DIVIDED HIGHWAYS: THE INTERSTATES AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN LIFE
A HOTT PRODUCTION OF FLORENTINE FILMS BY LAWRENCE HOTT AND TOMLEWIS. A CO-PRODUCTION OF WETA-TV, WASHINGTON, D.C. EDITED BY DIANEGAREY, CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ALLEN MOORE, MUSIC BY RICHARD EINHORN,ASSOCIATE EDITOR, SUSAN ORLOSKY. COPYRIGHT 1997 BY LAWRENCE HOTTAND TOM LEWIS
VOICE: Think of anything, of cowboys, of movies, of detective stories, of anybody whogoes anywhere or stays at home and is an American and you will realize that it is somethingstrictly American to conceive a space that is filled with moving, a space of time that is filledalways filled with moving. Gertrude Stein
STEPHEN AMBROSE, HISTORIAN: The interstate highway system? It's the biggest publicworks project of all time. It is the greatest achievement in the history of man. Of building. Thereis nothing to compare it with. It was way bigger than the pyramids. It was way bigger thananything and it has linked this country as nothing else has. It has become even more than the trainand the plane. It has pulled the American people together.
MICHAEL SMITH, HISTORIAN: The interstate highway system wasn't just a project, it was aplace where the whole connected set of fantasies, fears, yearnings, social and political concernsgot projected right out onto that pavement as if it were a huge screen. Everybody I thinkrecognized immediately that the promise of being able to get somewhere, anywhere quickly had afar bigger reverberation than just transportation. We weren't just talking about how to get fromone place to another. This was a whole mode of being.
DAVE BARRY, COLUMNIST: I think the interstate highway made it possible to basically go,as long as dad was driving, across the United States in...I don't know did they go to Asia? Wecould have gone to Asia with my father at the wheel because like most men, most fathers, he justdid not believe in stopping. we would go by the Grand Canyon 40-50 miles per hour. It's overthere and every now and then we would do...you know, get to a rest stop and he would let usout. There were times when we thought about fleeing into the mountains around the interstateand just living there but dad would always round us up and make us get back in the car. So wesaw a lot of the country, we didn't actually touch any of it. We didn't actually touch any of it orget out anywhere but we did see a lot of the country thanks to the interstate highway system.
STATE TROOPER: Hello sir. I'm Officer Anglin of the Arizona Highway Patrol. The reason Istopped you was because of your speed. Were you watching your speedometer?
MICHELE GRIJALVA, WRITER There's something exciting about a road, about a highway. It's an adventure. There's a rush of associations and movements. You never know where it'sgoing to take you or what's around the bend or what's going to cross the path especially on a longstretch of highway.
CENTURY FREEWAY SPEECH:It was just slightly over 50 years ago that we opened to first freeway here in Los Angeles. Todaywe open the next generation, the most modern transportation corridor in the nation. Ladies andgentlemen, look around, this is your freeway. Use it safely. Use it confidently. It was built bythe very best.
NARRATION: The Century Freeway in Los Angeles is one of the final links in the largestpublic works project in the history of the world -- The United States Interstate HighwaySystem -- 43,000 miles of pavement that took years to plan and decades to build. Comparedto the other heroic projects of this century -- the space program and the arms race -- thehighway seems insignificant, mundane. It is, after all, only a road. But that roadtransformed the entire continent; it shaped every aspect of American life. The interstatescreated new cities, divided and destroyed neighborhoods, made the fast-food hamburger anational symbol and the 72-hour cross-country road trip both a commonplace event and arite of passage.
JESSICA MATTHEWS, COLUMNIST: We finished forty years of building the interstate highway system and found ourselves with thebest system of roads in the world. The federal highway administration did an assessment of whatthis effort had brought us and what they concluded was that we were now the most...thatcongestion affected more of us for longer periods of each time every day at greater cost than atany time in our history so that the paradox was that we were the most mobile we had ever beenand the most congested we had ever been they found stretches where vast sums of money hadbeen poured into building 8 and 12 and even 16 lane highways where the projected speed ofcommuting was no faster than a horse, a trotting horse with a carriage.
LISA NEWTON, PHILOSOPHER:This is the history of the United States. We undertake one massive project after another. Wehave no idea what the effects are going to be. So we thought that it was gonna be just the UnitedStates as usual except we were gonna have these neat roads which we could use for militarypurposes and which would be convenient for the new automobile culture. And the fact that thiswould have an affect on the country side, that have an affect on neighborhoods, never occurred tous.
TITLE: DIVIDED HIGHWAYS
NARRATION: At the end of the 19th century, Americans owned seventeen million horses,four million bicycles, and eight thousand automobiles. These vehicles all had one thing incommon:
MUD SONG: Mud, mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood...
PHILLIP PATTON, WRITER: 01:05:46 American roads were legendarily bad and whenEuropeans came here they were always recounting American style tall tales of entire wagons thathad disappeared into pot holes. There was a tale of a hat that seemed to be found in the road andthe passerby went and picked it up and found that it was attached to a coachman who along withthe entire coach had disappeared into the mud.
NARRATION: The American response was the Good Roads Movement. It began in theearly 1890s -- at about the same time that the Duryea Brothers were building the firstAmerican car in Springfield, Massachusetts.
STEPHEN GODDARD, WRITER: The timing of the advent of the automobile was absolutelyperfect because it came in at the turn of the century at the point when Americans were terriblyterribly frustrated with the railroads. Which made you travel when they traveled, where they traveled. People were looking for an alternative.
TOM AND RAY MAGLIOZZI, CAR TALK: We didn't know we wanted cars until carsappeared and all of a sudden we realized what great freedom they afforded us. Cars are great. You can go where you want to go, you can leave when you, especially when you're at yourmother-in-law's. You don't have to wait for the train, the stagecoach coming to town. I'm leavingright now.
Think about what it must of been like to not have the stagecoach not coming for three days.
HARLEY SHAIKEN, LABOR ECONOMIST: I think the invention of the automobile is one ofthe defining inventions and one of the defining technologies of the 20th century. Certainly as theautomobile began to really spread its influence reshaped American society. But the automobileneeded something to drive on. If the automobile needed anything it needed roads.
NARRATION: In 1912, Carl Graham Fisher, salesman, race-car driver, and creator of theIndianapolis Speedway, proposed that automotive suppliers create a Coast-to-Coast RockHighway from New York City to San Francisco. A well-graded road, Fisher said, wouldattract more automobiles. And some would drive at night, guided by Prest-O-Liteheadlamps. Fisher, who owned the Prest-o-Lite headlamp company, procured $600,000from the Seiberling and the Goodyear Tire Companies, and one and a half million barrelsof cement from the Portland Cement Association for the road he called the LincolnHighway.
PATTON: The Lincoln highway drew on contributions from lots of small municipalities andcompanies. It was an ideal vision of binding the country with an automobile highway and it wasnever totally completed. There were lots of bits that were unconnected. They referred to themas seedling miles as if they would somehow magically grow together.
