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The Interstate Highway System

Roads are vital for growth and development in any area. Dr. Charles Floyd, a University of Georgia economist, notes that Georgia roads were not paved even into the 1930s. It was Pres. Franklin Roosevelt who had the idea of an American state highway system. The four-lane divided roads in Germany known as autobahns were used as the model for interstate highways in America. Their construction began in the 1950s under the administration of Pres. Harry Truman. Drivers loved them, but small towns suffered as they were bypassed. The effects on one Georgia town, Ludowici, are shown. Residents Harry Chapman and Mary Worth discuss the number and types of stores that used to be in the town. Ludowici is on U.S. Highway 301, a road that was once the main north to south route to Florida. An estimated 6,000 cars and trucks per day passed through Ludowici. Because so many travelers stopped to spend the night and buy food in towns along Hwy. 301, it was known as the “green tunnel.” Other Ludowici residents including Mrs. Virgil Nail, Sammy Stapleton, and Robert Watford talk about motels in the town that are no longer there. According to Dr. Floyd, the opening of Interstate 95 was like turning off the switch for towns like Ludowici. Today Georgia’s interstates are the new Main Streets. Interstates drive down the costs of transporting goods and the fact that three interstate highways run through Atlanta make it a transportation hub in the South. Two trucking firm owners discuss how vital the industry is to Georgia’s economy. Most everything we buy and use today is delivered by truck.

Teacher tip: Use a Georgia highway road map and highlight the interstates and U.S. Highway 301. Discuss how interstates connect Georgia with the rest of the country and what kinds of businesses are needed in Atlanta to support a transportation hub.