Cross U.S. In 48 Hours On Proposed Road (Jul, 1934)

Cross U.S. In 48 Hours On Proposed Road

An artist’s drawing of the proposed coast-to-coast super highway on which automobiles may travel at speeds of 100 miles an hour, making the trip between New York and California in forty-eight hours. Road builders are now working on plans for a four-lane highway with all grade crossings eliminated. The super roadway will be elevated through towns with ramps furnishing access to the main road through a central lane. Night travel is expected to be fully as safe at high speeds as day touring. Parapet walls two feet in height and made of opal glass bricks are intended to flank the black-surfaced roadway. Imbedded in the walls and spaced about twenty feet apart, as shown in insert, the engineers intend to put lights whose hoods will direct the light on the pavement below the eye level of the automobile driver.

  1. Bob says: January 11, 201012:53 pm

    100 mph and then a 90 degree turn onto the off ramp. Yep, that ought to work!

  2. Firebrand38 says: January 11, 20101:35 pm

    I’m trying to figure out just who proposed this. It looks very similar to Norman Bel Geddes work in designing the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair… and the book that he wrote on the subject…

    There’s no mention of a serious proposal in the history of the Highway System (although there is a lot of admiration for Hitler’s Autobahn)…

  3. r peltier says: January 11, 20103:29 pm

    Forget the 90 degree exits at 100 mph. I can’t imagine driving a 1934 car at 100mph for 48 hrs. That freeway would be littered with blown up cars.

  4. pryapart says: January 11, 20103:49 pm

    r peltier – your overly concerned…I’m sure the glass brick walls and numerous electric lights (pointed TOWARD oncoming traffic, and at road level no less) will have an ameliorative effect on any mishap.

  5. Firebrand38 says: January 11, 20103:57 pm

    r peltier: The problem with your argument is that it wouldn’t be occupied by 1934 cars forever, now would it?

  6. Richard says: January 11, 20104:37 pm

    Interestingly, MapQuest indicates 43 hours and 21 minutes from New York, NY, to Los Angeles, CA via today’s roads at today’s speed limits. Obviously, that’s not allowing for breaks for sleeping, gas, food, bathrooms, etc. Since our speed limits still fall well shy of 100mph, I wonder if the 48 hours was intended to be a realistic door to door time, including stops? Either way, I’m glad I don’t have to make that driving trip in two days.

    I, too, wonder what they were thinking, pointing the lights toward oncoming traffic. If they pointed the lights the other way, though, the scheme proposed seems nicer than today’s overhead streetlights.

  7. KD5ZS says: January 11, 20105:23 pm

    Sounds like they weren’t even thinking about Freeways in those days. You did have the US highways such as Route 66 (LA to Chicago) and 101 on the west coast; however the Golden Gate Bridge was not completed. The US 101 had stoplights on it until practically the year 2000.

    The Federal Interstate System was started years later during the Eisenhower Administration.

    In 1934, even using an airplane took a long time to travel between L.A. and N.Y.

  8. jayessell says: January 11, 20106:46 pm


  9. C. Kline says: January 12, 20109:43 am

    It’s strange that even in this naïve early vision that they thought two roads would suffice, bypassing such cities as Dallas, Denver, and Chicago. Perhaps they thought existing roads like Route 66, US 1, and US 101 would suffice for those cities.

    The artist also misspelled BOTH “Cincinnati” and “Wichita.” 🙂

  10. Nomen Nescio says: January 12, 20101:54 pm

    as i understand it, the current coast-to-coast land speed record (highly unofficial, due to being highly illegally set) is somewhere around 30 hours total time. but no, i don’t think i’d want to be along for even the 48 hour version; sounds dangerously exhausting, unless you’ve got at least three or four drivers working in shifts.

  11. r peltier says: January 12, 20103:51 pm

    Firebrand38: they would in 1934 and for 15-20 years thereafter. About the only production car anywhere near being capable would be the 1933? or 34 Chrysler airstream.

