The first section of the Nazi-built freeway, a 14-mile stretch between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, was completed on 19 May 1935. Adolph Hitler is generally credited with being the father of the Autobahn, the now 6800-mile national freeway system in Germany that has no posted speed limits. The anniversary invites a harder look at the 1935 date and at how much credit Hitler deserves for the concept. It also invites a look at whether unrestricted speeds and freeways are under threat in Germany.
The Encyclopedia Britannica and other respected sources date the Autobahn, which had grown to 1310 miles (2108 km) by 1942, from 1935. Hyde Flippo, in the book "The German Way," asserts that the first autobahn, between Cologne and Bonn, was completed in 1932. The book disagrees with the commonly-stated belief that Hitler was the father of the autobahn concept. The precursors were the Avus experimental highway in Berlin (built between 1913 and 1921), according to the book, and Italy's autostrada tollway between Milan and the northern Italian lakes (completed in 1923). The book also asserts that German leader Adolph Hitler envisaged the construction of the system primarily as a military asset, and that its much-mentioned role as a job-creation program was only an added benefit. There is still no speed limit, but congestion often forces much slower speeds on users -- 81 mph (130 km) per hour is recommended in many places. Where congestion is worst, the recommendation is 62 mph. Plans to increase freeways and lengthen the Autobahn system regularly run into opposition from environmentalists, who see more motorways as a threat to local ecosystems and quality of life.
Date written/update: 2010-05-19