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Interstate Highway System: 50th Anniversary

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the one-of-the-greatest-efforts-ever dept.

718

Steve Melito writes "This week, CR4: The Engineer's Place for Discussion and News, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, "a giant nationwide engineering project" that transformed a nation. In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers described the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System as "one of the Seven Wonders of the United States". In 2006, this network of roads includes 46,000 miles of highway; 55,000 bridges; 82 tunnels, and 14,000 interchanges. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), excavation for the interstate system has moved enough material to bury the State of Connecticut knee-deep in dirt. The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon. The lumber used would consume all of the trees in 500 square miles of forest. The structural steel could build 170 skyscrapers the size of the Empire State Building, and meet nearly half of the annual requirements of the American auto industry. Check back with CR4 all week as we cover the 'Roots of the Road,' 'the Politics of Passage,' 'Adventures in Civil Engineering,' and 'The Road Ahead.'" One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that the United States needed to develop.

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Errr, hold on. Say what? (5, Funny)

coupland (160334) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606081)

>"The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon"

Wait a minute, nobody told me six sidewalks to the moon was one of the options! I would have totally voted for the sidewalk thing...

Re:Errr, hold on. Say what? (3, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606113)

Call your local state representative. You may have to go around collecting signatures too.

Re:Errr, hold on. Say what? (4, Funny)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606171)

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), excavation for the interstate system has moved enough material to bury the State of Connecticut knee-deep in dirt. The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon.

But how much is that in Libraries of Congress per Nielsen market shares?

In Canada (0, Flamebait)

Asshat Canada (804093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606085)

We only need ONE highway. Highway ONE. FP you fuckin homos

Pennsylvania (5, Interesting)

mkw87 (860289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606087)

I hope they didnt count the roads in Pennsylvania, most of them (at least in NW PA) are in such bad shape, they shouldn't count as being part of a 'paved highway' system.

Re:Pennsylvania (2, Interesting)

rbannon (512814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606315)

I live within eyeshot of New York City and I am often perplex by how bad the roads are here --- it's like they're abandoned. Nothing is maintained as it should be, but we're being charged outrageous fees to use them. Oh, even though they're not being properly maintained, it seems that a culture of perpetual construction is present where work is constantly being done to slow traffic and to make the roads even worse than they were before. I always say that it cannot get worse, but it always does!

Personally I would much prefer a privately owned and operated road system.

Re:Pennsylvania (5, Funny)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606367)

Same thing in NE Ohio.

In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers described the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System as "one of the Seven Wonders of the United States".

"Why the hell do I have to get a wheel alignment every two months"... is the only thing I ever 'wonder' about when driving on the NEO highway system.

Moonwalk (4, Funny)

Scaba (183684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606092)

The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon.

That's what they should have done instead. I'd walk to the moon.

Re:Moonwalk (5, Funny)

TWX (665546) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606199)

That's what they should have done instead. I'd walk to the moon.
Yeah, but pretty soon you'd be changing races, enjoying the company of little boys, and wearing facemasks to court...

Re:Moonwalk (1)

Scaba (183684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606239)

Yeah, but pretty soon you'd be changing races, enjoying the company of little boys, and wearing facemasks to court...

And who's to say I don't already? Yee-heeee!!

They left off the part... (5, Funny)

p!ssa (660270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606098)

about enough potholes to covers the surface of Jupiter six times and enough roadwork delays to equal 13 years of your life waitng in congested traffic to get to work :/

Cue the analogies... (4, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606099)

...of businesses being charge for their customers using the roads. Yes, roads are a good argument for network neutrality.

Re:Cue the analogies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606161)

Sadly the roads are getting further and further from 'neutral'. At least in Minnesota, and I believe other places as well, toll portions are in use to allow people who pay extra lanes, with the promise of faster transit times. We seem to be moving away from the 'neutral' system to a much more divided system, even in our road system.

