Urban Transportation Planning in the United States: An Historical Overview

By Edward Weiner | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Early Highway Planning

Early highway planning grew out of the need for information on the rising tide of automobile and truck usage during the first quarter of the twentieth century. From 1904, when the first automobiles ventured out of the cities, traffic grew at a steady and rapid rate. After the initial period of highway construction that connected many of the nation’s cities, emphasis shifted to improving the highway system to carry these increased traffic loads. Early highway planning focused on the collection and analysis of factual information and on applying that information to the growing highway problems in the period prior to World War Π.


NEED FOR HIGHWAY PLANNING

In the early years of highway construction, the automobile had been regarded as a pleasure vehicle rather than as an important means of transportation. Consequently, highways consisted of comparatively short sections that were built from the cities into the countryside. There were significant gaps in many important intercity routes. During this period, urban roads were considered adequate, particularly in comparison to rural roads, which were generally not paved.

As the automobile was improved and ownership became more widespread, the idea of a highway network gained in strength. The concept of a continuous national system of highways was recognized in the Federal Highway Act of 1921. The Act required that the state highway departments designate a system of principal interstate and intercounty roads, limited to 7 percent of the total mileage of rural roads then existing. The use of federal-aid funds was restricted to this system. This concentration of attention on a carefully selected system of

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