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Highway Politics and Policy since 1939

Mark H. Rose and Raymond A. Mohl

Publication Year: 2012

This new, expanded edition brings the story of the Interstates into the twenty-first century. It includes an account of the destruction of homes, businesses, and communities as the urban expressways of the highway network destroyed large portions of the nation’s central cities. Mohl and Rose analyze the subsequent urban freeway revolts, when citizen protest groups battled highway builders in San Francisco, Baltimore, Memphis, New Orleans, Washington, DC, and other cities. Their detailed research in the archival records of the Bureau of Public Roads, the Federal Highway Administration, and the U.S. Department of Transportation brings to light significant evidence of federal action to tame the spreading freeway revolts, curb the authority of state highway engineers, and promote the devolution of transportation decision making to the state and regional level. They analyze the passage of congressional legislation in the 1990s, especially the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), that initiated a major shift of Highway Trust Fund dollars to mass transit and light rail, as well as to hiking trails and bike lanes. Mohl and Rose conclude with the surprising popularity of the recent freeway teardown movement, an effort to replace deteriorating, environmentally damaging, and sometimes dangerous elevated expressway segments through the inner cities. Sometimes led by former anti-highway activists of the 1960s and 1970s, teardown movements aim to restore the urban street grid, provide space for new streetcar lines, and promote urban revitalization efforts. This revised edition continues to be marked by accessible writing and solid research by two well-known scholars.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Preface to the Third Edition

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pp. ix-xvi

In June 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of Congress approved construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Journalists and ordinary Americans named those roads the Interstate Highway System, or simply the Interstate. Whatever the exact...

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xvii-xx

During the summer of 1987, I was a member of a research group seeking to account for the experiences of senior road engineers who had been involved in constructing the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. My encounter with members of this group...

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Preface to the First Edition

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Transportation is a key element in the social and economic organization of any industrially developed society. As the construction of railroads in America influenced the location of cities, so the development of streetcar lines helped to shape them. Both forms of...

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1. Rebuilding America: Express Highways and Visions of Reform, 1890–1941

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pp. 1-13

By 1960, a recorded voice promised visitors to General Motors' Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, fourteen-lane express roads would accommodate "traffic at designated speeds of 50, 75, and 100 miles an hour." Spectators, six hundred at a time...

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2. Planning for Postwar America, 1941–1944

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pp. 15-28

Basic problems—jammed highways and urban decay—continued during the war years. Because of the huge migration of men and women to defense jobs and military bases, because of rationing and restrictions, homes and highways went unrepaired and traffic on...

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3. The Politics of Highway Finance, 1945–1950

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pp. 29-40

Economic growth during the postwar years exceeded wartime hopes dramatically. The years after 1945 were especially prosperous for members of the road transport and highway construction industries. Truck operators increased the size of their fleets and sought new...

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4. Project Adequate Roads: Traffic Jams, Business, and Government, 1951–1954

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pp. 41-54

By late 1951, truckers and highway engineers sensed major changes in the dimensions of the traffic tangle. Congestion, National Highway User Conference Director Butler told heads of the conference on October 11, 1951, had "grow[n] worse." Shippers and carriers...

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5. The Highway and the City, 1945–1955

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pp. 55-67

After World War II, urban businessmen and residents continued to flee to the suburbs, leaving behind declining property values, falling retail sales, and an unsightly collection of decayed buildings and unrented space in the cities. Traffic congestion, since the 1920s a...

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6. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Express Highway Politics, 1954–1955

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pp. 69-84

For years leaders of the highway transport and road construction industries had argued and complained about the pace, direction, and financing of new highways, particularly costly express highways. Farm group executives, heads of in-state and national road-user associations...

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7. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956

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pp. 85-94

Defeat of all road legislation did not soften the opinions of competing highwaymen and political leaders. Beginning in August, 1955, they lobbied for their version of good highway programming, once more debating the virtues of national control of road construction...

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8. The Interstates and the Cities

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pp. 95-111

In postwar America, mass production of automobiles and tract housing signaled the beginnings of urban decline and suburban sprawl. It was an era of unrivaled prosperity for most Americans, but major spatial and demographic shifts were taking place. The populations of older industrial...

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9. Stop the Road: Freeway Revolts in American Cities

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pp. 113-133

Beginning in the late 1950s, a nascent freeway revolt emerged in San Francisco and a few other cities. Typical of the countercultural sixties, the anti-freeway movement accelerated nationally as Interstate highway construction began penetrating urban America and knocking down neighborhoods...

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10. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Freeway Revolt, 1966–1973

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pp. 135-158

The Freeway Revolt that began in San Francisco in the late 1950s eventually spread across urban America. Citizen activists in many cities challenged the routing decisions made by state and federal highway engineers. By the late 1960s, freeway fighters began to win a few battles...

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11. ISTEA and the Reframing of American Highway Politics, 1956–1995

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pp. 159-176

On December 18, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed transportation officials, members of Congress, and ordinary highway workers at a road construction site located on State Highway 360 in Euless, Texas. Bush was about to sign the Intermodal Surface Transportation...

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12. The Freeway Teardown Movement in American Cities

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pp. 177-191

Now, at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the nation’s Interstate Highway System has entered a new era in its relatively short half-century life. The system is aging, its bridges collapsing, and its maintenance long deferred. Traffic everywhere overwhelms capacity...


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pp. 193-266


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pp. 267-282

E-ISBN-13: 9781572337831
E-ISBN-10: 1572337834
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337251
Print-ISBN-10: 1572337257

Page Count: 306
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Third