Highway Propaganda Vids Sell City Residents on the Wonders of Wider Roads

It’s not enough for highway builders to carve out land at great public expense so they can jam more cars into cities. Now they want you to believe their projects are great for the neighborhoods that bear the brunt of the added traffic and pollution.

Up top is a video produced by the Colorado Department of Transportation to sell the public on its massive I-70 expansion project. Streetsblog Denver reports that the agency spent $88,000 in public funds to make this 30-minute epic.

The I-70 project will replace 12 miles of aging highway with a new highway, adding four lanes in the process. Because 900 feet of the new highway trench will be covered with a park, the CDOT video helpfully explains that the widening is really all about doing right by immigrant neighborhoods — not moving traffic. Many residents affected by the project beg to differ.

As a tool to sway public opinion, the CDOT video probably won’t make much of an impact. At the time we published this post it only had 135 views after a month on Vimeo. But the propaganda technique is something to keep an eye on. Colorado DOT isn’t the only road builder trying out the same message.

To promote the “Opportunity Corridor,” a road expansion project through low-income Cleveland neighborhoods, the local chamber of commerce commissioned the video below. The angle is very similar to CDOT’s video: This highway isn’t like the bad highways of the past — a new breed of road builder has figured out how to make asphalt and traffic lanes work wonders for struggling neighborhoods.

You can check out ODOT’s aerial animation of the project and decide for yourself whether this project lives up to the rhetoric.

The funny thing about this one is a lot of the people on camera, including the mayor, don’t actually seem very excited about the project. Since this video was produced by the Greater Cleveland Partnership — a private entity that doesn’t have to disclose its budget — we’ll never know how much it cost to produce. But at least they had the good sense to keep it under five minutes.

The messages in these videos might have a modern gloss, but there’s of course nothing new about highway propaganda. Here’s a classic, produced by Dow Chemical in partnership with the federal government, where road builders convince small-town moms, business owners, and farmers to embrace the interstate coming their way.

  • HamTech87

    I’ve spent time in the Denver neighborhood near I-70, and it is pretty horrendous with all the exhaust fumes and noise. They should require the heads Colorado DOT and the engineer firms to live there for a year.

  • Joe Linton

    Ah the heavy hand of the Cleveland vid. The new highway appears only in bright sunlight. The blight of “not well traveled areas” appear in foreboding twilight.

  • It’s completely incredible they spent 68K on this. They should give $$$ to anyone who can sit thru the entire epic, it is quite a piece!! (I could only sit thru about 7-8 minutes of it, much of that involved fast forwarding.) That’s not to knock the filmmakers, since there obviously a good quality to it and an absolutely insane number of people interviewed. There’s a lot of information there. But as a tool to “educate” people about the bait and switch of 4 more lanes, I wonder who the heck the audience is?

  • Joe R.

    Opportunity corridor for whom? Certainly not for the people in the areas this highway will pass through. Polish a turd and it’ll still stink. I second the idea of those who planned this living in the area for a year or two. That might get them to rethink things.

  • Vooch

    1950s propoaganda video is priceless

  • It is. “This highway means a new way of life for the children!!” Highways are wonderful!!

  • Walter Crunch

    Bury it and put it two lanes each direction. On top, put a one lane each direction with a pieces 14 for walk/bike lane. That should satisfy the requirements of an interstate, rebuild the area and drive home values up.

    Oh, leave room for a future light rail
    See? Something real people, not leaches can get behind. The days of the mega freeway are over. There is plenty of capacity. It just has to be used more than 6 hours per day.

  • Vooch

    Munich just successfully completed a project similar to your proposal. Horrendously expensive but works extremely well.

    https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mittlerer_Ring_in_Munich

    http://www.muenchen.de/rathaus/dms/Home/Stadtverwaltung/Baureferat/mittlerer-ring-suedwest/pdf/mrsw_2015-2017.pdf

  • Vooch

    also interesting how the debate is framed between the city merchants that want the super highway to destroy the town and the wise central planner ( traffic engineer) wanting to run the superhighway as a bypass.

    not one hint that the superhighway is evil in of itself. there were many voices agains the superhighway program at the time.

  • Melanie Curry

    Agreed. What an amazing record of the car-centric perspective. “So many cars! We must accommodate!”

  • User_1

    Show the churches of the immigrant communities………..
    Now pan to hand trimming of the grass edge………..
    Mention big dreams……….

    Awesome video!

  • My favorite part is them showing the white car with the bike rack on it driving up onto the sidewalk in front of the pedestrians… wtf?

  • douglasawillinger

    The Denver, Colorado project reconstructs I-70 from its initial 6 lanes to 10 lanes, with a segment in a trench with a short segment with a lid.

    What were the population growth figures since the initial 6 lane I-70 construction, and for what time period is the new reconstruction expected o serve?

  • Well Angie, about triple the folks have now see the video, thanks to your post! 🙂

  • SDGreg

    If not for the presence of the highway imposed on it, the community could already have a park, but without the noise and pollution that goes with the highway. I’m guess none of the engineers or the officials approving such projects lives in any of these neighborhoods.

  • keenplanner

    Tragic. A huge motor-vehicle oriented project that will continue to harm, rather than remedy, the public space and the health of children. Why no option for “take it out!?”

  • midringrider

    Currently in Munich. It is a great stretch of road and they are still working on the top section. there will also be some added housing at at least one of the former major intersections.

  • Vooch

    bin gerade von Tölz nach Lemggries ge radelt

    small world

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