File Size: 6179 KB
Print Length: 401 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 9, 2011)
Publication Date: May 16, 2011
Sold by: Digital Services LLC
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Word Wise: Enabled
Lending: Not Enabled
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Best Sellers Rank: #60,039 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store) #6 in Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Civil & Environmental > Transportation #8 in Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Civil & Environmental > Highway & Traffic #36 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Engineering & Transportation > Transportation
I have always had a fascination with major highways, especially the US Interstate system. It is certainly one of man's greater achievements, both from an engineering and political level. Road building and architecture have always been among the crowning achievements of nations, and the US is no exception. I had high hopes for this book.=== The Good Stuff ===* Earl Swift would certainly subscribe to the theory that the political side of road-building is more interesting and more difficult than the actual engineering side. Given the current state of US highway building, it might appear that he is correct-more roads have been shot down over politics than insurmountable engineering problems. Swift does a masterful job of capturing this conflict.* We meet an interesting cast of characters, and Swift does a nice job at capturing the personalities and motivations of these people. There are certainly the stereotypical engineers-you can almost see the slide rules- planning the routes; the finance guys figuring out how to pay for it; and the political operators-managing what is possible. But there are also the citizens who refused to have their city gutted by a cross-town expressway, and environmentalists and historical preservationists who stand up for their principles.* Much of the history presented was new to me. I had always subscribed to the "Eisenhower cross-country trip" theory of how the Interstate system came about. Swift makes a convincing case that much of the work was done prior to Eisenhower, some as early as WWI, and much of it under Roosevelt. Eisenhower comes across as a sort of final enabler, and someone who wasn't really paying attention anyway.* We see some of the dealing that went on to make the project happen.
Earl Swift has written a marvelous book about the US interstate road system and the men - and there were a lot of them - behind the scenes, in "The Big Roads".Most people seem to think that the US Interstate system was devised and begun during the Eisenhower administration. It was Eisenhower who approved and began the billions dollar project but planning had begun years before, as the automobile designs improved and costs went down, and people-in-cars took to the roads. At first, cars were used basically to go short distance, but as the 1900's turned into the 1910's, visionaries began to see the need for roads - and good roads - to stretch across the United States. Various government and private companies began working on developing a nationwide system, basically based on the upgrading of already established roads. State governments would approve upgrades in their own states, but there was no country-wide plan. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's plans continued to be made but not necessarily implemented. Notice was taken of the autobahn system being developed AND built in Germany. Strange how those beautifully developed four lane highways went out to the country's borders and not from city to city within Germany... Strange.After WW2, the US government realised they had to begin building the Interstate system. Added cartage of goods and materiel during war-time had shown how inadequate US road system truly was. It was under Eisenhower, who, curiously had been part of a government study as an Army officer in the 1930's of the country's transportation system, that the national United States Interstate system was finally developed, approved, and built. Begun in the 1950's, roads are still being built and fixed today.
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