Re:Cue the analogies... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606168)

How would charging for access to highways be any different from paying to ride on the bus or train? that way only the people who use it have to pay for it. Those unwilling to pay for the use of the highway can use other roads leaving the toll roads free for those who are willing to pay to save a few minutes.

 

Re:Cue the analogies... (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606303)

You seem to be completely missing the point of the GP.
Do you pay the costs of travelling to/from work, or does your employer cover those costs for you? Or do you live in some screwed up alternative universe, where both you and your employer have to pay the full amount each?

Re:Cue the analogies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606326)

The problem is they start the argument with "The toll roads will allow us to maintain them better and give you a better driving experience." And nowadays much of the Pennsylvania turnpike is no better than the rest of the PA road system, sometimes much worse.

Re:Cue the analogies... (1)

tom2275 (863625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606377)

I pay vehicle registration fees which is the funds the state uses to maintain the roads. (Kinda like ISP charges, huh?). In Orange county, California, they have a "toll roads" system, 3 or 4 highways that you have to pay to drive on, and it pisses me off to have to stop and pay a the troll under the bridge. I pay me reg fees, I pay my ISP. Give me equal access to all roads/internet, damnit!

Re:Cue the analogies... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606267)

Actually, comparing the 'net to roads would be a prime example of a poor analogy, as it fails to promote understanding of the issues. For example, imagine a) someone building his own private road from LA to NYC, and b) someone building his own private data connection from LA to NYC. Clearly, the latter would be easier and far less objectionable. He could conceivably put his lines right on top of someone else's (after getting their permission) and not have the data pass through others' lines. In contrast, to have a private road that didn't intersect with other private roads, you would have to somehow build an overpass over all intervening roads, or reserve some very scarce, highly demanded real estate just for him, inconveniencing the existing road users forever.

There's nothing inconsistent, of course, about supporting "road neutrality" and net neutrality, but the merit of the former doesn't help much to build a case for the latter.

Bridges galore? (5, Interesting)

Penguin Programmer (241752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606105)

In 2006, this network of roads includes 46,000 miles of highway; 55,000 bridges...


Wait a minute, that would be more than one bridge per mile, on average. Is that actually correct? I don't remember there being that many bridges on any of the interstates I've driven on.

Re:Bridges galore? (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606133)

I don't know for sure, but of the two I think the total mileage is most likely to be wrong. 46,000 miles seems kind of small.

Re:Bridges galore? (5, Insightful)

Don853 (978535) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606137)

Almost certainly includes small roads' bridges over the interstate. They may be less than 1/mile in some areas, but it seems like in much of the northeast, especially cities, they're quite frequent.

Re:Bridges galore? (4, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606150)

If they're counting any part of the road that doesn't touch the 'ground' as a bridge, that makes perfect sense. There's many bridges that cover very short distances and span little creeks or washes, especially in the great plains region I've noticed.

Not every bridge crosses the Mississippi.

Doubt they'd count overpasses/underpasses, that'd probably really inflate the number...

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606287)

Why wouldn't they count over / under passes? They are still bridges, are they not?

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606157)

I'm betting that "bridges" includes all of those overpasses in towns and for cloverleaf exchanges (which can often include several overpasses just for one exchange in an urban area).

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

baywulf (214371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606164)

Perhaps this includes overpasses when the highway goes over a city street, train tracks, etc.

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606172)

Sure, there are that many bridges. Don't just think of the big ones crossing lakes, etc... think about every dinky little over- and underpass. In the urban parts of the system, you might have 10 or more of those in a mile.

It does sound a way off (2, Insightful)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606185)

I would think that even if you include over/underpasses (for surface streets to cross the highways) and the multiple-level interchanges that you have in big cities, the ratio seems way off.

The info here (http://interstate50th.org/trivia.shtml) and here (http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/highway.htm) seems to bear this out... but it still sounds funny

Re:Bridges galore? (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606198)

In addition to what the others have said, any bridge where the highway traffic directions are separated probably counts as two bridges, not one.

