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Interstate Highways—Our No. 1 Enemy? . .
The Tiger Is Through the Gate By GRADY CLAY, Staff Writer, Louisville (Ky.) COURIER-JOURNAL EDITOR'S PREFACE; Over the rest of the nation, as well as in Montana, a conflict is raging over location of Interstate Highways. Highway engineers, in other states as in Montana, have set themselves up as being above criti cism, have taken to themselves a role of self-righteousness. Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL staffer Grady Clay in the article that follows, raises many legitimate arguments supporting his thesis "that the men in control of the highway program are interested in the program, rather than in people; in concrete, and not communities; in traffic movement—over what ever stands in the way . . ." What he says about the autocratic attitude of Highway engineers in other areas, applies in many details to Montana. We present for your consideration "The Tiger Is Through the Gate", More than a year ago, I was prompt ed to observe that the new Federal highway program was "today's tiger at the gate—a tremendous concen tration of energy busting loose in all directions" apable our cities and countryside unless held in check. Today, some 16 months later, •we see hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of new highways, bridges, inter changes,. and other geometric whirli gigs under construction. And there is no doubt; the tiger is through the gate. Back in 1955, the President's Ad visory Committee on a national high way program observed that the ex pansion of highways had already be gun a revolution in our living habits. Since that day, we have watched this revolution get underway. We who must live with its fruits, the bitter with the sweet; we who had pinned our hopes on this, the greatest con struction program in American his tory, are filled with both admiration and dismay—admiration for the great skill at organization of materials, money, men, and machinery which makes this job possible, and dismay at the single-mindedness which seems so prevalent, at the inordinate speed, and at many of the results. We hope it won't be as bad as it looks, but we fear it will. We have no monopoly on wisdom, and yet a great deal of skepticism about the omniscience of those in charge of the program. BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS? The optimists among us believe this new revolution is producing the best of all possible worlds. The pessimists among us look around, and are afraid the optimists are right. My purpose is to emphasize that highway planning and community planning are not necessarily the same thing; that paving an interstate high way does not produce a transportation system; that we must live with the monsters we create ; and that the pur pose of a highway system is to help create a better civilization. This is a tool-t-and not an end in itself. We cannot achieve a better civili zation by such simple expedients as learning to speak the other fellow's language. For one thing, this would mean that all the rest of us would have to learn to talk like engineers. At the moment, they seem to have been elevated into positions of power where they can tell us what they want, rather than how to get what we want. Although a great many millions of non-engineers have a vital stake in highways, the reaction of some of the group to the rest of us and our sug gestions reminds me of the old Ken tucky mountaineer who hadn't kissed his wife in 7 years. But he shot the first man who tried it. OVER WHATEVER STANDS IN ITS WAY My impression ia that the men in control of the highway program are intereated in the program, rather than in people; in concrete, and not in communitiea; in traffic move ment—over whatever atanda in ita way. They have got more public money to spenrf than any nonatomic profes sion ever had in peacetime. They're convinced that they act in the nation al interest, in the public interest, and in behalf of the national defense. Oc casionally, this conviction is coupled with a self-righteouness which has to be encountered to be believed. Not long ago I saw a 7-mile inter state expressway placed on a city map at the request of an anonymous offi cial at a nearby Army post—a man never identified in public debate, never quoted except indirectly. But he was alleged to have said this was "necessary for defense". And his word was enough. Any time an anonymous Army offi cial can designate a $10 to $20 million expressway through a crowded city, he's fine himself. He needs no help from us. Even more recently I have watched the town trustees of a small suburban city wake up in dismay to find that a new loop highway had—without their knowledge or consent—been scheduled to cut their community in two. When they finally raised Cain about it, they were reassured by the state that "this is just preliminary; nothing has happened yet. "YOU AIN'T BEEN HURT YET" Which reminds me of the fellow who hollered "Don't shoot!" at the man pointing a gun at him. Where upon the other man demanded: "What you hollering about? You ain't been hurt—yet." As a reporter, I have written a num ber of stories about urban redevelop ment, and about highway planning. Nowhere in public life today have I encountered such failure to recognize the need for comprehensive local planning as in this Federal Highway Act. It does not require that interstate or federally aided highways be located as part of a comprehensive community plan. Nor does it require communities to develop a workable program for an dverall transportation system. ff Many local towns are too poor to plan. Many others claim they can't afford it. Others simply neglect it. Whatever the reasons, I believe the state and federal governments have an obligation to this nation's urban communities to help them work out their own comprehensive plans into which the new highways will fit. CULT OF OFFICIAL SECRECY Meanwhile, the cult of secrecy which blights the official life of Washington has been extended out over the highways. Secrecy, com bined with the smoke screen of of ficial gobbledygook, makes it mighty difficult for the average citizen to find out what's happen ing to him. Not long ago I sat in a conference at which the noted public relations consultant, Edward L. Bernays, re counted his troubles. His firm had been hired by a city which did not want a new expressway laid across its middle like a Chinese