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The Big Roads

The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighw

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


“Travelers hitting the highways this summer might better appreciate the asphalt beneath their tires thanks to this engrossing history of the creation of the U.S. interstate system.”—Los Angeles Times

Perhaps nothing changed the face of America more than the creation of the interstate system. At once man-made wonders, economic pipelines, agents of sprawl, and uniquely American sirens of escape, the interstates snake into every aspect of modern life. The Big Roads documents their historic creation and the many people they’ve affected, from the speed demon who inspired a primitive web of dirt auto trails, to the cadre of largely forgotten technocrats who planned the system years before Ike reached the White House, to the thousands of city dwellers who resisted the concrete juggernaut when it bore down on their neighborhoods.

The Big Roads tells the story of this essential feature of the landscape we have come to take for granted. With a view toward players both great and small, Swift gives readers the full story of one of America’s greatest engineering achievements.

“Engaging, informative . . . The first thorough history of the expressway system.”—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“The book is a road geek’s treasure—and everyone who travels the highways ought to know these stories.”—Kirkus Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 21, 2011 – Swift (Where They Lay) begins his account of the building of America's "triumph of engineering" in the early 20th century, long before Eisenhower authorized the interstate highway system, and ends with a discussion of the future of today's aging, gas-hungry system. To form a coherent picture of the 47,000-mile undertaking, Swift weaves together the engineering feats, the routing and naming debates, the politics of funding, and the social costs of relocating citizens in the proposed freeway paths. A strong narrative follows the careers of the men who pioneered the system, primary among them Thomas Harris McDonald, who headed the Federal Bureau of Public Roads for 34 years, starting in 1919. While Swift admires the builders' accomplishments, he gives voice to highway critics, including social commentator Lewis Mumford. Swift's eye for anecdotes, some absurd in retrospect (for example the suggestion to blast through California's mountains with nuclear bombs), humanizes the enterprise. His writing is easygoing, and readers interested in urban planning as well as engineering will find a well-told story about a defining American feature. 8 pages of b&w photos.

Customer Reviews

Good book

Good book. Well researched and well written. Pulls together the long history of cars, driving, and roads in America. Nicely discusses the plusses and minuses of - especially urban - road construction. Does a great job using specific places (Baltimore, South Of The Border, various interstate exits) to illustrate the issues.

The Big Roads Review

What a great piece of literary work! Being an automotive enthusiast, having a great thirst for travel and road trips, and being very intrigued by history, I was drawn to this book. Earl Swift does an excellent job telling the story about how our highway and interstate system came to being. From basically society making their own roads, to primitive dirt roads to different iterations and takes on the modern system, you really get a sense, appreciation and respect for our highway and interstate system. We pretty much take this road system for granted but this book really gave me a deep appreciation for it and the many people and years it took to develop. I recommend Earl Swift's, "The Big Roads" to anyone that drives on our freeway system.

The Big Roads
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Sep 18, 2012
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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