Dialogue: The Big Roads

Jul 11, 2018

Credit Chris Patriarca, Interstate Guide.com

Summer is travel season in the U.S., as it has been for decades. While American drivers take for granted the interstates and major highways that connect here and there, travel wasn't always so routine or easy. The highways that today carries millions of vacationers are the product of more than a century of planning, experimentation, legislation and controversy. This edition of Dialogue explores the roots and the effects of the country's long push to tie itself together.

Earl Swift, author of the 2015 book The Big Roads, joins host Brandon Hollingsworth for a discussion about the history of America's highway networks.

Then, Brandon is joined by two other guests who will focus on the effects interstates had on two Tennessee cities. Beginning in the late 1950s, a group of Memphians organized to fight a proposal that would put Interstate 40 through the heart of the city's largest park. They prevailed, but only after lengthy court battles and fights with state and federal highway planners. Conservation manager Brooks Lamb talks about the effort to save Overton Park.

In Nashville, opposition to the planned path of Interstate 40 was led by black community members, because it was predominantly black neighborhoods targeted for demolition. Unlike the effort in Memphis, the attempt to re-route the highway was unsuccessful. Wayne Moore is Tennessee’s assistant state archivist; he tells us how Nashville's story played out very differently.