The autobahn was a rural network, without segments into and through Germany's cities. This seemed appropriate to Eisenhower, but in Washington, Thomas H. MacDonald and Herbert Fairbank of the U.S. Public Roads Administration (the name of the Federal Highway Administration's predecessor during the 1940's) saw the absence of metropolitan segments as a flaw that made the autobahn a poor model for America's future. Unlike Germany, traffic volumes were high in America where car ownership was widespread. Congestion in America's cities had long been a serious complaint that MacDonald and Fairbank would address in their vision of the Interstate System.We sure tackled that congestion problem...that wasn't really addressed because that wasn't the point.
...MacDonald acknowledged with surprising candor that the urban components of the system were not designed to alleviate urban congestion, except to the extent that they would provide relieve to those motorists for whom the city was an inconvenient obstruction...We all know Lewis Mumford had it right though when arguing against the highway system slashing through cities.
The key to reviving our center cities, Mumford said, "rests on the restoring of the pedestrian scale of distances to the interior of the city, of making it possible for the pedestrian to exist." He added, "We are faced, it is fairly obvious to me, with the blunders of one-dimensional thinking, or thinking very expertly about a single characteristic, a single feature that we are interested in, and forgetting the realities that surround us."