VOICE: Lincoln highway starts out to be a bad road. Doesn't change its mind for threethousand miles. Was constructed from plan designed by engineer full of Mexican jumpingbeans. Repairs are made by digging holes deeper. Either make road worthy of AbrahamLincoln, or change its title to benedict Arnold, or something appropriate.
The Pittsburgh Press
NARRATION: World War One brought work on the Lincoln Highway to a standstill at atime when transportation was critical to the war effort. The Army took over the railroads. The fledgling trucking industry tried to move civilian goods, but most roads were not equalto the truck of the day: two tons of metal riding on solid rubber wheels. Even the pavedportions of the Lincoln Highway caved in under such abuse. Once the war was over, thearmy dramatized the perils of motorized cross-country travel. On the morning of July 7,1919, 260 soldiers and a three-mile convoy of motorcycles, cars and trucks set out fromWashington, D.C. for San Francisco, 3000 miles away. It took 62 days to cross thecontinent. They averaged five miles an hour. Some days they traveled as few as three. Oneyoung Army officer, Dwight David Eisenhower, called it a journey through darkestAmerica. The roads, he said, ranged from average to non-existent.
AMBROSE: The roads were just a disaster and the slightest rain and you were stuck. Theslightest snowfall and you had to close down and he got quite a lot of publicity out of the trip andhe came away from that trip "We've got to have better roads in America."
NARRATION: Eisenhower was a farm boy from Kansas -- he knew the value of a decentroad firsthand. As he made his trip across country, another farm boy-- Thomas HarrisMacDonald, from Montezuma, Iowa -- was just settling into his new job: chief of thefederal Bureau of Public Roads. My goal, said MacDonald, is to get the farmer out of themud.
GODDARD: And in his first memo MacDonald said to employees, "There is no more noblemission to for a person to strive toward than the building of good roads. And anybody whodoesn't see it this way has no moral right to a position in this agency."
NARRATION: MacDonald was a formal man. As a boy, he demanded that his sisters andbrothers address him as Sir. And they did. On the job, even his closest associates,addressed him as "Chief"; not "Thomas" and certainly never "Tom." You spoke only if hequestioned you," said one subordinate. "He came close to what I would call royalty."
At the bureau, MacDonald assembled his court; like-minded engineers with a passion forroads. "Building roads is an all-American job," he wrote. "Those who do not have thequalities of manliness, square dealing, good temper, and ability to get along with othersmust go."
DAVID LEE, ARCHITECT:Engineering as it was taught in those days was not about land use or environmental concerns oranything like that. It was about building roads and bridges as beautiful as possible in their ownterms. They were simply trying to accomplish a task with little understanding of the possiblesocial and economic consequences of their work. NARRATION: MacDonald worked with the auto and steel industry and brought stateofficials to Washington to press Congress for more highway money.
Congress put up the money, MacDonald gave them the roads. In just one year, 1922, theBureau assisted states in adding 10,000 miles to the Federal Aid highway system. In 1923the Bureau established a national system of primary roads that linked every state of theUnion. They were, said the Chief, "interstate."
SANDRA ROSENBLOOM, PLANNER: The highway system was in fact an outgrowth of theprogressive movement in this country, the progressive movement said science. We're in the era ofscience and there's answers, right answers and we can figure out the best way to do things and wecan use numbers and we can make rational decisions and the highway system is so much a part ofthat. In many states the idea was that you could know the right place to build the highway. Youcould build it correctly. You could make a difference in the right way.
NARRATION: MacDonald tested concrete, asphalt and rock in a quest to find the rightsurface for America's roads. "There are three great eras in road building," he said, "TheRoman Empire, the Napoleonic Empire... and twentieth-century America."
If it was a great era for highways, it was an equally great era for automobiles. MacDonaldclaimed that there were now enough motor vehicles to move the entire population at onetime -- with only four and a half people in each car.
RONALD EDSFORTH, HISTORIAN: By 1929 there's 40 million cars and trucks in the UnitedStates. It seems to me at that moment the commitment has been made you're not gonna be ableto take those people out of those cars. You're not gonna be able to end the commerce that hasbeen stimulated by all those trucks. You have to go forward. There was no turning back after'29.
NARRATION: Even the stock market crash could not stifle America's insatiable desire forautomobiles. "Car ownership is depression proof," said a banker in Muncie, Indiana. "The automobile always comes first."
KENNETH JACKSON, HISTORIAN: The role that the automobile in American life is perhapsnever more completely captured than the Grapes of Wrath. Here was a movie designed to talkabout how horrible things were. How the proletarian in the United States, the landless peasantrywas without hope. But you notice that those Oakies heading for California had a vehicle. Andwhen the communist authorities showed the movie around the Soviet Union, as an example of thedistress of capitalism, what they found is was that the viewing audience was much more impressedby the fact that these people, poor as they were, they had their own car. That was much moreimpressive than the fact that they were poor.
NARRATION: To get Americans working again President Franklin Roosevelt launched aseries of make work projects. Between 1933 and 1940, the New Deal pumped one billioneight hundred million dollars into road construction.
EDSFORTH: The major works projects of the New Deal era when unemployed people were putto work by the government was building roads, building tunnels, building bridges. Building thethings that made driving easier. It was a way of sustaining people. But also sustaining thecommitment to cars.
NARRATION: In 1937, the government was putting down roads in all 48 states, butPresident Roosevelt wanted more. He called Chief MacDonald to the White House, andlaid out plans for a colossal network: Six toll roads that would span the country, north tosouth, east to west.
VOICE: The papers inform me of a superdooper national highway system to embracethe whole United States. Well I am against it. The movement to make it easier forAmericans to go places has gone far enough. What this country needs is a movement tomake them stay home. The highway has already put the American family on the bum,made a wreck of the home, increased national indigestion 82 per cent, doubled oureyestrain, overloaded our hospitals, completely blitzed the day when Americans stayedhome for hours at a stretch without squawking. .. A man writing "Home Sweet Home"today would do the first verse in Pennsylvania, the second in Ohio and the third in Illinois....The human race is going in too many directions too fast and with too few excuses. Elmer Schermerhorn Albany, NY
NARRATION: MacDonald, too, had been designing an interstate system, but he opposedRoosevelt's plan on principle; the Bureau should build free roads not toll roads. What'smore, travel between cities was not the big problem, the Chief said -- it was travel withinthe cities. No one could untangle traffic in the cities of today; but General Motorspresented a plan for the city of tomorrow.
FDR ARCHIVE: I hereby dedicate the World's Fair, the New York World's Fair of 1939 and Ideclare it open to all mankind.
NARRATION: The wonder world was called Futurama. The General Motors exhibit atthe World's Fair was created by Norman Bel Geddes, a Broadway designer with a flair forthe dramatic and a passion for detail. Futurama, the most popular exhibit at the Fair, wasa miniature automated landscape that showcased the dazzling highways of the future.
