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.