Ben Joravsky’s piece titled “Road to Ruin” [October 20] correctly identifies the publicly financed superhighways as a major contributor to the decline of Chicago and other large metropolitan areas. Unfortunately while citing the historical outflow of jobs and people to the suburbs, Joravsky failed to mention the history of urban Democrats demanding that the interstates be built through the major cities, rather than around as first proposed during the Eisenhower administration. Originally designed to follow the European model of constructing superhighways near but not into major urban areas, the Eisenhower administration was bluntly told by urban Democrats to run the interstates through the big cities or forget the whole project. Urban Democrats got their way, and the big cities have suffered decline ever since.
It has been estimated that the interstates reduce urban property tax rolls by 10 percent. Further, the rush-hour traffic between suburbs and city has produced monumental bottlenecks for interstate traffic, the primary purpose of the interstate system. The calls to build toll roads to alleviate the congestion on the interstates are inevitable.
But there is a larger issue, namely the reflexive hostility of the urban policy elites to the urban middle class and industrial-manufacturing business interests. Without that unremitting hostility to contend with, perhaps they wouldn’t be thinking about taking the on-ramp to the burbs.