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The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways

1 rating: 4.0
A book

A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape—the U.S. interstate system changed the face of our country. The Big Roads charts the creation of these essential American … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
1 review about The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers,...

Don't blame Dwight

  • Dec 30, 2011
I love to travel, and one of the great verities and amazements of modern life is that lines drawn on a paper map represent roads on the ground that connect my driveway to almost any spot in America with an unbroken span of pavement!  How those roads got where and why they look like they do is something I don't often think of, which makes "The Big Roads" a fascinating tale.  

For starters, the author swiftly debunks the myth that President Eisenhower is responsible for the credit or the blame for the Interstate system we drive on today, and instead introduces us to the small cadre of men really responsible for not just the Interstates but the national road systems that predated and survive it.  And the real story and characters behind it are much more interesting than the myth in Swift's telling.  For example, we learn that the first "good roads" movement in the US was organized by bicyclists, and that one of the leading highway engineers commuted by bus nearly every day for his forty-plus years of government service.

Nor does Swift dodge the difficult discussions of societal disruption and neighborhood destruction for which the "big roads",  especially in and around populous metropolitan areas, are responsible--even as they shape and enable the physical and economic environment we inhabit today.

Like the best of popular historians, Swift provides knowledge and information with clarity (and extensive footnoting for those who want to drill deeper), while inviting interest and involvement with personal research and insight into the personalities who populate the history.  Recommended for any reader who ever wondered how they got where they are going.

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