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606202)

On the east coast there's a fair number of small bridges going over creeks and rivers, but yeah, there's no way that's a correct figure. Maybe if they count overpasses, then sure. We have a few of those every mile in between Baltimore and DC, due to the relativly high population density, and the fact it's usually trivial to build them since it's hilly around here. And I'm sure out in the midwest this number drops a lot so it could even out.

Re:Bridges galore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606247)

I believe that an overpass is considered to be bridge and included within the 55,000 figure, thus appearing to be an accurate amount.

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

_mythdraug_ (27158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606253)

Not every bridge looks like the golden gate. Any time an interstate crosses a divide (stream, valley, road, railway), or when the interstate itself is crossed (by road, railroad, or pedway) would get counted. Keep in mind that some of these crossings can be less than 50. Also, what you percieve as a single bridge may be counted as two. If both sides of the divided roadway are independantly supported, it probably gets counted as two rather than one bridge.

Re:Bridges galore? (1)

LeRandy (937290) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606262)

If, for example, you have a 4-way stacked full access interchange (not a cloverleaf), which are necessary when you can't take all the land you would like - eg in urban or semi-urban areas - you end up with at least three bridges for one interchange. If you have stacked or eleveated highway construction, you may well be able to count that as multiple bridges too. 1.2 bridges per mile is perfectly feasable.

Re:Bridges galore? (4, Interesting)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606360)

I'll throw in another possibility that may make the bridges/mile easier to believe... It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that the "Interstate Highway System" includes bridges that are part of other roads, not the Interstates themselves. Any bridges deemed important enough to get federal money, bridges involved in exits, even bridges necessary in ancillary ways to the highway system...

And has encouraged americans (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606108)

And has encouraged americans to use enough gas to fill a swimming pool, each year.

Ike also saw the wonderful mass transit capable of the european trains, but that wasn't good enough...

No, no it wasn't (2, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606143)

Americans, we like our freedom.

We also like our wide, expansive country. We also like our small towns. We like living in the country and commuting to the city. Trains work great in some places and not so well in other places; there is no "universal solution". So please take your trolling somewhere else and let us marvel and some fine engineering from the 1950's. Thanks.

Re:No, no it wasn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606252)

Americans, we like our freedom.

Then why do you keep giving it to the Republicans?

Re:No, no it wasn't (2, Insightful)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606256)

Yes! Let's just marvel and not talk about any downsides. They're all features anyway, features!

I get really bitter when I think at how marvelous it would be to have railroads in place of every interstate...gah! Oh well.

Re:No, no it wasn't (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606311)

I get really bitter when I think at how marvelous it would be to have railroads in place of every interstate...gah! Oh well.

I don't.

I'm going camping this weekend with my wife and kid. I don't see how I could bring all the gear we need onto a train - it surely wouldn't be allowed on an Amtrak ( I've ridden them before, I know ).

There are plenty of activities that would be difficult - nigh unto impossible - to partake in if there were no long-range ability to travel via ones own vehicle. It is cheaper for me to move about the US of A (my parents live 1000 miles across the country) via car than via airplane ticket. That is just for one ticket, it becomes vastly cheaper if you factor in the additional ticket for my wife, if we are traveling together. Personal travel is important, and enjoyable.

Re:No, no it wasn't (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606332)

When you feel bitter, just remember that it wouldn't be cost effective to run a train which stops at all the little towns along the interstate.

Re:No, no it wasn't (4, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606277)

Sheesh, he wasn't a troll... it's a valid point, if simplistically put. /rolls eyes

We need both highways and mass transport, and the failing of 1950s planning was that it prioritized highways above all else. A better use of resources would have been to build the rural and interstate parts of the system the same way they were built, but to substitute trains for some of the capacity in the urban network.

In Europe, they've got it all. Their intercity highways are better than ours. And for commuting, they have train networks that actually work and are pleasant enough that people want to use them. Saves gas, saves time (the high-speed trains are faster and you don't have to park them), and you can still drive your car just fine when you are going somewhere the trains don't go or don't reach effectively.