ROLAND MARCHAND, HISTORIAN: What Norman Bel Geddes convinced General Motorsthat it could do through his vision of an exhibit was to sell in the first place General Motors'modernity, its ability to look to the future and create a vision of the future. And perhaps in theprocess to sell the public on the idea of spending more public monies to create a highway systemthat would handle the number of cars that General Motors and others hoped to sell within the nextseveral decades.
MARCHAND: Just as you had gotten this vision of what an intersection of the future might looklike, your chain of cars went on a spiral down, you got out and you were in a full scaleintersection of exactly what you had seen in the scaled model. So, in effect, the future was now,there. You were in it.
SMITH: Futurama invited the country to build at public expense a massive system for the benefitfor those who owned private automobiles so if you were an automaker like generalMotors, this was a great project. It would help the country and it would help General Motors.
MARCHAND: I think what made Bel Geddes so effective was the combination ofgrand vision and infinite care to detail. For instance when he was planning the details ofFuturama he took his staff on a plane ride over part of Pennsylvania. And they observed closelywhat could they see from five hundred feet.
NARRATION: What they could see from 500 feet was construction on the PennsylvaniaTurnpike -- 160 miles of high-speed, divided highway stretching from Harrisburg toPittsburgh.
FILM CLIP: Man and woman traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike by bus.
He: "What's that?"
She: "Why that the entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Haven't you ever been over it?"
He: "How do they get on it, at the ends?"
She: "There are nine or ten side entrances. They call them interchanges. We're coming to one ofthem now.
He: "Oh, a cloverleaf."
She: "Cars can enter or leave without interrupting the traffic."
He: "I can't get over how level it is, even in rough country. What are wegoing to do when we hit the real mountains?
She: "Oh you'll see any minute now"
He: "We tunnel right through."
He: "This is a dream highway."
She: "My father works for the highway department he says there's going to be a lot more of thesehighways coming soon.
NARRATION: The Dream Highway opened on October first, 1940. Within a year, 2.4million cars had traveled the turnpike -- more than double the original prediction. Truckers, able to cut their driving time in half, gladly shelled out the dollar-fifty toll. Passenger cars paid a penny a mile. Sightseers picnicked in the median strip, then pouredinto the Howard Johnson restaurants at the twenty service plazas. The turnpike promised28 flavors of ice cream, and unlimited thrills: in the early years, there was no speed limit.
But the Pennsylvania turnpike was not the world's first dream highway. Adolph Hitler hadalready created the Autobahn, the most advanced network of highways in the world.
PATTON: The Autobahns in many ways were a tremendous inspiration for the PennsylvaniaTurnpike where the people designing the turnpike went to Germany and were given VIP tours ofthe Autobahns. The German officials would fly American highway people over the Autobahns inZeppelins and show dramatically how the roads were lay out against the landscape. MacDonaldrecounted that he had been on the Autobahns when a motorized column of military equipmentwent by at a very high speed. Whether this was done accidentally or whether it was done onpurpose for propaganda purposes it left a very deep impression. The Pennsylvania turnpike tookthe Autobahn lesson and also understood the military lesson.
NARRATION: World War II put the brakes on American car culture. Automobileproduction stopped, cold. Highway construction stopped; existing roads fell into disrepair. Gasoline was rationed. The national speed limit dropped to thirty-five miles per hour --even on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
In the final days of the war the Allied forces seized the autobahn from the Germans. TheAllied Commander in chief, General Dwight Eisenhower, and thousands of Americansoldiers , saw the autobahns for the first time.
AMBROSE: In the spring of 45 when the American armies were racing across Germany, theseAmerican kids were just awestruck by these Autobahns and how did we let the Germans get sofar ahead of us? They came home, everyone of them "we got to have that in America".
LEE: The interstate highway program was an expression of a country that had just won the warand was really feeling its oats. The rest of the world was, pretty well devastated. The US was theleader in everything at that time. We led in consumer products. It was a great time of boosterismper se. And the idea of these highway programs which created lots of jobs helped fuel theeconomy, all of the housing that was getting built.
Clip from "Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dream House"
JACKSON: Right after WWII you begin to see a number of movies, most famously Mr.Blandings Builds His Dream House,.about the travails of somebody who wants to live thesuburban life. It's creating that image. This is what you want to aspire to. This is where youwant to be. And maybe you couldn't emulate Mr. Blandings house but you could get a little boxhouse, it was new, it was your suburban ideal, it had your backyard and it had your name on it.
EDSFORTH: Local authorities in those places are just falling over each other to give companiestax abatements, road development, free fire and police protection, whatever really they want inorder to get this investment that will develop their local economies.
LEE: The caveat, however, was people of color and particularly African Americans could not getthose loans in the suburbs. So what has emerged over time is a kind of American Apartheidwhere the low income and primarily persons of color are concentrated in the cities while the moreaffluent, primarily White community, is concentrated in the suburbs.
EDSFORTH: This is all happening at the very same moment in history when southern agricultureis rapidly mechanizing and literally millions of southern tenants and share croppers are beingthrown off the land. The majority of them Black. Moving to cities, drawn to the central citieswhere housing prices are falling because of the exodus tothe suburbs. Increasingly the centralcities become Black and minority while the kind of industries that would probably best employthem are leaving for the suburbs
NARRATION: Suburbs were not new -- since the mid-19th century they had sprung upalong the trolley and rail lines in all American cities. But the rapid rise of the automobilechanged that pattern. Houses now cropped up everywhere. The new suburbanites usedtheir automobiles to commute -- crowding onto inadequate highways and choking citystreets. Trolleys were becoming a thing of the past.
FRED ROGERS: In the neighborhood of make-believe, we use trolleys to get from place toplace. It does the driving for us. On trolley rides we get to visit with our neighbors and watchthe world go by. There used to be trolleys all over America, in almost every city, but little by littlethe car and bus took over and the trolleys just couldn't keep up. Now we have super highwayscris-crossing our cities and people zoom about sometimes one at a time in their cars. I miss thetrolleys and yet I like the freedom the car gives me when I drive. How about you? How do youfeel about cars and highways? Would you like to go back to the days when everyone roadtrolleys? Would that be easier, friendlier? What do you think?
JACKSON: What happened to the trolleys? . You go to Australia, you see trolleys. You go toGermany, you see trams. Why were they turn torn down in the United States? Well, one of themost impressive theories is that it was a conspiracy, a conspiracy of General Motors and a wholeseries of other companies.
ROSENBLOOM: Trolley companies were going under at the time. They were going brokereally really really fast and while General Motors may have been up to something it didn't makeany difference. The companies were going bankrupt because people didn't want to go alongnarrow little corridors. They wanted to go a mile or a half a mile off the corridor and it made itvery very difficult. Busses were clearly a better way to go and would have taken over with orwithout GM.
JACKSON: There's a larger context in the United States. And that is that we subsidedautomobile transit. If the town comes and clears off the snow or repairs a pot hole it is not paidby for by gasoline taxes. It's typically paid for by your property taxes. It's very difficult for thetrolley to compete with that nickel fare without government subsidies against an automobile thatwas essentially being subsidized by the property tax.
