In civilized countries, cars appeared in the twentieth century, before the appearance of modern roads. Millionaire William Vanderbilt used to love speed, and in 1930 he set a national record in his custom-made Renault: he sped up to 90 miles per hour on the beach in Florida. In 1908, Vanderbilt financed the construction of the first American highway in the full sense of the word. His Long Island Motor Parkway, at first only five feet wide and nine miles in length, was revolutionary. That long-distance trail was built as a special project, made of a specially designed concrete and included intersections and 65 bridges.
By creating complicated intersections and interchanges, road pioneering entrepreneurs generated lots of problems for the growing army of motorists, and for each other; their creations often overlapped each other. For example, in the early ’30s, Robert Moses built his road parallel to highways built by Vanderbilt, and both projects were quickly doomed to failure.
There also was a problem with names. Roads were named after popular personalities, and the more popular a person was, the more roads were named after him or her. In 1925, attempting to counter the growing irrationality of the system, it was decided to assign numbers, not names, to roads across the entire country. But because bland route numbers were thought to be uninteresting, many of the old-fashioned individual segment names survived, and are still in use today.
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