Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990 Page: 18
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Before and after pictures of a livestock underpass on Highway 55.
Texas has always held a historic predent
in superhighways, as evidenced by the
Chisholm Trail between Texas and Kansas
which served as the conduit for the world's
largest mass movement of livestock. In
1956, the U.S. Congress enacted the
world's largest domestic works projectthe
National System of Interstate and Defense
Highways. The Highway Act of 1956
established a Highway Trust Fund, which
distributed the taxes imposed on highway
users to pay for the ninety percent federal
share of interstate system costs.
The spatial impact of this interstate system
in Texas was twofold; it increased accessibility
between cities, and within cities
it promoted suburbanization. On the national
scale, expressways connected Texas'
cities more effectively with the rest of
the country and so allowed national prosperity
to diffuse into areas previously excluded.
By overcoming the geographic isolation
of townships situated beyond the
traditional loci of industry and commerce,
interstate trucking provided a catalyst for
the more rapid development of Texas' urban
system and surpassed the train as the
state's main intercity transport mode for
goods. Such freeways, however, although
exposing Texans to new locations, also
reduced their knowledge of their state
since freeways bypassed small towns.
Today, instead of going through
Encinal on the way to Laredo, Mexico we
slip by it on IH-35. Coupland's economy
withered when the road between Taylor
and Elgin was paved. Just as the bypassing
of a town by the railroad killed its economy
and headed it toward extinction, so too a
town bypassed by a highway finds its com--
mercial center gutted and reestablished
along the highway.
Within cities, the interstate promoted
central-city decline by facilitating the outward
movement of commercial districts
and residences. The truck and the car, by
accelerating the diffusion of people and
economic prosperity to suburbia, transformed
Texas' urban cadastre created by
the high cost of moving bulk goods by horse
and wagon, to its present amorphous shape.
We are increasingly moving information
rather than people, interacting by
telecommunication rather than highways.
How will this new transportation
revolution-communicating as opposed
to commuting to work-affect our travel
perception and the state's urban structure?
What are the implications for the state's
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990, periodical, Autumn 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45429/m1/18/: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.