SMITH: What we had in the 30s and 40s and for that matter well into the post war period was asociety whose transportation thinking was up for grabs. The automobile had excitement about it. It was what drove the economy during these years. Nobody had to work hard to find excitementabout the automobile.
AMBROSE: The size of the country, the number of automobiles, everything in this situationdemanded the creation of the interstate highway system. And yet it took one man to get it done.
NARRATION: That one man was the president. Dwight Eisenhower was elected in 1952 --thirty-three years after he drove all the way across the Lincoln Highway, seven years afterhe drove in victory on Germany's autobahns. This was a man with highways on his mind.He appointed a commission to look at the highway needs of the country. Its membersincluded: Stephen Bechtel, chairman of the largest civil engineering firm in the world,William Roberts, head of Allis Chalmers, makers of giant earth-moving equipment, andEisenhower's old friend and fellow war hero, General Lucius Clay.
SHAIKEN: Lucius Clay is one of the people on that commission. Lucius Clay is also on theBoard of Directors of General Motors. So it's hardly the greatest surprise in the world that whatthe should recommend is an unprecedented expansion of highways in the US and the creation ofthe interstate highway program.
NARRATION: Eisenhower wanted new highways, but he did not want ThomasMacDonald to build them. The man who had served five presidents as the Chief of theBureau of Public Roads was fired less that a month after Eisenhower took office. Onhearing the news, the Chief told his longtime secretary, Miss Fuller: "I've just been fired,so we might as well get married." The following day, the couple left for Texas. By train. But the powerful highway lobby stayed put.
Clip: The problem, to move 20th century traffic on 19th century roads. Solution, you can't do it. Answer, safe freeways that get you from home to office without traffic.
JACKSON: Well there's an enormous constituency for interstate highways. Not only theautomobile companies and the gasoline the oil companies, the construction unions, the motelindustry. The travel and entertainment, the real estate lobby.
NARRATION: "The question is not whether we need these highways," said Clay, "buthow to get them quickly." In just three months, the Committee raced through testimonyfrom twenty-two organizations, then delivered a proposal to the President: 40,000 miles ofhigh-speed divided highway linking every city in the country. One nation, indivisible,united by roads.
EDSFORTH: The only major force politically that's opposed to this massive federal program arethe railroads. And the railroads simply do not have the political clout to move some alternativetransportation plan forward.
GODDARD Many railroad people said what's the crisis. There's no crisis here. We have morerail trackage than ever before. Besides we'll get to haul all the road building materials, we'll get tohaul the new cars and trucks. We're in fat city. Well, it took a person of vision, and there were afew in the rail industry but not many, who said no, don't you understand that once the roads andtrucks grab hold, that they're gonna be our competitor.
SMITH The United States government through its citizens taxes was making it possible fortrucking as well as private automobiles to have this network of transportation, it was cutting offthe possibilities for the rails. It wasn't just that we were favoring the automobile, we werecreating with money and public resources a situation in which the rails were very unlikely tothrive.
EDSFORTH: And of course nobody speaks for the non driver. Nobody speaks for the urbanresident about to be displaced by some beltway or some interstate highway. They're non players. The migrant poor who's moving from the South to the North they're non players too in this game.
NARRATION: As the highway legislation worked its way through Congress, the only realquestion was who would foot the bill. Congress came up with a winning formula: thefederal government would pay 90% of construction costs through gasoline taxes, the stateswould pick up the other 10. It was a pot of gold the states found irresistible. And therewas another argument: defense. The proponents called the bill the National System ofInterstate and Defense Highways. In case of nuclear war, the new roads would enablepeople to flee the cities.
AMBROSE: This of course was the height of the cold war. Eisenhower was able to tie thisinternal improvements bill up with something that was very much bigger than congress. It wasnational survival. It was national defense. All that huey about it will make it possible to evacuatethe cities. It had no military reality to it but it made an awfully good selling point.
TOM AND RAY MAGLIOZZI, CAR TALK: We had to build this road system. Dismantlewhatever public transportation system we had so we could make sure that we could defend thecountry. Right. We defended it alright without these roads. Against who? Who invaded us last? The British.
CLIP: WE'LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD: It will be possible to drive from the Atlantic to thePacific ocean and from Canada to Mexico on safe multi-laned , divided highways without a singlestop light or stop sign. This system of interstate and defense highways is for the trafficof the future.
NARRATION: On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law,authorizing 25 billion dollars for highway construction. Two months later, they werepouring concrete in Kansas.
NEWS ROBERT TROUT: During the next 13 years the U.S. is embarking upon a gigantic publicworks project...
SMITH: During World War II the ability to produce an airplane a day, a naval destroyera week was unrivaled. This community of designers and engineers could do no wrong. The post-war period was one in which that wonderful capacity to produce had to live out a longerlife. It wasn't just how many planes come off the assembly line. It wasn't just howmany automobiles you produce or how many miles of freeway you pave, it was what kind ofsociety you were constructing and how people's lives would be affected
WE'LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD: Today we move mountains out of the way instead of goingaround them. And modern paving machines unwind the ribbons of road before our eyes at anunbelievable rate.
FRANK GRIGGS, ENGINEER: I think now the engineer who graduated in the 1950s wasn'tthinking about you know the impact the interstate road system on the country. I think we sawthat as just one mile road at a time. And we knew it was a big job and it was gonna be a big joband was gonna last for a long period of time. But we didn't really have a sense I think that wewere gonna change the entire fabric of the country. We weren't told that. It wasn't implied. Wewere basically doing one mile at a time.
GRIJALVA: I think in the early stages there was a great sense of the pioneer, of movement. Ofdominating the wilderness to transform it. I marvel at some of the beauty of the interstatesystems and the way they've been constructed, the sheer magnitude and the huge machinery that Isee building these things are just overwhelming sometimes to me. The manliness of it. Themachismo of the machines dominating and that sometimes is overwhelming to see that that sheerforce that is behind the public works.
NARRATION: American Interstate highways were built to standard specifications, butAmerican drivers were not.
Film Clip: Freeway driving is different, but it can be a wonderful experience and it's an experiencethat more and more of us will be enjoying. They're designed to eliminated traffic conflicts.
MOLLY IVINS, COLUMNIST: Of course you've got your two kids in the back seat hittin' eachother. And this is what you do. "I don't care who hit who first. YOU WILL NOW STOP." Thisis one of the great political strategies of all time and if we just had more mothers in office therewould be peace in the Middle East today.
Film Clip: A question often asked is, which lane should I drive in? Well, that depends somewhaton your speed. Generally faster traffic uses the left lane.
BARRY: Not here in Miami. Left lane can be for anything. Left lane can be for stopping andchanging your tire.
Film Clip: The highway rule is stay back one car length for every ten miles of speed.
