By: Keith Leonard
In the movie Lincoln, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones) is, in one scene, being questioned during debate over the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. When questioned about his own beliefs relative to the proposed Amendment, he responds by arguing that the Amendment will only establish equality before the law and not equality in all things.
Listen to local traffic reports on any given day in a metropolitan area of the United States and you are likely to hear the same roads (or locations along a particular road) are backlogged at some point during almost every day. Various sources have identified some of the most congested or busiest roads in America. Over thirty million people can be expected to be on America’s roads during just each of the two holiday weekends that traditionally mark the beginning and end of summer time travel (Memorial Day and Labor Day).
Not surprisingly, these lists routinely identify and contain certain Interstate highways. Interstate 85 runs from Montgomery, Alabama almost to Richmond, Virginia. This highway passes through the Atlanta and Raleigh/Durham areas. Another Interstate highway running in a north-south direction on such lists is Interstate 45 passing through Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Over 300,000 vehicles a day travel this highway in and though Houston. Interstate 15 runs from San Diego north to the Canadian border and also handles almost 300,000 vehicles a day in the vicinity of San Diego, while also passing through Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Similarly, Interstate 5 runs from the Mexican to the Canadian border, and passes through San Diego and Los Angeles. Despite those two Interstates handling traffic in southern California, a third highway commonly listed among the most congested in America is Interstate 405, or the so-called San Diego Freeway. Though it is only some 72 miles long, more than 374,000 vehicles a day travel along it, making it the busiest stretch of Interstate highway in the country. Living and working in the Philadelphia metropolitan area puts me squarely in the vicinity of the most consistently busy Interstate from end to end, Interstate 95. You can travel from Miami to the Canadian border on Interstate 95.
However, it is not just north-south Interstates that cause many lost hours of travel due to congestion. Travelers on Interstates 10, 80, 90, and 110 can also attest to encountering traffic congestion along the way. Interstate 80 is the second-longest interstate in the United States, going from outside New York City to downtown San Francisco. It is estimated that in just one stretch of that interstate in San Francisco, of not more than five miles, 600,000 hours of time and almost a million gallons of gasoline are wasted per year. The cost of such congestion is valued at over forty million dollars per year.
In contrast to that congestion, America also “boasts” four of the six roads characterized as the loneliest roads in North America. U.S. Route 50 stretches from Sacramento to Ocean City, Maryland, but it is the portion of that highway that runs through central Nevada that has been dubbed (apparently originally by Life Magazine in 1986) the loneliest road in America. As it passes through Nevada, it roughly parallels the old Pony Express Trail. Columnists writing about this stretch of highway suggest that anyone considering traveling along it should at least plan ahead of making the trek. While you may not need survival skills to do so, you will certainly have to expect to be sitting a long time and likely alone on the road for much of the trip; so gas up before heading out.
A more truly dangerous lonely road is Route 61 approaching and leading into Centralia, Pennsylvania. Centralia has been the home to an underground coal fire burning for over fifty years. Drivers wanting to take the road through the borough should be aware of the always-present risk of toxic gases and unstable ground in the area.
While there is no constitutional amendment or law like the Thirteenth Amendment relating to roads, all roads may start out somewhat equal in design and construction, they certainly do not end up being equal, nor must they be under the law. Each driver should decide on his own level of solitude and perhaps survival skills when considering what road to choose to get to his destination.