticut Route 9marker to Interstate 84 utilized the I-291 right-of-way and some sections of the abandoned interchange. Several ramps still remain unused, including abandoned roadbed for Interstate 291 both north and south of the complex.

A four-level stack is used for the interchange between Interstate 90 and Interstate 405 in Bellevue, Washingtonmarker.

Though it planned to build many four-level stack interchanges, the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker has only one true four-level stack interchange—the interchange between Highway 400 and Highway 407. Planned four-level stacks at Highway 407 and Highway 410, and Highway 407 and Highway 404 were reduced to three-level interchanges. The interchange between Highway 401, 403, and 410 is almost a full four level stack, with a loop ramp planned to be added in the northeast quadrant. There are plans for a four-level stack to be built at Conestoga Parkway and Wellington Street.

In the United Kingdommarker there are three four-level stacks: at the junction of the M4 and M25marker near Heathrow Airportmarker in Londonmarker, at the junction of the M23 and M25marker to the south of London, and at the junction of the M4 and M5 near Bristolmarker (the Almondsbury Interchangemarker). The M4/M25 junction is particularly unusual as it also has a railway line bisecting it at its lowest level. The M4/M25 junction is slightly offset so there is no point where all four levels are directly above each other. M25 (north-south road in this junction) is offset to the east by approximately 60 metres (200 feet). The junction of the A19 and A66 in Teessidemarker uses a three-level variant, with a 270-degree loop allowing southbound A19 traffic to exit to the westbound A66.

The Lighthorse Interchange at the junction of the M4 and M7, is an example of a four-level stack interchange in Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker, Australia.

The EB Cloete Interchange just outside of Durban, South Africamarker is another example of a four-level stack interchange. The N3 is the busiest highway in South Africa and is a very busy truck route. Since Johannesburgmarker is not located near a body of water, most of the city's exports travel through the Port of Durban. The N2 connects Cape Townmarker with Durbanmarker, and it serves the South African cities of Port Elizabethmarker, Plettenberg Baymarker, Margatemarker, and Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park. Two busy roads intersect at the junction. A four-level stack interchange was chosen to serve the high volumes of traffic.

Five-level stack

In Texas, five-level stacks typically have the same configuration as four-level stacks, with frontage roads constituting the fifth level, often near grade. Frontage roads usually intersect with traffic lights, and are similar to a grid of nearby one-way streets.

The Houston, Texasmarker, area has 5 five-level stack interchanges along Beltway 8: at Interstate 45 north of downtown, U.S. Highway 290, Interstate 10 west of downtown, U.S. Highway 59 southwest of downtown, and Interstate 45 southeast of downtown. The newly-reconstructed interchange of Interstate 610 and U.S. 59, with the new I-610 northbound feeder road built underground and the new I-610 southbound feeder road overpass, is also a five-level stack interchange. In Dallas, the award-winning High Five Interchangemarker was completed in 2005 and features some ramps which are more than 12 stories above the ground.

An alternative configuration of a five-level stack exists for dedicated HOV lane intersections. An example of this configuration exists in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, at the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchangemarker of Interstate 110 and Interstate 105; the interchange has a normal four-level configuration plus a fifth level for HOV-only traffic to transition from either direction on I-105 to I-110 northbound and from I-110 southbound to either direction on I-105. This configuration allows these HOVs to avoid the congested general use lanes and ramps, particularly on Interstate 110.

In the Atlanta area, a side ramp forms the fifth level of the Tom Moreland Interchangemarker in DeKalb County, Georgiamarker.


  1. TexasFreeway > Houston > Photo Gallery > Beltway 8 Photos
  2. Interstate 610 at U.S. 59 in Houston, Texas. Google Maps. Last accessed November 19, 2006.

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