BARRY: Miami interstate is distinct from all other interstates in that it is populated by Miamidrivers and everyone here is driving according to the law of its individual country of origin or insome cases planet of origin.
CHAR MILLER, HISTORIAN: Well Texas drivers are pretty friendly and the state motto is"Drive friendly." But there's a part of that story that doesn't get told. They're partly friendlybecause they're drinking beer.
IVINS: It was legal, it was legal in those days. In fact we just outlawed driving while drinking ayear or so ago in this state. Actually it's not illegal to drive while drinking. It's illegal to have acan in your hand when you're stopped.
BARRY: Many drivers here are armed and will signal our traffic intentions with weaponry.
CLIP: Our fine new freeways have been designed to provide a more convenient, safer journey forall of us.
NARRATION: On November 6, 1956, President Eisenhower was re-elected in a landslidevictory. Eight days later, the first section of the new Interstate highway system opened nearTopeka, Kansas, seventy miles east of Eisenhower's boyhood home of Abilene.
GRIGGS: There was two major projects going. Nationwide projects. That wouldbe the interstate road system and the space program. And the space program definition was clearfrom the very highest level down. Congress supported it, the school staff you know changed theircurriculum to train engineers for the space age. So everybody saying' space is good. I think theinterstate highway system was kind of in the background. A major project. A much more muchgreater project. But people didn't talk about it very much. Locally when a piece of road openedup there was some kind of ribbon cutting ceremony and people started using it.
SMITH: What do people see when they looked at the highway in 1956? Well, we've got someclues. We can assume they saw escape. They saw adventure. The popular culture was filled withit. The songs,...
BARRY: Get your motor running, head out on the highway, Born to be wild. I was in theoriginal Steppenwolf. A lot of people don't realize that.
JOHN KAY, STEPPENWOLF: Really. Well I don't remember Dave being there, but I know Iwas and in fact I still am. And I remember doing this way back in 67. (Sings "Born to be Wild")
JOHN KAY:Well the highways are about movement and restlessness and seeking your fortune someplace else. Those wheels keep on turning and the rhythm keeps on driving you and (Plays music).
TOM AND RAY MAGLIOZZI, CAR TALK:Look at all those roads cris-crossing the country.Yeah.It is unbelievable.It is. And it's keeping people busy. That's what it's about.And there is one benefit of it I suppose. We are keeping people at work, fixing the roads,building the roads, maintaining the roads, cleaning the roads, plowing them.Dirtying them, cleaning them again. Oh I litter whenever possible. You know that it's helping the economy.Exactly.You are.
NARRATION: The new roads did help the economy. And they were convenient. For mostpeople.
WILLIAM CRONON, HISTORIAN: The interstates gash their way through existing rurallandscapes, farming communities, small towns and in many cases it just destroys them. You drivedown the interstates passing through farms which are old family farms going back to the 19thcentury and the farm house is on your left and half the fields are on your right and the farm familythat now has its land split in that way if it keeps that land has to commute 2-3 miles with itstractor to get to the other side of the highway to keep farming its land. That is a ripping asunderof old relationships that were present in the landscape and there is a kind of shattering ofcommunity that comes with that.
SMITH: The first set of doubts were reaching a society that had no place to put them. Therehadn't been a discussion about what might be wrong with a major engineering project. The ideathat the public would worry about it seemed to call the whole enterprise to doubt.
GRIGGS: We were supposed to go through the least expensive land because land was avery high part of that cost. So we would go through swamps, the least expensive land. If wewere in an urban environment we would go through the slums because that was the leastexpensive land. Those people didn't see to have a political voice at the time. So we were trained,maybe not told specifically to do it, but we wee trained right to build the least expensive road toservice the most people.
NARRATION: As highways invaded the cities, whole neighborhoods disappeared. In the1950s, the Schuylkill Expressway slashed through hundreds of acres of park land in orderto dump thousands of cars onto the congested streets of Philadelphia. In the 1960s,bulldozers leveled 5000 homes to make way for Interstate 5 through Seattle.
LEE: The interstate highway system and the urban renewal program almost wenttogether hand-in-glove. There was this sort of pristine, almost modernist image which plannersand architects had bought completely into at the time. There was the idea that you would flyabout on these overhead highways and then the cities would be these pristine, clean high risetowers that were serviced primarily by automobiles. They didn't do very much on the grounds interms of people walking in neighborhoods and all of that. But the combination of clearance forhighway construction and urban renewal torn down more housing in the cities than they ever builtthrough any of the public housing programs.
JONATHAN GIFFORD, ENGINEER: As a highway system is designed for long distant intercitytraffic has to have high design speeds. You got to be able to accommodate large trucks at highspeeds on wet pavements so you need large, sweeping curves. You need long acceleration lanes.In urban areas there are things on the ground that matter to people and when you want to putthrough a highway that can accommodate 50 or 60 or 70 mile an hour traffic you've got to clearout all of that stuff and every single thing that you move often carries with it a human story aboutpeople who are going to be displaced or whose ancestors owned or operated something. So, theimpacts on the urban areas were tremendous. SMITH: Where is the freeway going to go when it gets to these major cities? Even where there isa bypass something brings you into town. What neighborhoods will you cut through? It won't bethe ones where the wealthiest people live.
IVINS: Just you go back and check in any number of towns, they laid the interstate down right onthe Black/White line, bam. And what that meant was that it would be much harder to have schoolintegration. I mean you couldn't have kids walkin' across the interstate for heaven sakes
NARRATION: Planners had an uncanny ability to pick out the black neighborhoods. InSt. Petersburg, Florida, ten African-American churches were picked up and moved tomake room for I-275. The route for I-94 in St. Paul displaced one in seven of the city'sblack residents. Very few blacks were living in Minnesota, one critic noted, but the roadbuilders found them. The road-builders also found Overtown, in Miami.
T. WILLARD FAIR, MIAMI URBAN LEAGUE: When I first came here some 30 years agoOvertown was the hub of black business, black civic life, black professional life, blackentertainment and it was the place where everybody of color wanted to be. Street life wasexciting. Street life was dynamic. Restaurants were filled with people. People were standing onthe corners. Children were running and playing. It was simply a vibrant, exciting place to be.
NARRATION: In 1957 Florida highway officials announced a new project: an elevatedsection of Interstate 95 that would cut through the heart of Overtown. The thirty-dayeviction notices started arriving in early 1960; over the next eight years, 30,000 of theneighborhood's 40,000 residents moved away.
JESSE MCRARY, ATTORNEY: What happened to Overtown was what I call a political driveby shooting and killing of a vibrant community. You have to understand that at the timeOvertown was killed, smothered, that blacks had no political power. It was killed. Without anyconcern of those who were political powers at the time to save that community as a part of thelarger, greater Miami community.
FAIR: The Overtown community did not fight back because I think that the Wall streetpackaging of the product said that things are going to get better. That if you are to be relocated, you will be relocated into better housing. That by the coming of the expressway this is a sign ofprogress.
