“Urgent and Necessary”: Tennesseans and Their Competing Visions of the Interstate System

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McMahan, Andrew Wayne
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Middle Tennessee State University
The interstate system had a profound impact on the state of Tennessee and the rest of the nation. Several historians have explored the interstate system and its many impacts. However, not much has been written on the interstate highways in Tennessee or how Tennesseans thought of them during the months leading up to the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Using constituent mail sent to Senator Albert Gore in 1955 and 1956 as well as Tennessee Department of Transportation records, this thesis explores different visions of the interstate system held by groups of Tennesseans. Ordinary citizens saw the superhighways as the way to fast, efficient, and safe transportation. Commercial interests in the state, such as trucking and advertising companies, saw the new highways as a way to expand their business opportunities. Tennessee’s railroad companies wanted the trucking industry to pay for the interstate in order to remain competitive.
Automobile, Highways, Interstate, Landscape, Road, Superhighways