SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — While many people may not be giving it much thought, America is about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a speech delivered by Vice President Richard Nixon on July 12, 1954, which proposed an idea known as the Interstate Highway System. Dan McNichol, a 1984 graduate of Wittenberg University, has not only given America’s roadways some serious thought, he’s written a book about them titled The Roads That Built America: The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System (Barnes & Noble).
McNichol’s book and the seven-week, 12,000-mile, 19-interstate promotional tour he completed this spring in his 1951 Hudson Pacemaker called “The Great American Road Trip” is getting noticed. He will be heard worldwide on the Voice of America’s (VOA) Coast to Coast program beginning Sunday, July 11, through Monday, July 12, with four or five air times. A longer version of the story by VOA’s Ted Landphair will be translated by VOA’s 42 language services and will be aired at a later time. The Web site for VOA is www.voanews.com.
In the VOA story, McNichol snags 32 seconds of air time as he speaks about how America learned the importance and came to rely most heavily on the interstate systems in the few days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“For all practical purposes, the warehouse of America today is an 80,000-pound, 18-wheeler truck hauling materials along the interstate system. After the attacks, Federal Express, the United Parcel System and the United States Postal Service unloaded their planes —all of them grounded — rushed their fleets of trucks to the airport, took the precious cargo out of the bellies of the planes, like blood and medicine, and moved them along the interstate system,” McNichol said in the interview. He added, “So for those two or three days after the attacks, we kept moving.”
A story and photos about McNichol’s book and the road trip he took made the pages of USA Today in March of this year. In the article, McNichol dispels the myths that people can see the interstate system from the moon and that every fifth mile of interstate highway is straight so a B-52 bomber can land and take off. He also outlines some impressive statistics, including that there are 42,795 miles of roadway in the primary interstate network, and 62 superhighways, 261 beltways and spur roads in urban areas.
“The interstate highways impact every American’s life every single day, whether or not they drive,” McNichol said. “It’s also the greatest American story that’s ever been told.”
McNichol has also written two other best-selling books The Big Dig and the The Big Dig at Night, chronicle Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project, popularly known as the Big Dig. He was also named 2003 Journalist of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Boston Chapter, for his work as the deputy director of public affairs and spokesperson for the Big Dig. In 1991, McNichol was appointed by the White House to serve as a Presidential Appointee to the department of transportation.
In addition to the media coverage by VOA and USA Today, McNichol has appeared frequently on national and international programs on the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, CBS News, the Travel Channel and National Public Radio. He has also been featured in The New York Times and numerous newspapers around the country.
While a student at Wittenberg, McNichol, a political science major, played men’s varsity soccer, was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and studied abroad his junior year in Ireland.
Of his alma mater he said, “Wittenberg was the perfect school for me. My closest friends whom I still depend on today, I met while there in Springfield. I always love connecting back with friends and marveling at the beauty of that campus – it especially shines at night. I don’t think you can get a better mix of academia, social life and economic diversity anywhere.”
McNichol also recalls a time when he traveled to Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine district with Professor Warren Copeland’s Urban Studies class. The class slept in the pews of a local church. “I’m a kid from the suburbs and that trip was pivotal in waking me up to the urban environment. It’s ironic as I now live in downtown Boston where an Interstate System tunnel lies beneath my front-door steps,” he said.
McNichol’s books are available at Barnes & Nobles nationwide.
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