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Process Paper

When I was introduced to the National History Day topic of Reform, Revolution and Reaction, I wanted to focus on a topic that has affected my everyday life. I came to the decision of the topic of the Interstate System, because as a resident of the Washington D.C area, I am a frequent user of the Capital Beltway. It is hard to imagine travelling from my home in Montgomery County to areas such as Tyson¶s Corner without the accessibility of the beltway. Furthermore, my family is scattered up and down the east coast, and the interstate system allows me to visit them more easily. Most of all, I was eager to discover what effects the Interstate System had on more than just transportation. I began my research by obtaining a strong background on the topic. I wanted to understand the main reasons why the Interstate was built, and then the repercussions, both positive and negative. After grasping a basic understanding of the chronology regarding the interstate¶s installation, I focused on finding primary documents, many of which were newspapers, as well as those found within the Eisenhower library. My secondary sources were primarily scholarly articles, most of which I found on JSTOR, which discussed the Interstate and its effect on suburbanization and ³white flight´. Many of these articles were particularly useful because of photographs and charts, which offered visual and quantitative perspectives on the topic. The newspapers, and in particular The Washington Post article, The Future Looks Vast for Tyson¶s Corner, opened my eyes to the profound economic effect that the interstate, and in this case, the beltway, had on society.

When deciding which format to use to present my topic, a website seemed like the most effective way to share all of the information that I had a researched, including primary documents. The twentieth century was illustrated largely through photographs and video clips, so a website was the best option in order to display the primary documents I found. Meanwhile, a website also allowed to me to present the Interstate more thoroughly, and tell the story of its progression, along with its effect, by allowing users to interact with the project itself. As automobiles grew in popularity throughout the nation, the government realized the necessity of road reform. This reform came in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which initiated the Interstate¶s construction. Because of the Interstate, the way people lived and travelled was revolutionized. As the highway system expanded, suburbia became the area of choice for middle and upper class Americans, rather than the cities. In many cities, however, neighborhoods struggled with poverty and unemployment, as businesses left and moved to the suburbs. Consequently, discontent among city dwellers reached a tipping point, in some cases causing riots. Outside the cities, though, people flourished, with areas such as Tyson¶s Corner and Bethesda providing thousands of jobs for suburbanites. Ultimately, the interstate and the events surrounding it truly embodied the topic of Reform, Revolution and Reaction.