MCCRARY: There's as many 16 wheelers on I-95 at this intersection as you have taxes in NewYork City. You can't run a business of any kind with that kind of vehicular traffic over your head. Everyday, all day, twenty-four hours a day.
LEE: No place else in the world do you find the downtowns or the core areas of the city as theleast desirable places to live. You go to Paris, you go to Barcelona, you go anywhere else in theworld and it is the in town living, adjacent to the cultural facilities, adjacent to the central businessdistricts, that are the most desirable locations in which to live.
MCCRARY: Overtown has nothing. It is a skeleton. I dare say that if you road Northwest 2ndAvenue today, and really shot a cannon, you'd have very little chance of actually hittingsomebody.
JOSEPH ALIOTO, FORMER MAYOR SAN FRANCISCO: You have to understand the spiritof the highway lobby or the highway mob as we used to call them. They protected that highwayfund as though it was some kind of sacred fund they were determined to use it regardless of thething. That fanaticism. It was the kind of fanaticism had anybody suggested we might have saveda block or two on the way to the Sistine Chapel. They'd a built a highway or a freeway rightthrough the Vatican.
NARRATION: In New Orleans there were plans to place a freeway around the FrenchQuarter; in New York, engineers plotted an expressway through the Bronx; in SanFrancisco, the state highway department sited an interstate in the heart of downtown.
ALIOTO: The Lt. Governor under Ronald Reagan came down to see me when I was mayor andhe said "we have a freeway along your Embarcadero but it's cut off at a certain point and we wantyour permission now to complete the freeway all the way, one block off Fisherman's Wharf, outto the Marina Green so it connects with the Golden Gate Bridge". I said you guys are kidding. Isaid look you fanatics, you don't mean this do you? He said, "Yeh we do." Well there is nochance we are going to let you close the streets to do this so you can forget that.
NARRATION: San Francisco did stop that freeway extension, but the highway battle withthe most striking outcome took place in Boston -- a city with a history of big highwayprojects. In the early fifties, Boston created the Central Artery, a huge elevated highwaythat cast a dark shadow over much of the landscape. At the same time, they extended thestate turnpike into the city itself.
FRED SALVUCCI, TRANSPORTATION PLANNER: In 1959 my grandmother lived in NorthBrighton next to the railroad tracks. The turnpike authority decided to extend the Mass Pike intoBoston and they really treated everybody in those neighborhoods in a despicable manner. Theycame out in September. They knocked on the door of this Italian immigrant widow, 70 years old,didn't speak English, gave her a dollar and said the house is ours you gotta move. And when weget around to it we'll give you an appraisal and let you know what we're willing to give you.
NARRATION: The turnpike was extended, thousands of people lost their homes. But themaster plan called for more: a 500-million dollar, eight-lane circular route called the InnerBelt, that would cut through thirteen different neighborhoods. In the mid-1960s, the statebegan destroying houses along the route.
SYLVALIA HYMAN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPER: Well it was a lot of it was a big problemfor a lot of neighborhoods. Starting in Somerville, Cambridge coming all the way from theFenway section of Boston over to where I worked in Roxbury in the Winter Street neighborhood. And at that point where we were dealing with the residents they were gonna build this 8 storyinterchange there. I mean this monstrous interchange there right beside this next to this housing,
KEN KRULKEMEYER: And they hired a group of architects to draw a very neat drawing withthe ramps and the roadway and planted lots and lots of trees to make it look like it was sort ofwas nature. But it just didn't fool anybody. I mean, people looked at from these neighborhoodsthat were right next to this 16 lane highway and said no, that's not for me. I don't care how manytrees you draw. It's not what's gonna work with our neighborhood.
HYMAN: Well you gotta remember, this is 1965. And government agencies back then didn'thave to talk to anybody when they planned anything. Government just did it. All of the kind ofinteraction between citizens and government occurred as a result of a lot of this these things thathappened in the 60s. But government authorities didn't have to do any of that stuff. They justwould go out and bulldoze the place and build what they wanted to build and throw people out.
Film footage from Boston Coalition.
LEE: This project did form some coalitions that were really quite unusual. People were able tocoalesce around this particular issue. And this went across racial and ethnic lines.
PATTON: The technocrats were totally baffled. They had given their live for these systems. They had run it out of high ideals. They could not understand the sources of the opposition andparticularly the bitterness that opposition took on.
GRIGGS: We were given this job to do. We were given guidelines to do it and we did it. Andsuddenly people were unhappy. And we knew that we had done a good job. We had followed allthe guidelines, all the criteria. We knew we could get people from A to B much more efficientlyand much much safer than we had done in the past. CLAIRE BARRETT: They followed the book. The book says the lane will be 12 feet wide. Youwill have four of them in this direction. You will have a shoulder. You will have a median. Youwill have a fly over interchange. Whatever it is the book said that's what you had. There werereally no compromises. And the engineers couldn't understand why the public didn't admirethese things as much as they did.
GRIGGS: So I think it was a tough time to be a highway engineer. Because you hadyou done nothing wrong and yet you were being dumped on by the public.
NARRATION: At first, they fought about the projected route. But as wrecking crewsmoved through the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, people began to wonder if theBeltway was needed at all. Was it so very essential, protestors asked, to cut twentyminutes off the trip from New Hampshire to Cape Cod?
JANE HOLTZ KAY, WRITER: I don't think there was a person in this town who didn't knowsomebody whose property, the great American word property, was affected by it. It wasn't justlife style, it wasn't just a highway going through some wetlands which is bad enough. It wasdisruptive in the most, most intrusive way in a city that had been built in an orderly way and builton actually transportation and mass transportation.
NARRATION: Francis Sargent had been in charge of the construction of the Inner Belt. In 1968, he became governor of Massachusetts. He seemed only too ready to accept thehundreds of millions of trust fund dollars the federal government would give the state tobuild the highway.
LEE: A large gathering of citizens came together literally across the street from the State Houseto register their opposition to this interstate highway program and specifically the extension of I95and the building of the inner belt. And as the governor looked out, he saw that these were veryearnest well-meaning people who had some very serious concerns aboutwhat might happen. Infact, this happened on the Boston Common which is a place for free speech I think was symbolic. And being a smart politician he looked out there and said well look maybe I better rethink thisthing and listen to this constituency.
CLIP SARGENT SPEECH:
We have with us now, the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Governor FrancisSargent to speak to all of you.
I was the commissioner of the Department of Public Works. I was the person who made thedecision back a number of years ago regarding the route through Cambridge. I made thatdecision. And I made it then, and I said at that time, and I say now, that if we ever buildhighways, we must build them with a heart. And I say, I want you to know we will not placepeople below concrete, we are going to place concrete below people.
NARRATION: Francis Sargent was about to astonish the highway lobby and shocked theconstruction industry. He would agree with the protestors. The Inner Belt would not bebuilt in Boston.