At this point I'd like to see the next big infrastructure investment be in a European-style intercity, high-speed train network to give people an alternative to highways. It wouldn't work across the great expanses of the West, but it would work just fine from Chicago eastward and along the West Coast. Imagine getting from Boston to Washington in 3 1/2 hours without the hassle of airport transportation, TSA bullshit, etc., etc. and simultaneously reducing airport congestion. Sounds worthwhile to me.

Freedom of travel (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606184)

Unlike Europeans we have had freedom of travel over a very large area for a long time. That more than anything is why the automobile is so much more popular over here. When distances traveled can be measured in days it does tend to make one think differently.

Its a far different mindset one has when you don't have to stop at the border. I still remember friends flying in and asking me to come pick them up, not realizing it would take me nearly 6 to 8 hours to DRIVE there.

Re:Freedom of travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606343)

I guess that you imagine every road in Europe has a Checkpoint Charlie-style guard post at every border. And you must have your papers to present on demand. Meanwhile in the USA, it takes you 6 hours to drive places because the federally-approved speed for you to enjoy your freedom is set so damn low.
Is this a troll ? Have I been caught out ?

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606224)

We already had a fairly good rail system capable of hauling both people and cargo long distances all over the country at the time, it would have been pointless to build another one.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606250)

Circa WWII, the US had a pretty good train system. Had too, since the roads were miserable.

But whereas in Europe, population density and economics favored keeping trains (remember, most Europeans couldn't afford cars), the US's road system began to eclipse rail, leading to it's decline for lack of ridership.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

avalys (221114) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606261)

You may think mass transit is wonderful, I don't. I don't like being stuffed into a ugly, dirty, run-down, uncomfortable, built-by-the-lowest bidder government-run box crowded with a bunch of smelly, noisy, inconsiderate people, with no control over the temperature, the background noise, the amount of stuff I can bring, the departure time, what stops I make along the way, and a pre-selected range of choices for where I can go without having to switch trains.

Cars have their flaws too, but I still prefer them to mass transit.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

genrader (563784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606271)

Americans like the ability to travel. No one should ever, ever supress that or they are a tyrant. If you support restriction of travel, you are a supporter of tyranny and a hater of freedom whether you know it or not. Europeans don't travel because, gasp, most of them like to live in the cities. I hate living in a city, I live about 30 miles outside of one and I enjoy it thoroughly here.

Re:And has encouraged americans (3, Informative)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606283)

Mass transit only works in areas with a high concentration of people. In the 1960s, heck even today, there are lots of people who live outside of these areas making mass transportation highly ineffecient and costly. In Europe, on the other hand, a larger percentage of people live in urban areas and are better served by public transportation. However, the people who live in the rural parts of Europe still rely on gasoline powered cars.

Actually, despite what the "wonderful" slashdot editor says, not only did Ike see the Autobahn, but also saw it as an easy way to move troops and supplies around the country. For instance, there were standards to make sure every curve of the expressway system could handle an automobile at 85MPH (talking about a 1960s Jeep, not a 2006 Ferrari Enzo).. so it would not flip over. It also made sure there were large enough gaps between bridges and other structures to allow large aircraft to land within 10 miles of any point on the highway.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606354)

"an easy way to move troops and supplies around the country"

Which, not surprisingly, is why der Fuehrer built the Autobahns in the first place.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606310)

Nevermind that there's no way a rail system could function as a replacement.

There are plenty of places and towns where it just wouldn't be economical to run a train to, and thus they wouldn't have any transportation at all.

But feel free to continue comparing Europe to the US. Its not like the US is much larger than western europe or anything.

Re:And has encouraged americans (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606322)

Keep in mind that the interstate highway system was ultimately meant to be an efficient means of moving military hardware around. If the commies came knocking, you could clear the roads and send reenforcements to just about any major city.

Trains just wouldn't cut it. Ever try squeezing a minuteman missile onto an Amtrak luggage bin? :)

Happy birthday! (4, Funny)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606114)

And to celebrate, every inch is getting a facelift! Now, everyone please merge over into the right lane and slow to half speed. Be careful of the bright orange barrels; they have to last until the work starts in 6-8 months.

