Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Highway versus the Information Superhighway

In what is the most likely mismatched poll, CNN has postulated an on-line poll asking voters to choose only one of the following innovations that changed the face of America: the Interstate Highway system, television, or the Internet.

At the time of this writing, some 130,000 voters have pegged the Internet as the top innovation…by an astounding 58%. Lagging dead last is the Interstate at 15%. Comments posted about the article illustrate two altering users of social media…environmentalists who pinned the oil volatility and the war in the Middle East on the reliance of automobiles, while techies championed the dawn of renewed accessibility to information worldwide.

While the commentary following the article recognizes that the road network is not just about cars, but also about goods movement and the trucking industry, there is a disheartening gap in recognizing this by putting the virtual network and the need for information above the economy. While there is no discounting the power of the Information Superhighway (aka: the Internet), there is a tremendous amount of gratitude owed to the users of the Highway…after all, without the Highway we wouldn't have our laptops, desktops, modems, and other electronics at our avail to gain all that time sensitive information.

It's rather disappointing to see that Highways are the enemy, and the Internet is the friend. This rather oblique view on what impacted the landscape of today's America is disturbing at best. This continuing failure to recognize the value of goods movement is a slap in the face of progress of real proportions. On-line shopping requires a well-planned road network, and with approximately 75% of goods shipped in trucks (of all sizes…not just the 18-wheelers), operating in a real-time delivery model would be onerous. And while improvements have been made with other modes of transportation (rail, marine & air), work still needs to be completed on multi-modal facilities to maximize the use of the road networks.

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