Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Monday, August 26, 2013

Defending the Interstates in Route 66 Culture

If you where to have a transparent overlay of the modern interstates, and laid it over an old map of Route 66 you could see what replaced what quickly. If you could get a more in depth view, you could also see what sections of 66 are now interstate. You'd see I-40, 55, 44, and 15 all take a cut, and there is a really great reason. 

You see study Route 66 long enough and immerse yourself in the culture and you will eventually begin to hear about the "evil interstates". You'll here the old adage about "driving from one end of the country to the other on the interstate and never seeing a thing", that's one the old timers like to tell. Or the accusations that "the homogeny of the interstate begat homogenous fast food, hotels, and gas stations so no matter where your at your always in the same place !". Trust me the list goes on, and I do see what they are getting at. The flat four lanes, and lots of McDonalds, BPs, and Comfort Inn's do add some homogeny, but to me not enough to get where there at. There are also those little intimations that that the interstates killed Route 66, and the death of Route 66 meant the death of a kinder gentler America. All I have to say is really?

 You see it in the magazines, and you'll read it in books, on the subject. Some of the best authors will mention it either directly or in passing. But what I think they forget is this one simple fact "Route 66 killed Route 66". The road had just carried to much of a burden on it, and may of its sister routes did, and many still do. Sure the road went from town to town, and flowed with the land, but that was also its undoing. As I mentioned in a previous article "Bloody 66 - A Harsh Reality" the Route 66 had become a route noted for terrible car accidents, due to its flowing roads, and town to town hoping. 

The interstates love them or hate them where needed. Sure they are flat, and the bypassed towns, but they where safer and unencumbered by side roads, stop lights, and two lane hilly, curvy stretches. They had in fact become an absolute necessity, in a two lane world. 

Besides the aspect of safety which to me seems to be the number one benefit, there of course is commerce. Trucks where able to become bigger and carry more, and without stopping at every dot on the map for a stop sign or light, could in fact deliver goods faster and with greater fuel efficiency, not to mention cheaper. Which also must make you ask, if the interstates had not existed widely by the 1970's, specifically 1973 and 1974 during the oil crisis could things have been far worse. 

Now as a proponent of Route 66, and a firm green believer in interstate rail transport over truck, its hard for me to stand by the Interstates. Yet at the same time we must admit that they have made life safer, and have helped to keep the costs of products down. Even if your not a fan of the marginal economic gain, you have to ask yourself about the value in human life of the highway. 

So as you read on and the interstate's become evil, stop and ask yourself about their true value. 

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