Mother Nature (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606119)

Although some historians claim that Eisenhower's motivations were military in nature, the nation's civilian population reaped the rewards

and mother nature was wounded ... all the roadkill, destruction of wildlife habitis, splitting / dividing of land ... we shoulda stuck to gravel roads, flying, and our bicycles. Or maybe we shoulda worked harder on tele-transporting.

Re:Mother Nature (1)

Soko (17987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606356)

Think for a second. The freeway system quite possibly prevented the need for several highway systems hodge-podged across your country. IOW, one big system to handle the traffic, obviating the need of more land taken up by several roads going to the same place.

In Ontario, Highway 11 (part of the Trans Canada highway from Barrie, north of Toronto, to North Bay on Lake Nippissing) has been widened from 2 lanes to 4 in order to keep some side roads from being used, as the highway does get a bit jammed up once or twice a year. I read somewhere that the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment agreed that the Hwy 11 lands were already designated as a thoroughfare, and that the surronding country side should be protected from excessive traffic, so they used a bit more land for Hwy 11 in order to protect the rest.

Better highway, less traffic and less pressure on the surrounding country side - an all-around win, I say.

Soko

Re:Mother Nature (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606368)

Although some historians claim that Eisenhower's motivations were military in nature, the nation's civilian population reaped the rewards
and mother nature was wounded ... all the roadkill, destruction of wildlife habitis, splitting / dividing of land ... we shoulda stuck to gravel roads, flying, and our bicycles. Or maybe we shoulda worked harder on tele-transporting.

It can't have been military in nature... the Act allocated money over 13 years, and the interstate highway system wasn't built to serve the purposes of the Navy (battleships can't meet the speed minimums on the interstates), and it says very clearly in the Constitution that no allocation of money for the Army may be longer than two years. And we'd never have a President who'd do anything that violated the Constitution, right? At least, not so blatantly...

Huh? (4, Funny)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606120)

55,000 bridges on 46,000 miles of highway? More than 1 bridge per mile? Sounds like we should've done a better job of surveying the route before starting to build freeways.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606276)

perhaps the bridges are not tallied in the 46k miles of highway? By definition, bridges aren't highways, they're bridges. So, you figure you can add another 20,000+ miles onto the total miles of roadways that connect highways (since most bridges don't span a mile)

mod me a troll, I live under those bridges.

Two bridges per overpass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606280)

Many overpasses consist of two bridges; perhaps those are counted twice?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606376)

The alternative to all those bridges is to have a stop sign on every surface street that currently goes under or over a highway. Good luck crossing those intersection, I hope your car has good pickup.

Enterprise Java Solutions ;) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606124)

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Government vs. Private (5, Insightful)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606129)

People are always so harsh on the government's ability to do things, and are quick to promote private industry as the better alternative, but this is one of the major public sector success stories.

I think in cases like this, private industry just would not have the resources and coordination to pull it off. Nor the motivation.

But in any case, NOBODY, public or private, wants to do mega-projects anymore. Complacency is the word of the day.

Re:Government vs. Private (1)

seriesrover (867969) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606349)

True...to an extent. We do have private toll roads here in the US - but they are only viable as 'alternatives' to the existing road system. The point is that Private enterprise can build a viable if there is the need. Currently there isn't and thats why we see very little of it. Pressumeably our taxes would be replaced by tolls if it was all private and no government involvement.


And I do agree on your last point - it is a shame we dont *seem* to do as much large scale projects anymore. But with so much regulation (environmental \ safety) its becoming even more unlikeyl.

Whooptie doo (2, Insightful)

Electric Eye (5518) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606130)

All this "achievment".... and traffic is as bad as ever and getting worse every single day. What a grand dream our highway system has turned into.

Re:Whooptie doo (2, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606192)

The highway system as a whole is still a major accomplishment. It's just that select areas suffer problems.

Drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, you run into traffic once along the way (Denver).

