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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s People on the Move Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Grand Plan Stop the Bulldozers! A New World for America's Auto Culture The Interstate Economy See the U.S.A. Crawl and Sprawl Safety
16: On the Interstate:  I-10, 1956–1990

Crawl and Sprawl

Crawl and sprawl—too much traffic and spreading development—defined American cities at the end of
the 20th century. Local and state governments
faced choices about land use and highway and
transit construction, balancing costs of new roads
and the loss of unspoiled land with the demand for housing and economic development. Families had to balance housing costs and convenience with time
spent sitting in traffic while commuting and running errands. The automobile shaped daily life in ways that neither its inventors nor the designers of interstate highways imagined.
Traffic congestion on I-10, Houston, Texas, 2001
Traffic congestion on I-10, Houston, Texas, 2001
Gulfgate Shopping Center and residential development along I-45, Houston, Texas, about 1960
Gulfgate Shopping Center and residential development along I-45, Houston, Texas, about 1960

Interstates opened up new land for development. Traditional patterns of commuting changed as offices, factories, and stores moved to the suburbs. Highways (designed for intercity traffic) and beltways (designed to let traffic bypass the city) became commuter corridors, jammed with workers driving from suburb to suburb. Suburban roads were even crowded on weekends, as families ran errands in their cars.

Dodge Caravan, 1986
At the end of the 20th century, minivans became a symbol of suburbia. The first minivans—the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager—were introduced in 1983, after six years in development. These downsized vans were bigger than station wagons, but still had some of the comforts of the automobile.
Dodge Caravan, 1986
Irvine, California, 1992
Irvine, California, 1992
The 2000 census found more Americans in the suburbs than in cities. And once-compact cities now extended for miles, as housing developments and office and retail complexes replaced farms and enveloped small towns.
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