Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Looking Down The Highway

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. interstate highway system will turn 50 this year, on June 29.

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law creating the system and the Highway Trust Fund to finance it in 1956.

So when the Transportation Research Board held its 85th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., recently, a panel of academic and private sector experts took stock of the half-century gone by and gazed down the road ahead for our car-centric nation.

Like the Internet, the interstate has affected the American economy in ways its creators couldn’t and didn’t imagine. Bruce Seeley, professor of history and chair of the social sciences department at Michigan Technological University, reminded would-be seers that planners didn’t anticipate how the interstate would affect freight movement. "The idea of trucks replacing railroads in so many areas was not envisioned,” he said. Nor did planners foresee the economic importance of logistics hubs so prevalent outside such cities as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Indianapolis.

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