Ike had a dick-size war with the Soviets, and won (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606131)

"See Russia, we can out-fight, and out-produce you, and we both have nukes, so even if its close to a draw, we'll win."

Thanks Ike, for giving the US the upper hand in the Cold War. He's also the one whose parting words were something like "Beware the military-industrial complex." A wise man, why can't we get Presidents like this anymore?

Re:Ike had a dick-size war with the Soviets, and w (4, Insightful)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606298)

"why can't we get Presidents like this anymore?"

Because anyone with huevos enough to buck the status quo or speak unpopular truths gets the Rove treatment.

So we'll be getting agreeable dunces from now on.

Dunces with strings to make them dance.

Re:Ike had a dick-size war with the Soviets, and w (1)

bobbo69 (905401) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606327)

The first round maybe. Just wait for Russia's comeback when those oil and gas revenues start stacking up...

too bad it's all falling apart now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606144)

I-70 is falling apart. It's hell on your car.

Until they correct the deplorable condition of the roads, the Interstate highways are nothing to be proud of...

Typical Government spending (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606155)

...or lay six sidewalks to the moon
First rule of government spending. Why build 1 when you can build 6 at hextuple the price?

if Eisenhower saw Autobahns (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606163)

then why is there a speed limit in the USA ? It would be much nicer and to the point to be able to go 150 MPH on the endless straight highways separating the two coasts rather than on the 20 km separating two sprawling cities of Germany...

Re:if Eisenhower saw Autobahns (1)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606226)

then why is there a speed limit in the USA ?

Because there isn't enough fuel.

Highways vs. Autobahn (3, Interesting)

Issue9mm (97360) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606165)

For all the copycatting Eisenhower did to establish our highway system, they sure did get a lot of things wrong. Looking at today's Autobahn is a wonderous thing comparatively.

An interesting factor in difference between our highway and Germany's autobahn is the 'curviness' of the road. The Germans wanted their highway to curve with the natural landscape, and be created with a minimal of environmental destruction, which we thought was stupid. As a result, we built straighter roads, blasting through mountains and paving over forests where necessary. The result of course, was highway hypnosis, which contributes to the higher death toll and accident count on U.S. highways.

Re:Highways vs. Autobahn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606211)

There's 50 different highway departments in this country, and everyone of them has a somewhat different take on this. Your generalization doesn't hold up universally.

Re:Highways vs. Autobahn (1)

richdun (672214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606281)

Exactly - anyone who thinks all Interstates were built as straight as possible has never driven on West Virginia's interstates. Sure, they blast through mountains (kinda have to there to get anything wider than two lanes), but they are far from straight - especially their Turnpike.

What happens when roads are obsolete? (4, Interesting)

swpod (963634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606174)

Something I've wondered about is what will happen when, sometime in the not-too-distant future, we no longer need roads for transportation because we've invented some kind of autonomous flying vehicle. What are we going to do with all that real estate? At least where I live, the roadway is too narrow to be used for additional home construction, so does all this land simply become a vast system of pedestrian malls? Or can somebody think of a better use for it? Of course the realpolitik of the situation is that the various government landowners will try to maximize the revenue to be had from selling this freed-up land, so what kind of monstrosity are they going to foist upon us?

Re:What happens when roads are obsolete? (0, Troll)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606285)

You're already frothing about what the government is going to do with a bunch of land you don't have to visit anymore when we have flying cars.

Just so ya know.

Re:What happens when roads are obsolete? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606330)

Two things:

1.) flying cars are already 6 years overdue, I'm not holding my breath.

2.) Anyone who has lived in a highly urbanized area can tell you people will build houses and other structures on unbelievably small lots.

Re:What happens when roads are obsolete? (3, Insightful)

OhPlz (168413) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606339)

Boston's Big Dig moved a major above ground route underground. They're supposedly converting the old route into parks. Of course there's some fighting over the land since it was debatably stolen to make the elevated highway and the previous owners want it back. I personally think that by the time they have it all sorted out, they'll need the space for roads again to increase capacity, since no one is going to want to pay for Big Dig 2.

