What Led L.A. to its Freeway-Building Frenzy?

Jeremy Rosenberg's latest entry in his "Laws That Shaped LA" column looks at the impact of the Collier-Burns Act, a state law passed in 1947 that allowed the city to become "smothered with concrete and asphalt goliaths."
October 11, 2012, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Intended to relieve growing urban traffic congestion, the Collier-Burns Act created the bureaucratic and funding mechanisms that sparked "a local, regional, and nationwide road-building frenzy that began in the 1940s and '50s and hasn't yet come to a full and complete stop," writes Rosenberg.

"Collier-Burns raised the fuel tax by 50%, vehicle registration fees by 200%, and in a maneuver with an efficacy that should never go underestimated, centralized bureaucratic power in one agency -- the California Division of Highways (which later became Caltrans)."

"The Collier-Burns legacy? Within just five years after the Act's passing, the Golden State increased its freeway mileage by four and a half times. Prior to Collier-Burns, many Californians -- and Los Angelenos in particular -- had worked towards developing a multi-modal highway system with a relatively limited footprint inside cities, left the mega-roads we know today for more spacious rural routes, and incorporated and expanded public transit."

"Instead, catalyzed by the Collier-Burns-inspired highway funding spigot, with the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act (more about this in a future Laws That Shaped LA column), cities received a Godfather-style offer they couldn't refuse: money, and lots of it, to build freeways, lots of them."

 

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Published on Monday, October 8, 2012 in KCET Departures
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