GETTING THERE by Stephen B. Goddard


The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century
Email this review


 A lively, sometimes polemical, but often persuasive look at the rise and decline of the once-mighty railroads and the ills of America's exclusive reliance on the ``highway-motor complex.'' The car and the interstate highway are today such pervasive features of the American landscape that it is difficult for Americans to realize that 100 years ago most cities and towns were linked only by often impassable dirt roads and by railroads. Because of this, attorney Goddard shows, railroads wielded enormous power and influence during the 19th century, incurring the enmity of other interests, especially farmers. At the beginning of the 20th century, the development of bicycles and automobiles created a demand for good roads. But, Goddard contends, it was during the First World War, when the flow of American war materiel overwhelmed the nation's rails, that American policy makers recognized the importance of developing a good national highway network. As a result, beginning in the 1920s, government, road builders, and automobile makers joined in promoting cars over railroads: ``By 1930, a dense network of interconnected paved roads linked every corner of America, and Detroit produced millions of cars and trucks that cut dramatically into the railroad business.'' This culminated in the Eisenhower administration's massive drive to upgrade interstate highways. After dwelling on the railroad's steep decline and the apparent total victory of cars and highways, Goddard discusses environmental and other ills that have attended the explosive growth of the highways, contending that, in order to remain competitive in a global economy, America will have to develop alternatives to cars and highways without relinquishing them: Among these might be high-speed rail lines and computer- guided urban traffic systems. A first-rate look at the history and problems of American mass transportation.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1994
ISBN: 0-465-02639-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994