2019 Theses Master's
U.S. Route 1: Catalyst of Maine Corridor Community Planning & Preservation
Highways are not generally thought of as historic resources or as particularly beautiful infrastructure. However, since the 1926 U. S. Numbered Highway System and the 1956 Interstate Highway System, highways have played a huge roll in the planning and preservation of our urban environment. These impacts are generally analyzed through the lens of interstate highways and large cities like Boston and Los Angeles, but what about how state highways affect mid-sized and smaller cities and towns? In order to tackle this underexplored relationship, this thesis looks at three small cities located within a 100-mile stretch of Route 1 in Maine. The central question is: will a close examination of the relationship of three towns (Bath, Belfast, and Ellsworth) to Route 1 reveal a pattern of planning and preservation? Further, what will this pattern look like and where else could it be found? Auxiliary questions include: is there a set of abstract rules of town center structure in relation to Route 1? What factors contributed to Route 1’s path and how has it changed? Did towns and counties have agency in Route 1’s placement? Have communities in close proximity to Route 1 had opportunities to influence the governance and impact of the highway? How have legislative and physical actions in connection to the highway directly affected town planning and development?
To answer these questions, this thesis utilizes a mixed-method research design incorporating grounded theory, content analysis, documentary analysis, and critical visual analysis techniques. This thesis is not meant to prove definitively that highways always inspire planning and preservation action. However, it does show that highways can influence planning and preservation, and that this influence is often neglected in both planning and preservation literature, especially in regards to small- and mid-size cities and towns. This thesis demonstrates that highways should be considered historic infrastructure and can be integral in forming not only a municipality’s identity, but also its planning and preservation practices.
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