The Origin of the US Interstate Highways System
Chronicling the origins of the country’s interstate highway system, the History Channel said that it dates all the way back from the early-1900s after the first World War when car production quadrupled. The ambitious Thomas MacDonald envisioned interconnecting interstate highways across the nation, an idea born out of the experience he had as a child watching farmers’ crops wilt before they were able to sell it due to inefficient transportation.
When he was appointed the chief of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, he began to design what would become the highway system. He pitched it 20 years later to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who thought that the road building effort would provide employment for Americans in dire need of a job. With FDR’s approval, highway construction began in the east of the Appalachian mountains. From there, MacDonald intended to eventually connect it to those built in the Western Rockies.
His tenure as chief of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, however, was then cut short when war hero-turned-president Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed MacDonald’s protege Frank Turner as his new successor.
Fortunately, Turner has done justice to this role. A lot of cities have become booming metropolitans thanks to his contribution towards US interstate highways.
However, he was behind schedule. The looming deadline, coupled by his overinflated expenditures, the pressure to finally connect the US interstate highways to the west of the Appalachian mountains was starting to gnaw at him.
His main problem was connecting the highway to the west. He insisted that the direct route of the I-70 has to run through the mountain. For this to work, a tunnel has to be built. Turner is concerned about the safety of those who will be using the highway. After all, a poorly-built tunnel may not be able to withstand the heavy weight of the mountain, endangering the lives of those driving underneath.
Turner solved this issue by applying the multiple drift technique which lowered the probability of cave-ins and collapse. After his success with road building, Turner retired, and the plan to finish the interstate highway system, as we know it now, was passed on to someone else and was finished by the year 1995.
But while the US Interstate Highways System paved the way for economic development, its very existence is also a conduit for the traffic fatalities we see in our lifetime. The design of the highways does not prioritize the safety of human life, so people need to be careful when trekking these roads or they acquire severe personal injuries.
The Flaws of the US Interstate Highways System
TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, has recently found that not only is the interstate system congested, it’s also deteriorating. This puts people at a worsening risk for traffic fatalities, and what the figures found in California are prime examples of the drawbacks of the system. According to the report, California ranks #1 among “congested urban interstate” in a 2021 report by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. 87% of its urban interstates are congested, whereas the national average sits at 47%. It once again ranks #1 in “daily inter state travel per lane mile” at 20,947 against the national average of 14,742.
The study also found that California’s interstate pavement is in poor condition, sitting at 6%, which is double that of the national average. It also is ranked #16 among the list of states with structurally deficient interstate bridges.
The issues of the US interstates are reflected in the traffic congestion and record-high traffic fatalities that are occurring in the city of Los Angeles. Unless significant reform is passed to fix the drawbacks of the US interstate highway system, then a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer should be in every Angeleno’s speed dial.
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