13. The Interstate Highway System
June 2000 marked the 45th anniversary of the federal legislation that resulted in a $130 billion project to construct the 46,000 miles of roadways that link the nation today. Lost in the shuffle, however, is how the proliferation of such extensive highway networks expanded housing by creating suburbs in areas not previously easily accessible to the city center. "Our mobility quite simply changed our housing," says Tarr. "Suddenly, we could live in a suburban environment that offered large spaces around the houses. Before that, people lived in much denser conditions." Even before the interstates were built, the automobile had begun extending neighborhoods and broadening downtown hubs. But the interstate system took it a step beyond, opening up large stretches of land to eager developers. Still, it took another 25 years of suburban development to produce the two-hour commute.
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