I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday. I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.
With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate. On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times. The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours. In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.
As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made. It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto). But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.
Granted, there were downsides: the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads. Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them. Of course, the converse is true: many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.
So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities. So, where is the hate?