Skip to comments.Getting There: Highway construction boom built on myths
Posted on 07/07/2018 7:15:06 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
How did Americans develop their love affair with driving?
Visit the Smithsonians National Museum of American History in Washington and the transportation exhibit America on the Move will sell you on the commonly held theory that when Henry Ford made cars affordable, Americans loved them and demanded more and more highways.
Of course, that exhibit is sponsored by General Motors, which donated millions to put its name on the collection.
But University of Virginia history professor Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in American cities contends thats a myth. Just as outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower warned us of the military industrial complex, Norton says an automotive-construction complex took over our country, paving from coast to coast.
Sure, Americans like their cars. But it was a conspiracy of economic interests that turned us into a car culture. Where cities once enjoyed a network of cheap, fast streetcars, GM, Firestone and oil companies bought and wiped them out, replacing them with buses and cars.
This country destroyed and rebuilt its cities in the 20th century to serve automobiles, Norton says.
And those same interest groups are alive and well in Connecticut.
Groups like Move CT Forward arent pro-transportation as much as they are pro jobs in construction. The groups have spent a lot of money lobbying in Hartford to keep their members, the unions and contractors busy. While Im happy theyre promoting transportation, their motives are hardly altruistic.
This is nothing new, Norton says. The original interstate highways built in the 1950s used Portland Cement because that company lobbied so hard for its product over cheaper asphalt. Now that rusting rebar and crumbling cement is costing us a fortune.
Another myth from that era was that Eisenhower built the interstates to move troops quickly for national defense. That may have been the pitch to Congress, but the real reason for the highways was to evacuate civilians from the big cities in the event of nuclear war. Luckily, we never had to test that idea.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston the most urbanized highway city in the country authorities last summer didnt even try to evacuate people because they knew more would die on congested roads than in the storm.
Who pays for all this road building? You do, in the form of income taxes and, yes, gasoline taxes. But Norton says gas taxes are hardly a fair way to pay for everything.
Why does the motorist driving on a dirt road pay the same gas tax as one driving Interstate 95? The costs they place on road maintenance, the environment and our stress levels are grossly different, so why isnt the cost?
It would be like having Best Buy selling everything by the pound. People would flock to the electronics (our crowded interstates) instead of the towels, he notes. Im not sure Best Buy even sells towels, but I take his point.
He reminds us that before the interstates, the nations first super highways like the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes were built as toll roads not freeways and remain that way today.
Driving may seem to be free, but it isnt. Until we ask drivers to pay for its real cost, there is no incentive to do anything but drive (and pave) more.
Jim Cameron is a longtime commuter advocate based in Fairfield County
“Henry Ford made cars affordable...Of course, that exhibit is sponsored by General Motors”
And as we all know, General Motors was the auto company formed by Henry Ford.
A commuter Advocate?! No...not exactly. A government control freak. The motor car and paved roads give freedom and efficiency to the individual. Control Freaks hate freedom.
So what’s the point this guy is trying to make? If his is a long time advocate what is he advocating?
Goofy covered much of this in a cartoon he started in about driving.
“Of course, that exhibit is sponsored by General Motors
One of the Generals of the famed military-industrial complex, other joint Chiefs being General Electric and General Dynamics.
Wasn’t General Motors founded by General Henry Ford?
More like "freedom for me but not for thee"
You forgot General Mills.
What an idiot. I guess the writer has never been in daily traffic jams. The road builders can not even make signs to get you through the spaghetti of roads.
Cheap for whom? Construction and maintenance of a fairly permanent infrastructure in a dynamic environment is not cheap.
That's why buses make more sense. All a bus requires is a series of benches, some in road cutouts. With streetcars you have to dig up up the street along the entire route, and then when changing demographics or moving industry requires a change in the route, you have to dig it all up again.
With buses all you have to do is pop in a few benches.
Network, my ass. Sometimes you would have to walk a mile to reach a part of the network.
Fast, my ass again. I rode the Boston MTA half my life. I wasted hours of commute time every day.
Don't get me going about sanitation. One sneeze in the trolley boxcar would put scores of passengers at risk of illness.
And you have to deal with farts, stupid conversations, and groping.
The author is an academic, a learned idiot.
If you like being stuck in traffic come to Connecticut.
My two-step plan for alleviating traffic congestion.
1.) Require all government employees who are able to perform their duties from home to telecommute.
2.) Outsource all those jobs to the Philippines.
That guy is a moron. The cement asphalt debate is well known to engineers. Asphalt is only cheaper with a ongoing maintenance program. Since politicians almost always defer maintenance, concrete is cheaper.
Banana oil! Americans like their cars because they can use them to go where they want to and when they want to.
The paving of America— with “interstate” highways— was a project begun by Eisenhower during the Cold War. These were supposed to be “MILITARY” highways for Civil Defense. Not as “throughways”. Whenever possible, try to take time to take the “old” roads— if one can have the time. Real America was bypassed by these gigantic public projects in service to the Mil-Industrial complex. The autobahn came to the US via Eisenhower even as he warned against the complex.
In 1916, a Model T with a 2 speed transmission cost $440. A Chevy with a 3 speed transmission cost $490. Yes, the Ford was cheaper, but the Chevy offered more. (And, for another $60 you could get the Chevy with an electric starter and lights - no more hand cranking.)
If he's arguing "dirt roads cost less" he's comparing apples to raisins.
Lyndon Johnson made sure less than 1% of Texans "drive on dirt roads" so over 99% of gas taxes are paid by people driving on paved roads.
I lived in Texas 30 years and currently own three 4 wheel drive vehicles and can count the times I've driven on a public "dirt road" on one hand. Private land or a road to a boy scout, sure, public roads, almost never.
Exactly, like every other train loving socialist— they can control people by eliminating individual mobility. The auto was like the horse was long ago... a means to get away to freer areas or at least the potential.
You are correct-like healthcare was not about health but about controlling the proles (us). The German national socialists for example hated gypsies-— why? Because the moved around a lot and saw what was going on in the country and told people. No mobility-— no more “tells”. Kill the gypsies.