Today is the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower's signing of the bill that created the interstate highway system. Today's Miami Herald has an article about how these roads helped to shape South Florida.
I agree. These roads have helped to shape America and may be the the biggest impact Eisenhower had on American life as President. It has long survived his Presidency. Travel cross country was made easier as was local commuting. Can you imagine South Florida today without I-95? I don't think this bit of Florida would be like it is today if not for that road.
I-95 took over 20 years to complete in Florida. The road runs about 385 miles in the state. Why so long? The Florida Turnpike was the reason. Florida didn't want to lose revenue from the toll road, so a secret agreement was made not to finish the interstate till the Turnpike's 30 year bonds were paid off. That wasn't till the mid to late 80's and why I-95 for so many years had a missing link between Ft. Pierce and Palm Beach Gardens.
Open Post- TMH's Bacon Bits, Blue Star,
Fifty years ago today, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill that transformed South Florida and the United States.
With the possible exception of the Internet, no innovation over the last 50 years touched more American lives on a daily basis, via commerce and culture, than the advent of the interstate highway system.
The 47,000-mile network of limited-access highways knit the country together, forging a common sense of the American identity, much like the transcontinental railroad in the mid-1800s and television after World War II, said Doug Callaway, executive director of Floridians for Better Transportation.
''Today we take it all for granted,'' Callaway said. ``It was an idea that was profoundly simple and simply profound. Imagine someone 50 years ago saying that you could get in your car in Miami and be able to drive all the way to Los Angeles without hitting one stoplight if you wanted to. Amazing.''
The interstates fueled an unprecedented wave of development that transformed sleepy Sun Belt outposts like Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas and Phoenix into regional hubs with sprawling suburbs that spawned ``Edge Cities.''
In Florida, the interstate system -- and the advent of affordable, mass-produced air conditioning -- drove a residential building boom with no end in sight. Florida had 4.9 million residents in 1960; today, it has 17.7 million. Broward's population has risen from 334,000 in 1960 to nearly 1.8 million today. Miami-Dade's increased from 935,000 to 2.36 million.
Interstates also ushered in a new wave of prosperity for Florida tourism -- suddenly putting beaches, sunshine and exotic locales within a day's drive for a larger segment of the swelling middle class.
Imagine what Central Florida would look like today if Walt Disney hadn't understood the power of the nation's highways. Disney decided to build his new ''world'' on 47 square miles of swamp and cattle pasture close to I-4 and Florida's Turnpike.
The interstates revolutionized commerce -- and the places where goods are sold.
City-center shopping districts withered as suburban malls surrounded by huge crop-circles of asphalt became de facto town centers. Fast-food outlets, lodging chains and Big Box retail stores sprang up like weeds at interstate exits, even in remote areas.
Workplaces migrated to the fringes. The vast majority of South Florida workers are commuting from suburb to suburb, not suburb to downtown -- making it much harder to retrofit the region for mass transit.
''It's really led to the enormous growth of suburbia, for better and worse,'' said South Florida historian Paul George. ``We wound up making swampland available as tract housing lots for the masses and really decimated some old neighborhoods in the process.''
Eisenhower first started thinking about a national road network in 1919, when he participated in a coast-to-coast convoy as an Army officer. The trip, over large stretches of dirt and gravel roads, took 62 days, said Dan McNichol, author of The Roads That Built America.
Eisenhower's thinking crystallized during World War II when he was commander of Allied forces in Europe.
McNichol said the future president marveled at the commercial and tactical advantages Nazi Germany enjoyed with the Autobahn.
The Interstate Highway Bill of 1956 created a national trust fund for state highway construction and maintenance, paid for by taxes on gas and diesel sales. What followed was the largest public works project in American history.
The bill did a lot more than ignite a road construction boom. It spawned a car culture that permeates every corner of modern American life.
But plenty has been lost in the name of progress, George said.
The echoes still resonate in Overtown, where interstates 95 and 395 ripped through the heart of Miami's historic black enclave and the population plummeted from 40,000 in the early 1960s to about 9,000 today.
Overtown was already in decline, historians say, but the destruction of homes and displaced businesses cemented its fate. More than four decades later, Overtown still struggles to rebound.
Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach were largely spared the same fate as Overtown because they were smaller cities with readily available land next to existing rail lines.