The Big Roads
by Earl Swift

In The Big Roads, author Earl Swift chronicles the visionary engineers and entrepreneurs who spearheaded the creation of the U.S. interstate highway system and, in the process, transformed the nation’s economy.

Paperback, 400pp
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2012
ISBN-13: 9780547907246
Barnes & Noble online price: $11.51
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A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape—the U.S. interstate system changed the face of our country. The Big Roads charts the creation of these essential American highways. From the turn-of-the-century car racing entrepreneur who spurred the citizen-led “Good Roads” movement, to the handful of driven engineers who conceived of the interstates and how they would work—years before President Eisenhower knew the plans existed—to the protests that erupted across the nation when highways reached the cities and found people unwilling to be uprooted in the name of progress, Swift follows a winding, fascinating route through twentieth-century American life.

How did we get from dirt tracks to expressways, from main streets to off-ramps, from mud to concrete and steel, in less than a century? Through decades of politics, activism, and marvels of engineering, we recognize in our highways the wanderlust, grand scale, and conflicting notions of citizenship and progress that define America.


Earl Swift is a five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the author of Journey on the James, the 2003 PEN finalist Where They Lay: Searching for America's Lost Soldiers, and the short story collection The Tangierman's Lament. He has written for newspapers in St. Louis, Anchorage, and Norfolk, Virginia, where his work won numerous state and national awards, and his writing has appeared in Parade magazine, Best Newspaper Writing, and River Teeth. Earl lives in Norfolk with his daughter, Saylor.


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