Week One

Mar 10, 2023

What’s up, ladies, gentlemen, people, extraterrestrial aliens, and everything in between? Today, I will be writing about week one of my senior project.

This week, the topic was narrowed down to the Three Sisters Bridge in Washington, D.C. For those unaware, the Three Sisters Bridge was a proposed bridge in the 60s through 80s in D.C. that would supposedly help solve some of the city’s traffic issues. However, it was met with large amounts of criticism from locals due to destroying their homes and causing environmental pollution.

Apparently, President Nixon wanted the bridge to be passed in the beginning to serve as an example to the rest of the nation. However, he was forced to reconsider and eventually joined the protestor’s side as time continued. And I think that’s the really interesting part. While the freeway revolt happened at all levels across the nation, large and important cities like New York and D.C. were always viewed as examples for the rest of the nation. In another reading I read, it mentioned how freeway constructors in New Orleans were inspired by the methods of Robert Moses in New York and hoped to implement similar policies in New Orleans. However, those constructors were surprised by the amount of backlash they faced and underestimated the stronger cultural connections New Orleans had compared to New York.

Robert Moses, that’s probably a name you’ve read several times now if you’ve been reading my blogs. Moses was New York’s planning czar for much of the 50s and 60s. He was famous for his designs, most notably the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel. On the flip-side, he was also known for his racist and discriminatory practices that left Brooklyn and the Bronx in crime that eventually led the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers baseball teams to leave for California. Unfortunately, this post doesn’t have enough time to discuss him (will be covered in a future week).

For this week, I decided to go on the Washington Post historical database (thanks to Mary Riley Styles Public Library). I found 205 sources from 1960 to 1980 covering the Three Sisters Bridge. Obviously, this was too many. After talking to the professor, it was decided to archive all the 205 newspapers and sort them by year.

Sample of archive

The next thing to do was to make a graph of the available data and sort it by what years were the most important.

Because of the relevant years, it was decided to “pick five articles from 1969 and two from 1968 and from 1970.” Interestingly, the spike near the year 1969 and 1970 was similar to a Ngram done on freeway revolts. Google Ngrams cover all books scanned by Google Books.

Google Books Ngram Viewer

Perhaps this graph reflects what happened in D.C. on a major issue like the Three Sisters Bridge would have effects on the nation.

After that, all that was left was to find the files. I originally chose them by random but soon found that many of them were just short one-page PDF files with almost no text. So instead, I began to sort them by file size and chose the largest files since they would have the most content.

And voila! We found all the sources we need.

Thank you for reading this week. Next week will be focused less on statistics and more on reading the articles and what these articles reflect about people’s opinions on the Three Sisters Bridge.

4 Replies to “Week One”

  1. Robert W. says:

    Hey Arthur. This project seems quite interesting, and it definitely looks like you’re invested in this project. The statistics work with the data serves as a nice baseline, and I’m excited to see what you’re going to do as the project continues.

  2. Naga (Sudeep) G. says:

    Hello, Arthur. Your research seems to be very interesting and methodical with you organizing all of the data and statistics on the articles. The information, in your blog, reminds me of the importance of highways from the 1950s-1980s as a way to protect against nuclear attack (Interstate Highway Act) and allow for urbanization and growth of cities. Therefore, I believe roads and revolts against them is integral for determining the growth of other nations. In particular, I found the impact of politics in these revolts to be important, because you mentioned how Nixon wanted to present the Three Sisters Bridge as a model for the rest of the nation. I thought the achievement of building more infrastructure would have increased his support. This makes me wonder the reasons Nixon supported and later disapproved of the Three Sisters Bridge. Was it for political support or some other reason? Additionally, I was really interested in learning about Robert Moses. His works seem to be interesting and controversial, which makes me wonder more about how he and highways can impact crime and culture (sports). I thought the way that you were able to focus on getting articles and data was interesting. Why were 1968-1970 crucial times in the revolts againsts bridge? Additionally, I wondered why not choose articles closer to 1960 and 1980 to get a broader context. (Is there a reason that the bridge is called Three Sisters Bridge?)

    1. Arthur H. says:

      Hey, Sudeep! Thanks for being the first person to actually read my blog. 🙂

      If I remember correctly, Nixon wanted the new bridge to appeal to the United States population and increase his approval ratings. When the bridge was first being built, Nixon encouraged it, so he could show that the infrastructure of the United States was improving. However, Nixon, like many others, under estimated the people’s ability to resist. As more people began to protest the bridge, Nixon quickly joined the side of the protestors and tried to use his power to halt construction of the bridge.

      1968-1970 were crucial times in the revolts against highways due to the movement intersecting with the Civil Rights Movement. In a paper I read, it mentioned how freeways built earlier faced almost no backlash compared to highways later. Part of why Robert Moses was able to build much of New York’s infrastructure was due to being there early when automobiles were first beginning to become available to the public.

      Also, the ethnic population of the city had an effect on the resistance to the freeways. In Miami, there was almost no pushback due to the freeways mostly only affecting black neighborhoods in a city that was largely white-dominated. New York was mixed, but Baltimore, D.C, and New Orleans.had large pushback against the freeways due to their ethnic diversity and history.

      Finally, since I don’t have time to view all 205 sources, it was chosen to pick articles that were closest to the peak of the freeway’s resistance. Also, most of the articles in the middle had the most content, while articles at the beginning and end were often one-page PDFs at best.

      The Three Sisters Bridge was named after the three rocky islands in the Potomac River that the bridge would cross. The islands are called the Three Sisters, and there are many legends over how the islands were named. If you want to see the legends and history, you can see the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(District_of_Columbia)

      Once again, thanks for the comment.

  3. johnh says:

    Sounds interesting! Just a note: you might want to expand your evidence base beyond newspapers. In particular, you might take a look at government records. I recommend starting with the National Archives Catalogue. You’ll find some interesting things… like FBI case files on “civil unrest” (i.e. demonstrations against the bridge). Some of these are digitized. The ones that aren’t are mostly at the archives in College Park. Get started asking for access early, as some (like the FBI files) have to be screened before release!

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