Beginning with the Eisenhower administration and the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, the federal government invested heavily in highway construction. Yet the focus on speed extended well beyond the interstate system. State departments of transportation and city planners embraced the philosophy that roadway designs should optimize travel speed regardless of context.
The resulting roadway and highway network helped fuel decades of unparalleled economic growth. The new system, however, came with significant costs. Metropolitan regions added tens of millions of housing units that lacked access to public transportation, sidewalks, and other pedestrian amenities. Even today, almost one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks. Finding a safe and convenient place to walk, bike, or access public transportation can be a challenge.
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