SALVUCCI: The Chamber of Commerce was saying if we didn't build the roads that downtownBoston was gonna dry up and blow away. Well if you looked at downtown Boston at the timeSergeant made the decision, there may have been three high rise buildings. If you look atdowntown Boston twenty years later there is no question that downtown Boston has done finewith the new strategy.
NARRATION: The protestors now wanted more -- they wanted the federal government togive the state the highway money, but they wanted that money spent on mass transit, notroads. And in 1973 they convinced Congress to break into the sacrosanct highway trustfund. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a major highway hadbeen scrapped and the funding diverted to mass transit. Still, highway planners wanted tobuild interstates. Not surprisingly, some citizens still wanted to stop them.
SUNNY MOORE AND TOM BRENNAN, ENGINEERS: The Connecticut Department ofTransportation decided they wanted to build an interstate going from Hartford to Providence. Iwas a field supervisor and one of my projects was to go to the town hall and find out who ownedthe property. At that time, we requested permission to go on the property, although thedepartment did have the legal right to go on it. Mrs. Bandazian, when I asked her to sign theform she said no and I think that was the first time in my career that somebody said no.
ANN BANDAZIAN: I had put up signs "Trespassers will be shot". And I do believe that I wentafter them and said I will blow your heads off. I don't know if I would have aimed for their heads,probably their knees, but we never got to that point.
MOORE AND BRENNAN: The engineers in Hartford are the ones that decided where this roadshould be. They got preliminary approval from Uncle Sam and you turn and try to do just a jobhere and we're the ones who got the slack from it.
BANDAZIAN: I was pulling up the stakes that they would be down during the day, I would pullthem up at night. And people said you can't do that. That's the government. And I would say,but we're the government.
MOORE AND BRENNAN: They had a rally up there and they were saying, you know, I willovercome. And the next thing we knew we had 30 or 40 people in the woods, in the swamp.
BANDAZIAN: They were crawling over the stone walls with machetes and slicing left and right.So the first thing that came to my mind was I grabbed the head surveyors arm and proceeded tobite.
MOORE AND BRENNAN: She didn't really bite, she just grabbed my arm and attempted to andI just pulled by hand back. But she, it was a total shock. I mean, I was totally unprepared. Imean, I had dealt with property owners for a period of time and this was the first real hostility Ihad ever run across.
BANDAZIAN: The policewoman came, read me my rights, handcuffed me and took me to thestate police barracks.
MOORE AND BRENNAN: I understand people's feelings, I mean, if you're going to put ahighway through, you're gonna have to take their home. They might of lived there for 20 or 30years and it would bother me if I had to move out of my house for a highway. But, you know,some people have to suffer for progress. That's the way it's been. The road never got built. Thepressure we got from the people in Eastern Connecticut, it killed the project.
NARRATION: For every canceled mile, there were thousands completed. Across America,highways dominated transportation.
GIFFORD: Every trip to the grocery store is tremendously dependent on the interstate highwaysystem and the trucking distribution system that uses it. Many companies now have gotten rid oftheir inventories because their inventories roll in the trucks that come up to their dock at the exactmoment they need it so they roll from the truck into the production process. We don't haveinventories and that saves companies money and makes products cheaper.
DIANE AND GARY PHILLIPS, TRUCKERS: And people get in the car and they go, youknow, from, I don't know, they go 100 miles and they go wheew, I'm worn out, you know, wellthat's nothing. That's a drop in the bucket.
MARION AND JAMES MALONE, TRUCKERS: We can cover 3,000 miles in 3 days. Nowbefore the interstates were put in, to go across this country, from coast to coast, it probablywould have taken a good 2 weeks, maybe a little longer.
SMITH: Freeways have become so omnipresent that we don't think about the degree of whichtheir presence is vital until it is gone and the recent LA quakes and San Francisco Bay area quakessuddenly taking out some of those arteries created some recurring questions about whether thewhole system worked.
MATTHEWS: The California earthquakes sent I'd say very mixed message. One message wasthat the mass transit systems held up much better than the highways. The expected jams in LosAngeles were not nearly as bad as had been predicted. People went on mass transit. On the otherhand, when the roads opened up again, they switched back so the transit system was not ableto...although it could serve the new ridership, it couldn't hold them
NEWTON: Our whole personality is in those cars. And as long as I have my car, I can keepeverything I need in it. Travel anywhere in the country and I know I will have what I need. It'snot like with public transportation when you continually have to move things in and out because itis alien to you, so you take it for awhile and then you get off and you separate. My car is me. I'malmost, it's almost like I'm naked outside it.
SMITH: Before I was old enough to drive, interstate 70 started to come into town and Iremember vividly getting up at dawn to stand along the first completed overpass. Here came theinterstate. It was very exciting. It wasn't for several years that we realized that the downtowndied when the interstate came through and that being able to get someplace quickly also meantthat people were able to leave someplace quickly.
DAVID DILLON, ARCHITECTURE CRITIC The general feeling is that highways have reallyruined cities. Fragmented them, cut them off from natural resources, from their rivers and fromtheir mountains. And in many cases that that's true. But in many cases it's not. Out in the westparticularly, in Dallas or Houston and many western cities they're like great rivers. They're likemanmade rivers. They're they're the new pieces of the landscape.
NARRATION: The state of Texas has more highway miles than any other state in theunion. The state highway department has over 14,000 employees; its operating budget is3.1 billion dollars.
IVINS: Being a Texan I was very annoyed when they instituted the 55 mile an hour speed limitbecause clearly God intended people for to drive at least 70 miles an hour in this state. I meanyou can see for 300 miles in every direction. Why would you want to slow down. And to mewhen they put in that 55 mile an hour speed limit it was as though God had picked up every cityin Texas and put it down an hour further apart than it used to be.
NARRATION: In the 1950s, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio were relatively small cities. Much of their growth took place in the era of interstates. The result was a new landscape --a mix of roadway and skyscraper, emblems of the automobile city.
DILLON: These freeways, they're often very graceful, monumental. They have the quality I thinkof great gateways to urban centers. When you drive through them you very often get thesewonderful framed views of downtowns in which the buildings are rising up and the colors in backbackground have these wonderful abstract shapes. When you're designing a building near afreeway you have to design it to be seen at 60 miles an hour. So that it has to have a kind ofvisual drama that it doesn't have to have if it's simply sitting on a block or a square in the center ofthe city.
ANDRES DUANY, ARCHITECT: When you see a building that looks marvelous from thehighway, ah, when you get near it as a pedestrian, touch it, it's very unsatisfying, because it has nodetail, for the pedestrian, it only works for the highway. And that's why people often think thatmodern architecture is a terrible thing. They say, "Oh, that is so dry and so cold," when it looksgreat from a distance and at high speed. It's just ah, up close, and as a pedestrian that it's nogood.
JACKSON: Egyptians have pyramids, the Chinese have a Great Wall, the Germans have castles,the Italians have beautiful churches, Americans have shopping centers. There are forty thousandmajor shopping centers in the United States. About two, thousand of them are mega malls.They're designed according to the same principles. You won't walk more than 600 feet from yourcar to the store. You need just exactly this many square feet of parking per square foot of ofcommercial space. All these formulas have been worked out. They're duplicated year after yearand month after month across the United States. They're all alike all around the country.
