Twentieth Century Sprawl

Twentieth Century Sprawl : How Highways Transformed America

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Owen Gutfreund's "Twentieth-Century Sprawl" explains important - and largely unexamined - changes in the American landscape. He offers an illuminating look at how highways have dramatically transformed American communities, aiding growth and development in unsettled areas and undermining existing urban centers. Gutfreund takes a "follow the money" approach to show how government policies - from as early as the 1890s - subsidized the spread of cities and fueled a chronic nationwide dependence on cars and road building, with little regard for expense, efficiency, ecological damage, or social equity. As federal, state, and local governments invested in toll-free highways, Americans moved in unprecedented numbers to newly accessible open land on the urban periphery. The consequence was the collapse of center cities, ballooning municipal debt, and rapidly increasing air pollution, not to mention profound changes in American society and culture. Gutfreund tells the story via case studies of three communities - Denver, Colorado; Middlebury, Vermont; and Smyrna, Tennessee.Different as these places are, they all show the ways that government-sponsored highway development radically transformed America's cities and towns. Indeed, though seeming quite dissimilar, both Denver and Middlebury have crippling traffic problems; housing and commercial activity has sprawled outward, leaving downtown areas in danger of decay, while residents have longer commutes, fewer transportation options, and increasing concerns about air quality and environmental problems. Smyrna, once a dusty backwater, is now booming, thanks to its location near three interstate highways, which attracted a huge Nissan factory (the largest auto assembly plant in North America, the size of 92 football fields).Based on original research and vividly written, "Twentieth-Century Sprawl" makes a major contribution to our understanding of issues that still plague our cities and suburbs more

Product details

  • Book | 384 pages
  • 162.6 x 239.8 x 27.9mm | 625.97g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 38 halftones, 7 maps & 7 line illus.
  • 0195141415
  • 9780195141412

Review quote

"A good primer on the road we took to the suburbanization of America--so that we don't drive it exactly the same way in the future."--Detroit Free Press"Twentieth-Century Sprawl demonstrates convincingly how the financing of highways became a de facto national policy that subsidized growth on the urban periphery at the expense of older cities and inner-ring suburbs. We are living with the consequences of this policy today. A compellingly important book."--David Schuyler, Professor of American Studies, Franklin and Marshall College, and author of A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania 1940-1980"In the first thorough history of urban sprawl, Owen Gutfreund reveals how misguided government programs, business lobbying, and civic boosterism led to America's radically decentralized urban landscape and shows the high social and financial costs of subsidizing automobility. Twentieth-Century Sprawl will appeal to historians, planners, and policy-makers--and anyone who wants to understand how we wound up in the traffic-clogged mess we're in."--Clifton Hood, Professor of History, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York"In examining three disparate sites--in Colorado, Tennessee, and Vermont--Owen Gutfreund convincingly argues that the impact of the automobile goes beyond individual preferences and local needs. Rather, he shows that automobility has been driven by government policies at all levels with profoundly disturbing consequences. Bound to fuel further criticism and debate, Gutfreund's study deserves close consideration in any future policy debate over the course of metropolitan development."--Howard Gillette, Jr., Professor of History, Rutgers University-Camden, and author of Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C."In Twentieth-Century Sprawl, Owen Gutfreund challenges prevailing myths equating highway construction with equity and choice to show how competition over finances, route ways, and political authority gave rise to cross-sectoral coalitions among advocates from rural roads, inter-metropolitan parkways, and a national system of primary motorways. Through a carefully selected set of case studies the author links policy with practice and we come to see our contemporary urban landscape anew, as the product of specialized knowledge, narrow definitions of the public good, and a surprising degree of ad hoc planning."--Greg Hise, School of Policy, Planning & Development, USCshow more

About Owen D. Gutfreund

Owen Gutfreund teaches history at Barnard College and is Director of the Urban Studies Programs at Barnard and Columbia more

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