wall. Mr. Bernays said ; It was most difficult to get at the facts about procedure * * * to pin down the responsibilities. It took us 3 weeks to isolate the interelationships between the national and state people. ♦ * * The national and state engineers . . were working closely together, which formed an 'entente', making it diffi cult to get the public interest. It was difficult to get a decision whether it was worth going underground, versus the elevated highway. As a result, the city has had to develop its own pres sure-group techniques." While such cities are forced to de velop pressure-group tactics to keep from being split up, what can smaller citizens' groups do? I have recently watched a strenuous local controversy in which the oppo nents of a proposed interstate high way through three city parks have been assured that "the route is not pinned down yet" and that "any pro tests at this time are premature." Yet when they tried to suggest rerouting another portion, on which public hear ings already had been held, they were told that no changes could be made "because of the state's investment in engineering studies and efforts. In other words, if the public hear ing hasn't yet been held, you're premature. And after the public hearing, you're too late. Meanwhile, those of us who believe ' * that open space is necessary for to morrow's city, who wish to preserve America's green and lovely city parks and playgrounds, are disturbed over the reckless pursuit of free open space by the highway planners. PARKS; SITTING DUCKS FOR HIGHWAY MEN Every big city park is a sitting duck for the highway men, and for the lo cal officials anxious to cut down their right-of-way costs, Any attack on city park lands has] the sanction of the American Associa tion of State Highway Officials in its official bible —the "Policy on Arterial Highways in Urban Areas," published in 1957. On page 91 of this book is a map. It's entitled "Location oppor ' ' tunities for arterial highways. And what do they consider a loca tion opportunity? The one and only park in tlje entire city. Their recom mended route cuts through not just a little corner of the park, not just across one end of the park, but right smack down the entire length of the park. If this hasn't happened in your town yet, I can only suggest it's be cause the highway men haven't been reading their bible lately. But all too often, I suspect, the highway locators and park grabbers are aided and abetted by stingy, penny pinching local officials who are anx ious to cut down their right-of-way costs by either giving away or selling park land at ridiculous prices. What about public hearings? I can not speak of the thousands, of hear ings I have not seen, but from some personal observation I am forced to conclude that the public hearing is a carefully staged performance de signed to show the audience why the | route officially agreed upon in private cannot be changed. As one of the Brit ish motor magazines recently de- 1 scribed it these are affairs where "at worst, aggrieved persons may hear | very sound reasons why things cannot be altered." The burden of proof is placed on the private citizen who often is poorly informed and easily buffa loed by technical mumbo jumbo. At one public hearing I recently covered, a representative of the state highway department opened the tape recorded portion of the hearing by making this statement: "The question is whether you be lieve a good road will help this coun try. That's the question in an eco nomic-impact hearing. Is a good road needed in your country? I'd like to get a statement from anyone present concerning the need for good roads in this county. ' • In other words, don't make any fuss about the route we've already picked. Just be thankful. And if not, be quiet. At this point, somebody always asks; "But what about the land specu lators? We can't release plans for that highway. Those speculators will rush BE THANKFUL OR BE QUIET out ahead of us and grab up the land." Let me quote the answer given by the editor of Right of Way magazine, the voice of the American Right-of-1 Way Association; A state which has a sound right-of . . A state which has a sound right-of . . ... . way acquisition program, predicated upon complete accurate appraisals, and sound skilled negotiations, and which releases to the public all avail able data, has nothing to fear from the so-called speculators. For specu lators flourish only where, there is concealment of information, and where right-of-way departments are unskilled, uncertain, and subject to the whims of politics." In closing, may I submit that— 1. A greater share of highway plan ning should be entrusted to local offi cials and local citizen groups—to the people who will have to live alongside these highways, to the school officials whose districts may be chopped up, to the lovers of city parks who know that quiet, peace, and beauty are pos sible only at the price of constant to me, needs amendment to require much more preliminary consultation with local interest groups as well as local officials. And where there are no local plans a condition prevalent CHECKLIST FOR HIGHWAY PLANNERS vigilance. The Federal Highway Act, it seems Keyserling Raps Spurious Anti-Inflation Campaign | * A "spurious" campaign against in flation has been used to defeat our most profound national objectives, a leading economist has charged. ' ' The charge was made by Leon Key serling, former chairman of the Presi dent's Council of Economic Advisors, in a pamphlet published last month. I The pamphlet, entitled, "Inflation, Cause and Cure," bears the imprint 0 f t be Conference on Economic Prog I ress, an organization of business, la I___ _ _ bor ' an( j farm leaders, Because the "spurious" campaign has "misused the inflationary threat, America has neglected defense re quirements, education, housing, con servation programs and other essen tial activities, Keyserling said, S ' 10U ' C ' provide money to help create such plans. 