In two previous pieces entitled, “The Highway Changes the Town, Then…” and “…The Town Changes the Highway.”  I brought the parallel development of U.S. highways and small towns and cities up to date through the late 1960s.This piece picks up with the original (as far back as 1926) highway alignment being put on the principal street of hundreds of communities, large and small, throughout the United States.Harkening back to my earlier Escondido, California example, after first being assigned to today’s Escondido Boulevard for about 20 years, today’s City Centre Parkway carried Route 395 for another 20 or so years until it, too, was bypassed because of dramatically increased traffic through Escondido.  The third alignment, though, was not U.S. Route 395.  We know it today as Interstate 15, which has replaced decommissioned U.S. Route 395 from downtown San Diego to the outskirts of Hesperia, north of San Bernardino and Cajon Pass. This evolution is clearly visible.  A single roadway approaches from the south (or north) toward the center of town.  That was the original alignment of U.S. Route 395.  Then south (or north) of town, a newer roadway branches off to one side (to the west in Escondido’s case) to by-pass the downtown area only to rejoin the original alignment on the other side of town.  In Escondido, that by-pass is called City Centre Parkway today.  Early 1950s 4 lane Expressway by-passes around Bakersfield, Delano, Tulare, Madera and Chowchilla were very similar to what was done in Escondido. The highways and places were different but the facts were the same, the highways first changed the towns and, in turn, the towns changed the highways.  But was that it?  No.  Far from it.  Young Army Officer Dwight Eisenhower’s 1919 convoy across the U.S. on the Lincoln Highway made a deep impression.  Later, during WWII, when Ike was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, he had another highway lesson.  Germany’s Autobahns were conceived and mostly built during the 1930s, when we were still using many 15’ wide single slab concrete highways.  We were pouring double wide, and a few dangerous but “modern” triple-wide, concrete slab roadways for our highways.  But they were crude compared to contemporary primary German highways. Ike was impressed, and justifiably so.  The Germans had demonstrated the military value of a modern internal road system that could serve military and civilian needs alike.Shortly after Eisenhower moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1953, he called in some new transportation people to explore his ideas in depth.  Once he had a workable plan in hand, Ike’s congressional allies sponsored The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-627) to begin what became the largest public works project in human history – the United States Interstate Highway System.In my example cities in this series of three articles, Escondido was served by U.S. Route 395 first as today’s Escondido Boulevard in the center of town.  Then, in 1949-50, the highway was moved a few blocks west to today’s City Centre Parkway.  City Centre Parkway is signed today (2012) as I-15 Business Loop and U.S. Route 395 no longer exists south of Hesperia, having been replaced  south of Hesperia by Interstate 15.In the San Joaquin Valley, the names and numbers are different but the situation is the same.  U.S. Route 99 was decommissioned in California in 1964, and signed as California Route 99.  Today’s Interstate 5 is several miles west of Bakersfield, Delano, Tulare and Madera, leaving these and many other California towns with north-south road service provided by a state, rather than U.S., highway.What will come after the Interstate Highway System in another 40 or 50 years?  Will we see a nationwide network of high speed rail?  Will it be Magnetic-Levitation (Mag-Lev) monorail trains?  Hydrogen airships?  I don’t know.  But it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be something new and improved over what we have now.

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