The history of America, particularly in the times of the wild west is rich with imagery and mythology. One of the great images we often see reenacted is that moment when the two cross continental railway lines hooked up in the middle of the country and were joined with one silver railway spike. That moment was so significant because it was symbolic that by linking one end of America to the other, we were no longer a spread out wilderness but truly one unified country.
Many years later a similar but far more important system of transportation was put in place that has had an even more profound effect on how the country operates and prospers. But this transportation system was not born of such great mythology. It was the building of the intercontinental highway system. But to be sure, there is no one other single accomplishment so huge in scope and so broad and important in transforming America from “the horse and buggy days” to the modern nation we are today.
Consider for a moment the sheer size of the task of linking every city, town and village in America with a modern, paved highway or interstate highway road. From the tip of Maine to the swamps of Florida to the shores of California to the rocky mountains of Washington State, every possible passageway has been transformed into a two, four, eight sometimes sixteen lane modern highway, all paved with durable pavement materials and meticulously maintained so traffic can pass swiftly along these roads with very little interruption.
To say the least, we take for granted this phenomenal achievement and seldom take a moment to step back and marvel of the technological achievement of providing speedy, safe, well made and well maintained highways so you can drive swiftly from one major city to another at high rates of speed and even reach grandma’s house in her small rural town on some form of modern paved road. Why if you were somehow able to gather up all those miles of road and put them into one building to get a feel for how much construction it would take, the odds are you would not be able to see the top of that skyscraper and if you stood on the top of it, you would die from lack of oxygen.
Consider as well how dependent we are on those roads for the continued operation of our economy. When you are speeding along in your modern vehicle, do you overlook how often you pass a commercial truck taking every product imaginable from one side of the country to the other? The trucking community is a silent army moving the things we need to survive and we hardly notice them doing it. Moreover, without the modern intercontinental highway system, they just simply could not move that product and our modern lives would grind to a halt. An inconvenience to say the least and a highly dangerous idea in reality because along with exercise equipment and Lexus cars, those trucker bring us milk, eggs and every food product we need along with clothing, hospital equipment and medicine. If the interstate highway system suddenly disappeared tomorrow, the impact on the economy of America would be nothing short of catastrophic.
The intercontinental freeway system is more than just a great way to get from here to there for vacation or business travel. It is critical for the well being and survival of the nation. In fact, after 911, the Defense Department of our government began to see that the well being of this crucial element of our infrastructure was actually a critical element of our national defense as well. Because the military must depend on the freeway system to move military equipment and soldiers around in times of emergency, we have begun to find a new appreciation and gratitude that we have this amazing resource at our disposal, for fun, for commerce and even for the defense of the nation.
The designers, builders and maintainers of the intercontinental highway system are an example of unsung heroes of our great nation. Their ability to create and keep working what virtually qualifies as a national wonder is amazing. They do it without praise or applause and they don’t want those things. Like all great Americans, they are happy when this important resource works and serves their fellow Americans well. That attitude is truly the American way.