There’s something aesthetically appealing about big, soaring highway ramps conveying a feeling of speed and mobility. And I can understand why, in Robert Moses’ day, people could have thought building highways was a grand endeavor. But we now know they just don’t work. Or do we? Alex Marshall, author of one of the best books on sprawl, writes a great article on the people - some quite influential, like Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook - who still think we ought to be building more highways, fewer rails, and encouraging sprawl.
Who is leading the charge against transit? A group of libertarian pundits, often supported by assorted non-profit foundations, who say the road, the car and even sprawl represent American individualism and marketplace freedom, while rail travel and the urban environment represent wasteful, heavy-handed government intervention. There is one huge problem here. Over the last century, local, state and federal governments have spent more money and exerted more state force in order to build the millions of miles of roads that now wind through city and countryside than on just about anything. So we are greeted with the absurd, but amusing, sight of anti-government, anti-planning types making tortured arguments about how state-built, state-maintained highways and what’s around them represent American individualism and lack of state control.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.