  12. Firebrand38 says: January 12, 20103:57 pm

    r peltier: Something tells me they wouldn’t be driving too many 1934 cars twenty years later.

    Yeah, they would be doing it in 1934, but when cars got faster you’d probably complain that no one thought ahead to accommodate higher speeds.

  13. KD5ZS says: January 12, 20106:56 pm

    What about a Ford V-8? The Ford flathead dated from 1932; the 1932 coupe (known as a deuce coupe) and the roadster were and are prized for hot rod conversion.

  14. Jari says: January 12, 20107:19 pm

    Nahh, just use Napier-Railton or something like that…. Okay, I do know, it’s a race car 🙂

  15. Newurban says: January 12, 20107:43 pm

    The lights were proposed to be hooded so to direct toward the road and out of the eyes of the driver. To point the opposite direction, with the flow, would create confusing shadows.

  16. hwertz says: January 13, 20101:50 am

    What about the flathead? It could get to 100MPH well enough for some hotrodding, but I don’t think you’d want to do it for hours on end. And Firebrand, there’s plenty of 20-year-old cars on the road now and I think there were then too, the first high-compression V8 (that had much chance of doing 100MPH for long) came out in 1949. Whatevs though, the road was designed so vehicles *may* travel 100MPH, they would not have to. I recall hearing a quote from a GM futurama where they planned on 50, 75, and 100MPH lanes.

    And, I must say, bypassing Denver and Chicago was an EXCELLENT idea. Especially Chicago — they are *ALWAYS* repaving large percentages of I80 around Chicago, causing huge delays. More practically though, the more direct path they proposed would shave a large distance off the New York to LA trip. I drove nearly the middle path from Iowa to New Mexico, taking highway 56 through Kansas. I saved 100s of miles compared to the current interstate route; I also almost ran out of gas, though, there’s about a 400 mile stretch in SW Kansas through NE New Mexico with no gas stations. I got the impression that road’s not much travelled, there were still old Burma Shave signs along it.

  17. Jabberwocky says: January 17, 201012:13 pm

    hwertz, the reason Chicago has to constantly repave their roads is that the weather in Chicago is so awful it tears them to pieces, especially with the strain of traffic. Chicago temperatures range anywhere from in the 100’s in summer to -20’s in winter, but the bigger problem is that at any time of the year there might be a 50 degree overnight change. The massive amount of salt that’s used in winter to melt the snow and ice takes a heavy toll on the asphalt, too.

  18. Don says: January 17, 20109:30 pm

    Chicago has two seasons: Winter and Road Construction

  19. Baron Waste says: January 18, 20101:03 pm

    See, what really killed this idea is that the proposed route map looks ever so faintly like… a swastika. That tore it.

  20. Don says: January 18, 20102:56 pm

    Baron: I don’t think so. In 1934, a swastika was a good luck symbol!

  21. Erik Teichmann says: January 19, 20109:37 pm

    If you look at the full version of the image, you can see the artist’s name was Saunders. Wonder if that was a Mechanix staff illustrator, or the proposer?

  22. Firebrand38 says: January 19, 20109:58 pm

    Erik Teichmann: No, if you look at other illustrations from that magazine you’ll see he was a staff artist http://blog.modernmecha… and http://blog.modernmecha… for example.

  23. Firebrand38 says: January 20, 20106:29 pm

    This idea was revised only four years later http://blog.modernmecha…

    Not a very good theory Baron when you consider it’s use in the 1937 Boy Scout jamboree…

    Reading way too much into it. Even Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  24. Don says: January 20, 20108:12 pm

    There’s a public building near where I live that has swastikas as part of the ceramic floor inlays. There are pamphlets for people renting the building that say something like, “the decorations on the floors aren’t swastikas . . . . ” Of course, the truth is that the decorations aren’t *Nazi* swastikas, the building have been built around 1915 or so. It’s too bad the swastika is so associated with Nazism . . . .

  25. Inflatable T Rex says: August 9, 20106:46 am

    I’d love to drive this road in one of those mini cars from a few posts back.

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