U.S. interstate highway system

In 1919 shortly after the conclusion of World War I, the United States Army organized a convoy that departed Washington, D.C., bound for San Francisco, California. The objectives of the cross-country trek were to test military vehicles and ascertain the feasibility of mass transport on a nationwide scale. The trip took 62 days. Twenty-five years later General Eisenhower commanded the invasion of Europe during World War II and noted the ease and freedom of movement for the troops.

Early attempts to construct a national highway system in the United States were woefully underfunded; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had proposed such a project as a means of putting the unemployed to work during the Great Depression and World War II. Elected president in 1952, Eisenhower advanced an agenda that led to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954, under which state and federal governments would match road and bridge construction costs. Two years later, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which provided federal funding of $25 billion for a highway system.

The roads were designed to accommodate traffic volumes expected 20 years later. Lanes were required to be 12 feet wide with a paved 10-foot shoulder; a minimum of two lanes in each direction had to carry cars at speeds of 50 to 70 miles per hour. More than 41,000 miles of highway would be built. North-south roadways were designated with numbers ending in odd integers; east-west interstates were given even numbers. Alaska is the only state without an interstate highway.

Eisenhower may have considered a highway system necessary for the efficient movement of military equipment and personnel or the effective evacuation of cities in event of a nuclear attack, but the effects on the economy were much wider-reaching. Suburbs grew, construction jobs were created, and commercial freight was transported; more automobiles were built, and roadside businesses developed. There were drawbacks as well, some becoming clear only later. Many older cities embraced interstate projects only to find that downtown business including East Jerusalem, all of which had been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

The Intifada was a spontaneous popular phenomenon caused by a number of domestic and international factors. The most important of these factors was a sense of hopelessness that had pervaded the occupied territories and the belief among Palestinians that neither the military efforts of the Arab states nor diplomatic efforts by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Arab states would end the occupation. According to some analysts, the final catalyzing factor emerged in November 1987 when the Arab leaders at the Summit Conference in Amman, Jordan—just 40 miles away from the occupied territories—placed the Iran-Iraq War at the top of the Arab political agenda and relegated the Palestinian question to the end of the list. In addition, the Palestinian economy had declined since the 1967 war, and the territories had become a reservoir for cheap labor for Israel and its second-biggest export market after the United States. The average income of the Palestinian worker had declined, and a growing number of Jewish settlers had moved into the territories.

The Intifada used mainly low-key violence and avoided the use of weapons. It was largely limited to political demonstrations, strikes, refusal to pay taxes, and some stone throwing. Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities moved to suppress the uprising; Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered the troops “to break the bones of the Palestinian demonstrators.” Following high casualties among Palestinians, the United Nations Security Council announced that it deplored the Israeli repression, but the confrontation continued and in the first 13 months of the Intifada more than 300 Palestinians and 12 Israelis lost their lives. The economic price of the Intifada was also high. Between 1987 and 1990 the GNP in Gaza declined at least 30 percent; the situation in the West Bank was not much better. By the middle of 1990 the Intifada had lost much of its earlier impetus, and popular frustrations resulted in the killing of real or suspected collaborators.

In spite of these hardships and the lack of success, the Intifada was seen by the Palestinians as a major event in their recent history. It was a popular action that encompassed all social strata and groups. The popular committees in towns and villages mobilized the population and looked after the families of the dead and wounded. However, the Intifada failed to achieve the long-term goal of self-determination and the end of the Israeli occupation.

In November 1988 the Palestinian National Council at Algiers declared an independent Palestinian state, but

The creation of the U.S. interstate highway system had far-
reaching effects on the economy and the way of American life. districts could now be bypassed entirely. Interstate routes disrupted urban neighborhoods and slashed across farmers’ fields. The ease of interstate travel discouraged mass transit and helped speed the demise of long-haul passenger rail service. Interstate maintenance and capacity issues continued to create friction between the federal and state governments.


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