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Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  114 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
In "Divided Highways," Tom Lewis tells the monumental story of the largest engineered structure ever built: the Interstate Highway System. Here is one of the great untold tales of American enterprise, recounted entirely through the stories of the human beings who thought up, mapped out, poured, paved - and tried to stop - the Interstates. Conceived and spearheaded by Thoma ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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The subject of Divided Highways is broader than the subtitle implies, as it also sses federal aid for road building before Eisenhower's initiation of the interstate highway program. Tom Lewis is also the author of Empire of the Air: the men who made radio a book I enjoyed more than the present one. After a long period in the nineteenth century in which the federal government did nothing to fund road construction, federal support for road construction was discussed from the late nineteenth centu

No engineering project in the United States is more impressive than the interstate system; dense with the connections of a street grid, it serves not blocks but an entire continent. In Divided Highways, Tom Lewis tells the story of that system's creation, inside a broader history of how motoring in general transformed American life. Lewis principally concerns himself with the political rise of the highways, and the problems that followed once the ideal became a reality and people realized that r ...more
"But engineers had little understanding of, nor did they care about, socioeconomic and environmental considerations that should also be factors in the decision of where to place a highway. The Interstates planned for the center of Boston, across Manhattan, into the center of Chicago posed a series of technical problems of soils and land contours, entrances and exits, and the like; but never the very real human problems of lives disrupted, neighborhoods destroyed, and livelihoods lost" (pg. #134) ...more
Aug 26, 2007 Cat rated it liked it
Recommends it for: infrastructure nerds.
Shelves: americanhistory
Too bad I only read one book every couple of weeks. Lewis's "Divided History" is somewhere in between a conventional history of the building of the interstate highway's in the United States and a journalistic account of the builiding of the interstate highway's in the United States. Either way you want to slice it- that's nearly three hundred pages on the building of interstate highway's in the United States. It's a boring book- not just because the subject matter itself, but also because Mr. Le ...more
Rebecca Henderson
Feb 24, 2012 Rebecca Henderson rated it liked it
Good, detailed overview of the building of the Interstate system. I was disappointed that no mention was made of the building of I-20, since that's the Interstate I'm particularly interested in for the book I'm writing - but the points the author loses for overlooking I-20 are gained back by quoting poetry throughout.
Dec 01, 2016 Du rated it liked it
Shelves: planning
Pretty solid overview of the building of America's highways. I've read too many of these to be overly impressed with new material or to learn to much (yes, that sounds snobby). Overall the ideas presented are well researched and constructed. Overall I was hoping for more socio economic and the politics. I have had enough of the engineering and actual construction.
Alex Eddy
Jan 02, 2014 Alex Eddy rated it really liked it
A lovely, if slightly depressing , history of ground transportation in the US. It starts with Eisenhower and meanders through history from there. Lewis even touches on racial politics and the power of grassroots movements. Overall, it was a satisfying read.
Peter Boody
Feb 02, 2012 Peter Boody rated it liked it
A little dreary here and there. It seemed repetitive. A lot of focus on bureaucrats and plodding processes. Still, it is a subject about which I've always been interested and the book delivered the goods.
Dec 21, 2009 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I was interested mostly in the sociological aspects of building the interstate highway system -- the politics, decision-making process, and how it affected society. There was enough of that to keep me interested, but also plenty of info about the construction.
Mickael Broth
Sep 22, 2014 Mickael Broth rated it really liked it
Pretty fascinating look into something used by almost every single American on a daily basis but taken completely for granted at this point. Somehow the author managed to make fairly boring parts of history into a really enjoyable and lively read.. quite a feat indeed!
May 21, 2014 Phil rated it liked it
If you are into bridges, roads, tunnels, transportation, engineering and/or politics mixed with a bit of history, this book is for you. Very interesting.

It is however very wordy. Informative but dry.
Barbara Brannon
Jan 04, 2010 Barbara Brannon rated it it was amazing
Lewis's study is one of the most thorough and thought-provoking of the many treatments of American "road history" -- it brings to light the very real sociological effects of roads on our cities, towns, and countryside. If you enjoy road memoirs/travelogues, read this for excellent context.
Dec 26, 2010 Shoshanna rated it it was amazing
Really interesting history of the Interstate Highway System. Features prehistory, obstacles, effects on culture, urban elements.
A decent history of the development of the US Interstate system. Not as critical as one might expect.
Howard Mansfield
Jul 26, 2012 Howard Mansfield rated it liked it
In this detailed history of the building of the Interstates, Lewis shows that he's a good storyteller with a good eye for politics and a revealing quote.
Feb 26, 2008 Elly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who ask "why you so crazy about bicycles?"
Big, cheesy pop history that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the interstate highway system, which in my case is a lot.
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Feb 28, 2016
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“About thirty truckers in Brighton, Colorado, refused to move their rigs in protest of the high cost of diesel fuel, fuel shortages, and the fifty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit. Other drivers followed suit in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Nebraska, Connecticut, and Delaware. In New Jersey, the governor had to call on the National Guard to remove blockading trucks. The truckers complained that higher fuel prices and lower speed limits were threatening their profits.” 1 likes
“In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the Third World Power Conference in Washington, D.C., on the importance of engineering in solving the nation’s social problems. At the conclusion of his speech, he pressed a button that stirred the turbines in the Boulder Dam to “creative activity.” “Boulder Dam,” said the president as his right index finger came down, “I call you to life!” 1 likes
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