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Divided Highways (1997)
by Tom Lewis
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140267719, Paperback)Picture a field of dirt, piled knee high, that covers an area the size of Connecticut, or imagine a concrete sidewalk extending a million miles into space. You will have envisioned, Tom Lewis tells us, the amount of earth moved and the amount of concrete poured to make America's interstate highway system, a network of roads planned far back in the 19th century but completed only a few years ago. The public's view of the interstate system, Lewis writes, has been colored in recent decades by the grim realities of gridlock, smog, and road rage. In their early years, however, these highways seemed to promise the freedom of the open road, a gateway to faraway coasts. Lewis does a fine job of conveying the grandeur of the project, the largest work of civil construction ever undertaken by a democratic power.
Lewis's narrative is peopled with largely unknown figures, among them the little-heralded but critically important engineer Harris MacDonald. MacDonald turned the federal Bureau of Public Roads into a powerful force of social as well as physical engineering and paved the way for the large-scale projects of the Roosevelt and Eisenhower administrations. Lewis, a well-traveled explorer on the byways of technological progress, extends his history well into the past. He describes the building of the first national and post roads, the great parkways that connected such far-flung cities as Winnipeg and Miami, the once rural roads that, over the decades, blossomed into multilane highways--a process that has always depended on what Lewis calls "Americans' faith in technocracy" and their will to shape the future, acre by acre. --Gregory McNamee
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:25 -0400)
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