Getting off track a bit.. I think it's outrageous that we're spending billions to make bigger and bigger roads. The highway system isn't scalable to the point we need it to be. They just finished expanding the highway I commute on from 2 lanes to 3 (in each direction). It helped, but it's going to draw more people to live in those communities now when they wouldn't have considered living there before because of the traffic. So then what? Four lanes? Five? Underground tunnels?

What we need is effective mass transport, at least in populated areas of the US like eastern MA. I don't want to be stuck on the highway everyday but there is no real alternative. I'd rather take rail if it were available, at least I could read or use a laptop or do something partially productive. That would also cut down on our dependency on oil, road rage, traffic fatalities, stress, insurance premiums, so on and so forth. Use the land the highways take up and build a decent rail system.

Ludicrous scenario (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606355)

Larry Niven pondered this question in a short story. "Cloak of Anarchy," I think.

But SF speculation aside, I don't think we're going to need to worry about surface roads becoming obsolete any time soon.

Even if a significant fraction of passenger traffic switches to flying cars (which is utterly rediculous itself, but anyway...) I really, really doubt you could economically shift frieght traffic to flying mode. If it isn't perishible, or absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, it is far cheaper to let it roll to its destination.

Re:What happens when roads are obsolete? (1)

monkaduck (902823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606378)

Coat them with solar cells? That'd be a nice way to generate some extra energy.

Car highway analogies (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606200)

I think you are taking the car analogy to far. Going strictly with the highway metaphor throughout the article, you risk loosing readers who don't get the reference to the Internet backbone... oh... Waitaminute! You didn't really mean... did you?

An amazing statistic... (1)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606201)

The interstate highway system makes up les sthat 1% of the roads of the USA, yet it carries 25% of the traffic. There would be no commercial trucking industry without it.

Thats great but... (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606215)

Here in Pennsylvania they built all these wonderful roads and bridges and never thought to do any maintenance in the past 50 years. Now you have bridges with chunks of concrete falling off and roads that look worse than an iraqi highway. Hell one of the overpasses on I-70 fell in last year. Don't even talk about the layout of the roads in western PA...

Re:Thats great but... (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606359)

Everyone cuts on PA's roads, but they always seem to be under construction, at least on my commute.

Both WWI and WWII (5, Interesting)

Old Grey Beard (869804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606219)

Eisenhower was a Lt. Colonel in WWI. Shortly after that war he participated in an Army experiment: moving a motorized convoy across the U.S, East to West. It took something like 68 days, with innumerable breakdowns and washouts. In his report, Ike mentioned there were some roads that had been well-built but not maintained, and had thus deteriorated badly.

After the Normandy invasion Ike's troops were again slogging, this time through French hedgerows. Finally when he got to Germany and could use the Autobahn, well, you know the rest of the story...

If we had only stuck with the autobahn... (3, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606236)

The problem with highways is that there are entirely too many exits and entrances. Most of the traffic we experience is due to merging errors and crashes caused by merging.

If you look at a map of any place with urban sprawl, like Atlanta, highways are the first cancerous veins that spread the disease of McMansions and thirty mile commutes. If there were far less highway entrances and exits, and someone besides complete idiots in the zoning office, the inconvenience of driving five miles to the nearest highway exit would cause more people to buy homes closer to town. Cities would then be more efficent and better served by mass transit systems. With less cars, and fewer and shorter car commutes, we'd also lessen our dependence on foreign oil. People would be forced to do more with less, so instead of having entire floors that go unused (yet still air conditioned), more efficient townhomes and apartments would be used instead.

Proper city planning will determine which civilization survives the 21st century the best. It's too bad America is doing so poorly.

As a resident of Connecticut (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606254)

As a resident of Connecticut I would welcome plenty of this state being buried knee deep in excavations from the interstate system.

Actually, come to think of it I think we are well on our way already with the permanent road construction around here.

They missed a statistic (5, Insightful)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606284)

"If you lined up all the dead bodies of the people who have died on the Interstate system over the past 50 years, it would circle the Earth twice."

