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Preview — The Big Roads by Earl Swift
The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways
Earl Swift brings to light the visionaries who created these essential highways ...more
The Big Roads is an excellent piece of non-fiction about a topic that many people, despite its staggering scale and obvious relevance to modern life, might find a bi ...more
From when I was a child, my father explained to me that even number freeways go east/west & odd number ones go north/south. Ever since then, I've been aware of the massiveness of concrete that stretches in ever ...more
I was surprised to learn that the idea of a interstate highway system, and much of the route planning, long pre-dated the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, during which the act of Congress that funded the project. Probably the most influential person behind the details of the project was Thomas Harris MacDonald, an engineer who spent decades working for the federal government. President Franklin Roosevelt had requested a plan for interstates in the late 1930s. MacDonald's plan, given in respo...more
Wrong. Wrong, Wrong.
In fact, pre-WWII, bureaucrats in FDR’s government crafted the basic ideas, both in terms of routes, and safety/engineering, that became today’s interstates.
That’s just one of many things you’ll learn. (Another is that, in terms of refusal to do in-depth policy reading, Ike was the Ronnie Reagan of his day.)
You’ll learn about how, already by ...more
“The Big Roads" is an informative albeit at times tedious read about the history of the development of the American Superhighways. The book focuses more on the politics and the key people behind the construction instead of the technical challenges involved. This instructive 401-page includes twenty-two chapters and is broken out into the following four parts: 1. Out ...more
I am intrigued by how many things I would have thought intuitively obvious were actually hotly debated. For instance, w ...more
For a book that appears to be about the USA's Interstate Highway system this book throws a bit of a curveball by spending probably half its length talking about the development of the automobile, the early highway associations, and the US Highway system. Except that curveball is exactly the author's point: today we often look at the superhighways with a skewed idea of how they came about and how they are ...more
In the last half of the 20th century, interstate highways bisected Iowa north to south and east t ...more
The most direct transportation route from Needles, CA on the Colorado River to Barstow across the Mohave Desert (approx 140 miles) is blocked by the Bristol Mtns. The Santa Fe RR, in the latter part of the 19th century ran its route around the Bristols going about 20 miles out of the way. The highway, which became the storied ...more
This book starts around the turn of the 20th century when most of the "improved" roads in the country were still dirt. The invention of the automobile escalated the need for better roads. In 1909 only 9 miles of concrete paved road existed in the U.S.. We've come a l ...more
There was a time when both parties worked together to come up with solutions to the country's problems. This book explores how our interstate highway system was created to solve problems like the disrupting technology of the automobile, transpo ...more
In hindsight, the big roads have been a mixed blessing. (For one, it's not clear we can afford their maintenance.) But they're also a prime example of our country's ability to do big, bold things ...more
This book presents the interstates as an obvious growth out of earlier plans for national road systems. Each step logically followed and the technocrats (I say that in a non-disparaging way) who work ...more
When I was in high school, computers (what we now call "mainframes") were well on their way of transforming how business and science was done (government took some time). I got interested in computers, and my professional life has been tied to the growth and impact of this technology.
When my dad was in high school, aviation and automobiles were well on their way of transforming peoples lives and the world we lived in. He got interested in aviation, and his ...more
At the dawn of the automobile age, cross-country travel was virtually impossible for the average person. Actually, travelling outside the city was not much easier.
The Big Roads traces the development of the modern interstate through the eyes of some ...more
Swift wrote for newspapers in St. Louis, Anchorage and, for twenty-two years, in Norfolk, where his long-form features won numerous state and national a ...more