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America’s urban planning on wrong track

Rethinking the asphalt nation

What if we paved over the whole state of Wisconsin? Actually, we already have. According to recent Federal Highway Administration figures, the United States has close to 240 million motor vehicles -- almost 40 million more cars than there are licensed drivers -- and just under 4 million miles of paved roads for them to run on. All told, some 61,000 square miles of the United States -- an area just a little smaller than the Badger State -- is solidly paved over, either with roads or with parking. And of course, there's always more pavement on the way. We weren't always an asphalt nation. What happened? There's plenty of blame to go around, from pressure by vested interests such as oil and automobile companies, to political pork barreling, to plain old infatuation with our four-wheeled friends. But the most disgraceful portion of blame for our autocentric landscape goes to people who should know better: our own city planners. For the past six decades, they've swallowed the p...