One major thing that Ike failed to bring over from the German system: driver's education.

The U.S. education, licensing and renewal of drivers is a joke. Personally, I don't want anyone who didn't make 95% on their test on the road, but here we have most of the drivers who made 70% and it shows, every day. To further agitate the issue, law enforcement and insurance companies have too much forgiveness: four tickets/year allowed (in TX), defensive driving courses (what a joke).

I wouldn't drive to work every day if I had an alternative. Personally, I'd rather go back to horses.

Re:They missed a statistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606321)

I understand that the United Kingdom has incredibly stringent licensing requirements... and as a result they've ended up with a nontrival number of unlicensed drivers.

Bush (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606289)

So Bush just visited Iraq. Should we be worried?

Too Bad.... (5, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606299)

One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that United States needed to develop. Just too bad it is STILL one of the things that the United States needs to develop. The Autobahn is a meticulessly well maintained super-highway with engineered drive surfaces, well gradiated turns, and minimal obstructions of view to drivers. The surface itself is designed to remove water from contact with tires, which greatly enhanses performance in wet weather. With almost no "small hills" to obstruct/obscure the view in front of the driver, situations do not exist for a slowdown that is over a blind hill to cause an accident since drivers always have more then enough warning of traffic slowdowns, accidents, or broken-down vehicles in their lane to either change lanes, slow down, or otherwise avoid the problem. This is also the reason why parts of the Autobahn system have no speed limits, only strict rules for which lane to be in and rules to let vehicles traveling faster then you to pass you... We STILL don't have ANYTHING NEAR LIKE THAT.

Rush hour (1)

elgee (308600) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606300)

This enginneering marvel made bumper to bumper rush hour possible.

Right when Cars reminded us of the disadvantages (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606307)

""one of the Seven Wonders of the United States"

Tell that to John Lasseter.

How much did it cost? (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606317)

In todays dollars how much have we spent on the interstate system?
How much does it cost us to make 1 mile of interstate today?
What kind of mass transit systems could have been built with that money?

Thanks Ike! (1)

NosTROLLdamus (979044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606318)

Wow, that totally destroyed small roadside attractions and laid an infrastructure that help spread chains and franchises like McDonalds and Starbucks! Thanks Ike!

Of course, it also doesn't help that many americans prefer to shop at familiar generic places... but still, even though there were many benefits, I want my roadside attractions and small, shitty diners back.

Why an Interstate Highway in Hawaii? (3, Interesting)

dalewj (187278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606320)

Interesting Triva. Why is there an interstate highway in Hawaii when it goes to no other state?
Because all military bases, when the project was created, had to be linked to the interstate system. It was one of the selling points to the public... we can move troops and equipment in case of need to other parts of the US. So the intertate highway system in Hawaii connects the militray bases.

It also has. just barely, but has the 2 mile straight length that was demanded in each highway every so often for landing endangered aircraft.

Also from the discovery or history channel learned that lots of it was designed from the German Autobahn system and how the intersections don't stop traffic.

As a fellow resident of CT (1)

XST1 (824817) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606328)

Everytime theres a discussion about highways we always have to bring Connecticut into it... Thats why we changed our state motto to "The Construction State"

wish that filthy state was buried (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606347)

"excavation for the interstate system has moved enough material to bury the State of Connecticut knee-deep in dirt" wish all them damn america-hating socailist liberals were buried in dirt

FIRST FIX THE FUCKING FLAG ICON POST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606352)

fftffip in the house boyyyyyy

Too bad (3, Insightful)

hudsonhawk (148194) | more than 8 years ago | (#15606363)

One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that United States needed to develop.


Too bad he didn't notice their train system while he was over there too. Our lack of a national public transportation system is wasteful and embarassing.

What the heck is an FHA? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15606370)

I've been working in the industry for 10 years, and in every document and every reference, it's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). No one refers to them as the FHA.

Even their website is http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ [dot.gov]

If you can't even get basic things like this right...
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