Even though the Lincoln Highway was finished, it didn't signal the end of road building in America. In fact, Eisenhower's interstate highway system, announced in 1954 and begun in 1956, would eventually supplant secondary roads, making long-distance travel even easier and allowing people to work in the city yet live in the suburbs, a move that completely changed the American way of life.
Some have suggested that our response to our present energy crisis should be similar to the '60s moon shot in its commitment-a 10-year technology-based endeavor that the whole country can rally behind and support. Others claim that the Manhattan Project, the four-year scramble to create the first atomic weapon during World War II is a better model to solve our energy dilemma because it implies the same level of response to threats to our national security as we faced during those perilous times. Both projects involved billions of dollars, innovation on an almost unimaginable scale, and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, technologists, and skilled laborers to achieve a single goal.
To address our energy problems today, however, we need a longer-term view. Instead of the flash of a space program or atomic bomb, we need the long-term commitment of innovative and farseeing individuals like Carl Fisher, the resources of a federal government that recognizes problems and solutions, and the courage to embark on enormous projects, like the interstate highway system, even knowing that it will be our children and their children who will benefit from our foresight. The private sector and federal, state, and local governments must work together to find solutions that a whole planet can live with.
Carl Fisher died on July 15, 1939, and never imagined Eisenhower's interstate system, despite the pivotal role his Lincoln Highway had in its creation. President Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969, 22 years before the interstate highway system was declared completed-on September 15, 1991 when the last traffic light was removed from I-90 in Wallace, Idaho. Building the interstate system had taken 35 years and had cost $114 billion. If we can learn anything from history it is that we have to have the patience and bravery to think big and do even bigger, to work for the future, even if we never get to personally see the end result.