Review of The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways
Author: Earl Swift
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Shana
A wonderful book, adroitly navigating the history of our major highway system – a system most of us take for granted. The aptly-named Swift guides the reader through the earliest calls for better roads, introducing us to individuals who saw the roads as places for bicycles well before horseless carriages became all the rage.
He continues by introducing the prime movers who gave eventual birth (after a decades long gestation) to the interstate and all its loops, whirls, spurs, and bypasses. These are mostly not names you know, and he manages to juxtapose the human scale and importance of the endeavor with the sheer vastness of project in miles, materials, and dollars. In doing so, he gives full voice to the points of view of the highway men, public servants, and engineers who conceived of the project, as well as the concerns and desires of the citizens either clamoring for or being displaced by the promised roads.
As a result, the reader is constantly amazed anew at each new detail, each problem surmounted, each nuance that had to be maneuvered, and all the more so since we drive, but rarely really look at our interstate system. And while Swift obviously admires the scope of these men's ambition and their technical capability, he also gives voice to communities torn asunder by new lanes of traffic, how the rise of the automobile irrevocably changed American life (not always for the better), and the current state of disrepair that much of America’s road infrastructure is steadily decaying into. All in all, a great book and one that puts the road most traveled into the well-deserved spotlight.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...