2011 Book of the Year – The Big Roads

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways, by Earl Swift. A new-born industry is growing explosively, changing the entire landscape of American communications and bringing down the cost of doing business. Consumers are buying and using its products at an amazing rate, but this same industry requires a tremendous infrastructure. Who’s going to pay for its construction during times of global conflict and economic struggle? Private companies, the federal government, or the states? No, I’m not talking about the Internet. I’m talking about the original superhighways. Earl Swift tells their story in his fascinating book: The Big Roads. The dedicated engineers, the clueless and turf-coveting politicians, the entrepreneurs willing to risk getting in early were all there, just as they are now and Swift does a good job of making it reasonably entertaining to readers with little technical knowledge.

On a personal note, my grandfather began his post-WWI career as a State Road Commissioner in West Virginia and eventually became a senior Highway Civil Engineer with the Forestry Service.

American history is relatively short and yet it repeats itself in so many different areas. Maybe it’s time I look at re-subscribing to American Heritage magazine.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.


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