2. Highway planning is no place for "It has stunted our long-range rate of economic growth, provoked enor mous waste in the form of itjle man power and other productive resources, and consequently undermined the bas ic source of our domestic strength and international security," he added. The economist further charged that the campaign has "given us more in flation" than at any time except dur ing war and that it has "curbed infla tion temporarily" only by provoking a recession. Keyserling declared that "restric tive monetary and budgetary policies suited to wartime have been applied during recent years to "slow r down an economy which was already moving too slowly. "The future of our country, and the free world," he said, "may well de pend on the speed and discernment with which we abandon the effort to I ' ' ' in thousands of communities—the act sec f ec y, and no place for secret prepa r ^ion of a single, inviolable, changeable approved solution. 3. There is room, and there should un be time, for alternate routes to be studied in much detail. Too much of this route-picking is being done by map reconnaissance, and not by human beings who get out on their own hindlegs and walk the routes. I suggest that, by the time of the public hearings, the state and fed eral highway people should have made adequate comparisons of acreages, dwellings to be demol ished, mileages, and rough cost es timates for more than one route, especially where controversial areas are involved. Then we shall begin to have intelligent, well-informed public debate, with plenty of in formation available to all parties. Also, I hope to see the development of dependable cost-benefit studies, with consideration given for damage done by taking park land, splitting school districts, spilling noise into quiet residential districts, and the damage done to property values out side the right-of-way by noise and vibration, 4. I hope somebody is developing a better method of locating inter changes than sticking one's finger on the map where the new centerline crosses a big right-angle road and saying "We'll take this one." It is around these interchanges that the competition for choice shopping center sites is the hottest. Here is | where the speculators congregate. .Here is where the zoning lawsuits flourish; here is where the experts | testify. Here is where ancient farms i an( j deep woodlands suddenly become worth millions; here is where the un earned increment in land value ac cumulates, much of it sucked away | f rom 0 id commercial strips and neigh borhood stores, or siphoned away from land elsewhere. I hope we can I develop some way to recapture, for the general welfare, more of this un earned increment which will inevit a bly pile up around these inter changes. There are few geographic areas out side the central business district in which an entire metropolitan area has a bigger stake than in the one or two | square miles around the big new inter changes. What happens to the thousand or so I acres near the interchange is a real test of our ability to solve metropoli tan problems. Here begin the oppor | tunities for designing satellite towns, I for encouraging development of speci sacrifice progress on the altar of a false stability, and achieve a genuine stability founded upon moving for ward." Despite the current recovery, the over-all growth rate for the entire period "of the Eisenhower Administra tion to date, has been only about 2.4 per cent which "would be less than half of what we need and can readily achieve." Keyserling recommended that the spurious" campaign against inflation be immediately replaced with public and private economic policies directed .. at: • A high and sustained rate of economic growth; • Attention to the great priorities of our national and international needs; • Economic justice. He declare^ that the first require ment of economic policy should be establishment of a National Prosper ity Budget, to be developed under the Employment Act of 1946. This budget, Keyserling stressed, should set forth short and longe range goals for maximum employment, pro duction, and purchasing power. "Ev ery main element in national eco nomic policy, including the federal budget and monetary policy, should ,be made consistent with and conducive to the attainment of these goals and should be projected over a period of several years ahead."—IUD BULLE TIN. DEMAND THE UNION LABEL fied suburban communities, 5. We should be developing the idea of highway service areas which has ctfme from Prof. J. Marshall Miller at Columbia University. Such areas, preplanned and part of an interchange regional plan, would include motels, restaurants, service stations, stores, and all the services that thè weekend and cross-country traveler could need. 6. It is high time to stop looking at highways as merely permanent devices for moving traffic, and be gin designing them as multipurpose projects for achieving the widest range of social, economic, and cul tural goals. We should be thinking of rights of way a thousand or so feet wide in ap propriate places—rights of way which include borrow pits designed from the beginning to become recreation lakes or retention basins for storm waters; rights of way which may follow the edges of property lines rather than the absolutely straight, traditional beeline, providing space for tree series, nur wildlife refuges, recreation areas, viewpoints. I suggest that we broaden our sights to look on the rights of way as a means of carrying the full range of utilities, including monorail and mass transit wherever appropriate. The designers of America's new highways must realize what's happen ed to their public. This public is more visual-minded than any in our history. Its members are conscious of the pass ing scene, whether it be a barren des ert decorated with all the which the excrescences industry can build before local zoning goes into effect; a lovely bluegrass countryside with its gleaming white fences and long sweeping hedgerows that delineate the open countryside about to be sliced by a dead-ahead ramrod-straight highway. or new Today'* public, whether behind the wheel of a car, or subjected to the second-class citizenship to which we nation that is beautiful as well efficient; it wants to see the land scape enhanced and not destroyed, beautified and not subjected to the straight-line thinking which will produce a new kind of railroad trackage through the townscape. The people have already put suffi cient pressure on their Congress to pass the stiffest law in history regu lating billboards; they already have begun to support aesthetic zoning in many jurisdictions; they will, I trust, be quick to protest any new highway which does not contribute its share of beauty and urbanity to the modern townscape. It is to this public that the new highway system should be dedi cated. relegate all pedestrians, wants a