CRONON: Wherever there's an exit ramp on an interstate, you have a market. You have a veryintense market and real estate values explode at that point. Communities sort of begin to grow atthat point depending on the area that you are in so you get the creation of all sorts of newcommunities, at the minimum you get the creation of truck stops right and left wherever there'san exit and you often you get much more than that.
NARRATION: America's new highway communities are conglomerations of malls, officebuildings, condominiums, and franchise restaurants surrounded by suburban homes. Theyhave emerged unplanned, along the outskirts of older cities where major highways cometogether. People can live and work in these edge communities for a lifetime, and neverventure into that place we once thought of as downtown.
DILLON: These are creations of late 20th Century American commerce and capitalism and we'restill trying to figure out what they're about. And as one critic one some of them are gonna turn todust and some are gonna turn to Denver and right now we don't know which is which.
SHAIKEN: One phenomena of the edge city is you don't simply need a car to get from one placeto another, you need a car to do anything. And the interstate really provides the ability to gosomewhere else but where you're going is increasingly increasingly looks like where you've been.
MILLER: When you're on a freeway you want a couple of things. You want to be able to get offquickly, have your food, know what that food's going to be, know basically what it's going tocost, and not spend a lot of time thinking of my gosh, it wasn't very spicy, or this wasn't veryregional.
JULIA CHILD: I prefer the hamburger. And I think this is the regular burger with cheese on it. And I don't think their french fries are any better than, that's a very pale, limp french fry isn't it. Itdoesn't look like the kind I would want to eat. If you're terribly picky about your food, you bringyour own food with you. But I think you have to be practical here. You're on the road and thereisn't anything else and you have to eat something. Maybe it would be a sensible weight lossprogram to eat nothing, but wait until you get where you are going.
WILLIAM FAY, AMERICAN HIGHWAY USERS ALLIANCE: Americans absolutely lovetheir cars. We buy more of them than we have even drivers in our household. Americans wouldrather do without television, without the telephone, without, actually they would rather foregoromance than to have a day without their automobile.
NEWTON: No, no. We we really should have nice green fields and possibly a little dirt roadwinding through. And that would be so charming. And I really wish America were like that. OhI do know such thing. I mean here I am I'm going 75 miles an hour on this road and and but Ihave to or I'm not gonna get where I'm going. I am sitting here saying I love my car, I need mycar, I want my car, get outta my way.
SMITH: I live 70 miles from where I work. My spouse lives 15 miles in the other direction fromwhere she works. We have a child who goes to school in between. So, any given day, the threeof us are in three different cities in three different parts of northern California and my part in thatis the most outrageous because when I have driven my 70 miles, I get out of the car and walk intoa classroom and lecture about the social importance of mass transportation.
JACKSON: I think in 1972 Americans realized for the first time that their automobile lifestyle wasdependent upon cheap energy. And especially cheap energy from somewhere else. And wewould have thought that we would have changed our style because of that. We would have beenwarned that we were dangerously dependent on oil from the Middle East. But instead of that weonly exacerbate, we built even more roads and more suburban developments than ever before inthe 1970s and 1980s. So there's we again as we approach the end of the century we are moredependent upon foreign oil than any at any time in our past.
EDSFORTH: The Gulf War was essentially about the price of oil in the world. Whether or notthere would be some restriction on supply that would push up the prices and create another criseslike the one we lived through in the 1970s. Without a communist enemy in the world now youhave to ask yourself why do we have this major military. I would argue that a principle reason isto protect our oil supply from any kind of disruptions that might occur in the world and thereforesubsidize the American driver.
MATTHEWS: We are basically using 100 year old technologies. The car is 100 years old, therailroad is even older and all we are using is kind of minor improvements on those technologies. we can have a lot better choices than we have but it does require a revolution in both in thetechnology that we put to use and in the way it is funded. My own belief is that what we need todo is get rid of these separate trust funds and put all the transportation money in one pot It'scrazy to distinguish betwen road money and rail money and air money when they're all serving thesame people.
NARRATION: There is a perennial debate about how the Highway Trust fund moneyshould be used. In recent years Congress has approved the upgrading of secondary roads --pledged to maintain existing highways -- and planned to connect all forms of transport,from bicycles to airplanes. But there's not enough money to do it all.
ALIOTO: Nobody is asking for the maintenance of dirt roads instead of the great highway systemthat we have in America. We are simply asking that there be some consideration of all of theconflicting claims and not just those claims that relate to building highways with the shortestdistance between two statelines at the lowest possible cost you can effect without anyconsideration of anything else.
SMITH: We were the first freeway culture. We're one of the first now to realize what it'slimitations are. What we do about that has huge implications. What's going to happen whenChina is ready to enter automobility? Is there carrying capacity on the planet for a billion morepeople to use the car and the highway the way we have and how are we going to sound if we saywe threw a heck of a party back there in the 50s and 60s, sorry you couldn't make it but pleasebear in mind that that's not possible now.
MILLER: I love the highway. If I'm by myself and I'm driving, radio is on loud, the windows aredown. It's mostly a stream of things passing you by.there is this sense of liberation and a freedomand of movement and you can be what you want to be.
GRIJALVA: The way we have moved so quickly, so fast, so furiously to me is like arepresentation of the late 20th century, of the consequences of postmodernism and the aimless,ruthless movement and now we're suffering the consequences of it and it's that speed that deadensus to the simple things that we miss when we're not walking foot to desert. You know heel toground. If we're not taking some time to simply see what's around us, the movement of the waythe cactus blooms. You know you're going 70 miles, 75 miles now on the freeway and what doyou see. But you know you're numb to it and instead of the journey itself being important it's thedestination. We'll get lost in the speed I believe.
OPENING OF CENTURY FREEWAY:
Speaker: This new freeway can be a center of South Central, L.A., to reunite us with the rest ofthe Southern California dream and make all of us one part of one dream again. I thank you. Mayyou all walk in balance.
NARRATION: We sometimes fight these freeways. Just as often, we celebrate them. TheCentury Freeway in Los Angeles opened in 1993 to a very different America than the oneEisenhower saw in 1919 -- but it is still an America that welcomes the open road, that seesthere a prospect of freedom not found in any other place.
MILLER: Freeways are complicated. They are expressions of a democratic society. We all paidfor them. We can all drive on them. But it's not as if we are democratic in all of our aspects. And so therefore the freeways will not be either. They are reflective of complications ofAmerican democracy. They are tied both to how we want to live on the land, how we want tomove across that land. So in that sense I think they really are very much emblems of our desire.
ARIZONA STATE TROOPER ANGLIN: The posted speed limit is 75, it's not close to 75, it'snot I was going 75, and I'm not going over 75 because I'm passing a car. It's 75 and youneed to maintain that speed or less.