Statistics maven Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidental election, much to the dismay of certain partisan pundits, is predicting a Seattle Seahawks-New England Patriots matchup for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3. News outlets throughout the Seattle area jumped on the bandwagon Thursday, noting how Silver's accuracy in political prognostication is unparalleled. However, none seemed to mention that, earlier in the NFL season (and right after his election success), Silver was asked by RotoExperts, a Fantasy Football website, to predict the games of November 11/12. Silver got eight outcomes correct and six incorrect, including the Seahawks' victory over the New York Jets. Seems politics might be easier to predict than football.
Meanwhile, the interstate highway system gets little love and a lot of abuse these days, credited with urban demolition, suburban sprawl and desecration of the countryside, not to mention the intangible crime of encouraging Americans to race to their destinations while ignoring the joys and sights of the journey.
Some of the blame is earned; much of it is silly. For people and things, the destination usually matters more than the journey. The interstates rendered the destination possible by making the journey faster and safer, even more enjoyable. And lamentations about not seeing or appreciating the country when viewed from the interstate are sometimes wrong. Take the drive on I-82 between Ellensburg and Yakima, or on I-90 just west of Snoqualmie summit, and try not to be impressed by either the scenery or the engineering feats.
Your cargo, however, is not on a sightseeing trip. It has places to be and work to do, which underscores the massive contribution the interstate system has made as an incredibly powerful economic engine. The modern American supply chain is a wondrous thing; it doesn’t happen without a network of limited-access divided highways, which, by the way, took a lot of traffic off city streets and rural roads, improving life for many.
Unloved as Interstates 5, 90 and 405 are for their congestion, noise, unsightliness, etc., and as expensive as it’s going to be to expand, rebuild and maintain them, give them credit for making urban life possible.
Monthly columnist Bill Virgin is the founder and owner of Northwest Newsletter Group, which publishes Washington Manufacturing Alert and Pacific Northwest Rail News.