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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Over the swamps to Gotham

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Pulaski Skyway, America's first "superhighway," which runs high above the Hackensack Meadowlands between Newark and Jersey City. That massive old hunk of steel and concrete, on whose roadway and in whose shadow I spent my youth, has never been the world's safest place to drive, and it's slated to be replaced someday not too far off. But in its birth time, it was a wonder.

I had never heard the history of the construction of the skyway, other than to know that more than a dozen men died building it. Now there's a book that tells that story in a pretty engaging manner, and it paints a vivid picture of Jersey City politics at the time to boot. It's called The Last Three Miles, and it's by a New Jersey writer named Steven Hart. Not a lengthy read at just under 200 pages, the book is a fine piece. If you're a fan of history, of engineering, of organized labor or its opponents, or of dirty politics, it's worth your tracking down. (Hint: The copy I've had checked out of the Multnomah County Library is going back soon.)

Comments (4)

For over 3 yrs I made the Pulaski Skyway part of my routine making my way to the "Big Apple" Then............I discovered Portland!
Ah Portland my favorite, the year was 1983 and the Rose Festival theme was "Portland You're The Tops" I remember Traci Barry in that sexy black half tux.
Now I'm married to a school teacher in South Jersey and live near mile marker 0 just off the Garden State Parkway.
No traffic down here in the pine barrens.
Life is great as I travel to Portland once per month now.
I gleen the best from East to West!
As they would say in Jersey.....
Pulaski and Portland perfect together.

oh, i probably say this every pulaski skyway thread, but i hope everyone reads the robert sullivan book on the meadowlands. it hits on the skyway of course....

anyway, looking forward to reading The Last Three Miles... although how many highways claim the title of "america's first superhighway". i always think of the penn turnpike...

Thanks for the nice writeup, Jack. Glad you liked the book.

George: Sullivan's book is fun, but he seems to believe the highway (and the Skyway) were designed by Swedish geographer Sven Hedin. He also offers an anecdote about this near-mythological figure that older people will recognize as a rather moldy ethnic joke. I'd say the man's source on that one pulled his leg pretty hard.

I can recommend "Fields of Sun and Grass" as a far better book about the Meadowlands. The author gets the sociology of the place more than Sullivan. I grew up in towns around the Meadowlands, and I went to school with kids whose father supplemented the budget by trapping muskrats and prospecting for scrap in the big swamp. "Fields of Sun and Grass" painted a picture I could recognize. Not so with Sullivan.

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