This weekend marks the beginning of a 4-day trip to Colorado, and I’ve spent the last 12 hours in the car. I haven’t been in a car for this long since the family trip to Disneyland 20+ years ago. I had the whole state of Wyoming to wonder what sparked the original idea for the Interstate system.
President Eisenhower actually gets the credit for pushing through the Federal-Aid Highway Act. By 1965, the act had funding of $25 billion (in today’s dollars, over $450 billion). The somewhat morbid rationale was that cities need evacuation routes in case of nuclear war. As of 2004, there’s over 46,000 miles of Interstate. (link)
Criticism of the Interstate focuses mainly on how traffic became focused on getting from point A to point B, bypassing many spots of interest along the way. As Charles Kuralt put it, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” (link) While long stretches of Wyoming’s Interstate supported Kuralt’s point, formations like the one pictured above still stand out. I captured this image while stopped in traffic due to a jack-knifed truck.
The Interstate issue is one that even a Disney movie has addressed. Cars, a Pixar production, includes a town on the legendary Route 66, slowly decaying since traffic rerouted to the nearby Interstate. I got a taste of the small towns the Interstate skips around when we were routed through Green River, Wyoming, to get around the jack-knifed truck. I suspect this town hadn’t seen a similar line of traffic since before I-84 was built on the north side of town.
More on this trip in coming days…