Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Interstates and Urban Sprawl

***Originally poster April 20, 2010***

When I first moved back to Dallas in 2006, it was evident to me that people my age had left the Metroplex years before to later return to the Jewel of the Flatlands after seeing a bit of the world. a visit to Chicago, New York City, or Boston reveals Dallas to be an expansive, sprawling monster traversable only by car. In that case, let's take a look at highways and their relationship to urban sprawl.

The first multi-lane limited access highway was constructed during the Weimar Republic years of 1930's Germany. the Autobahn then became one of Hitler's most useful assets as its creation bolstered the economy and later facilitated the transportation of troops during World War II. As supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower was impressed by the network of highways that empowered Germany's national defense system and realized that America must have its own version. What resulted from the President's European inspiration was a federally funded, nationwide web of crisscrossing freeways.

As interstates spliced through urban centers, people saw that property taxes down the road were much more favorable than what they contemporaneously were paying. Urban sprawl quickly followed, and blocks and blocks of subdivisions sprang forth with strip malls fueling the consumption of suburban populations.

What has failed to happen is a curtailment of wealth spreading further and further away from urban centers. In other words it's more profitable to encourage the dilapidation of outdated buildings in favor of newer commercial and residential projects because the state raises taxes as a property's value appreciates.

It is easy to surmise that there hasn't been incentives to fuel the preservation and development of Dallas urban centers since World War II, whereas there has indeed been a significant funding in the motorization of the United States. President Eisenhower realized his 'Grand Plan' for highways by paying for 90% of 41,000 miles worth of interstates with the Federal Highway Act of 1956.

Urban sprawl works in direct contrast with the 4 components of a successful city, but there are too many financial incentives to eschew suburban development. What would the motivation be, then, for Dallas to develop urban centers for itself ?

No comments:

Post a Comment