Superhighway? Isn't that for cars?
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 93 14:37:01 PST
Subject: Superhighway? Isn't that for cars?
[And I thought this was a joke until I checked the footnotes. -psl]
National Science Foundation Develops a National Super Highway
-- Anonymous [3/11/93]
The National Science Foundation is in the process of developing plans to
build a national super highway that will advance transportation technology
in our country. The super highway proposed will replace the existing
interstate highway system and allow speeds of at least 240 MPH. the
following interview with NSF developers explores their current plans.
ME: I understand you are building a new Super national highway(1) to
serve the purposes of advancing ground transportation throughout our
NSF: Yes we are, as a part of an earlier initiative sponsored by the then
Senator Gore. We are very excited about the technology that will allow
transportation speeds of 240 MPH(2) across the country.
ME: That sounds exciting, how will it be built?
NSF: Well, we will have this super highway designed to allow the high
speed travel(3) and it will have six entrance/exit ramps.(4)
ME: Ahh.... that doesn't sound like very many ramps, where will they be
NSF: Well, several years ago we funded the establishment of six gourmet
restaurants(5) scattered across the country, we are going to fund the
building of the super highway and access ramps at the restaurant
locations. We are however allowing the ramp contractor(6) to build as
many ramps as he wishes, at his own expense.
ME: I assume then the contractor for the highway(7) builds ramps where
ever it makes sense to optimize access.
NSF: Well, not exactly. We are separating the contracts for the ramps and
the highway so the bidders can be very competitive.
ME: I see. How to you plan to connect the rest of the interstate highway
system(8) to your super national highway?
NSF: Well actually, its not part of our plan. We are having the highway
and access ramps built for us, its up to the states or other government
agencies to provide the highways to the access ramps. We will however
fund a few temporary roads(9) to connect parts of the existing interstate
highway system, but don't intend to make them permanent. Did I forget to
mention that we will be shutting down the existing interstate highway
ME: You mean I will no longer be able to drive across the existing
interstate highway system?
NSF: Yes, it will be destroyed.
ME: OK, lets see If I understand. I have a state highway system for
example, and I put in a connecting highway to your super highway, and I
can now travel on it, right?
NSF: Well, no you can't. The super highway will only be used for vehicles
that can run 240 MPH(11) and we must approve every vehicle, destination,
and trip the vehicle takes.(12) We don't want our super highway clogged
with vehicles which can only travel 70 MPH!(13)
ME: I'm confused. You mean you want my state for example, to build an
access road to a super highway it can't generally use?
NSF: Well, yes and no. You see we also want to encourage development of
toll roads in our country(14). Our six high speed access ramps are wide
enough to allow parallel toll roads to be accessed as well as our super
highway. Private road builders will be able to put in toll roads between
our access ramps, for a fee.
ME: So there will no longer be a "free" interstate highway system?
ME: Lets see if I got this straight. You build a national super highway
that has six access ramps located where you once established gourmet
restaurants and you destroy the interstate highway system. There are no
plans to replicate the functionality of the interstate highway systems,
but you will allow private toll road builders to use your wide access
ramps and develop parallel toll roads to your super highway. My state or
the government has to build the roads that lead to the super highway, but
once there, cannot travel on it unless the specific vehicle can run at
240 MPH and has specific permission from you to travel on it.
NSF: You've got it!
ME: Well then you must have a very interesting reason to put this highway
and the access ramps at these restaurant locations.
NSF: Well, you see, the gourmet food business isn't what it used to be.
Fast food has really taken over in our country, we really need to
preserve the gourmet food business.(15) High quality restaurants should
be located right off of classy high speed highways. We really would like
to encourage restaurant patrons to use the super highway so they can have
breakfast in San Diego and dinner in Champaign Illinois. We will be
looking for patrons who can afford to eat at multiple restaurants and we
will let them ride the highway for free! Of course they must have a
vehicle that can go 240 MPH.(16)
ME: I'm even more confused. How will I get across the country?
NSF: Well, if your state puts in an access road to one of our access
ramps you take it, and then exit-off on to one of the toll roads that
will be built parallel to our super highway.
ME: How fast will I be able to go?(17)
NSF: What ever the speed limit is on the toll road.
ME: What will it cost me to ride on it?
NSF: What ever the toll is. You see, we expect that several toll roads
will be developed. Competition! It should keep the price down.
ME: When the super highway is empty, how will it be used?
NSF: Well, we are telling the gourmet restaurants that they should work
together even though they will be competing with each other for
customers.(18) You know, they could develop plans to send trash to each
other so they can demonstrate how fast the transportation is on the super
highway, it would be in their best interest.(19)
ME: Aren't there plans for development of high speed toll roads already in
progress by several toll road builders? What makes you think they will put
their roads in-between your access ramps?(20)
NSF: Field Of Dreams. If we build it they will come.
ME: So again, tell me who pays for what?
NSF: The government funds the super highway and six access ramps. The
toll road providers build their own roads and pays an access fee for the
ramps. The states and other government agencies pay for any roads
necessary to get to the access ramps. When you get on a toll road and pay
what ever the price is.
ME: And the only one's allowed to ride on the super highway are those
persons who have special vehicles that can go 240 MPH with your specific
permission, or those who can afford to frequent the gourmet restaurants
and travel at 240 MPH. Everyone else takes the toll roads.
NSF: Right, but don't forget the trash runs between restaurants!
ME: Oh, how silly of me! Hmmmm. I wonder if this is really what Senator
Gore had in mind?
(1)NSFnet backbone project
(3)high speed data transfer
(4)Network Access Points (NAP's)
(5)NSF sponsored super computer centers
(6)The contractor providing the NAP's.
(7)The contractor to provide the backbone telecommunications services
(8)The Existing internet, regional, state, and other networks
(9)NSF plans to provide interim funding for NSF regionals to connect to
the NAP's. State networks and other government agencies are on their
(10)The existing NSFnet will be turned off at some point after the new
"arrangement" is in place.
(11)The Very High Speed Backbone Service (VBNS) is reserved for
applications and purposes where a demonstrated need for high
speed/capacity transmission is needed.
(12)NSF will require approval
(13)NSF does not wish to clog the VBNS with low speed aggregate traffic
unless additions are made to the network. 70 MPH=45 MBS.
(14)The NSF expects commercial providers like AT&T, MCI to put networking
between NAP's. Most of the existing NSFnet traffic would go over these
commercial networks which would have to be paid for by the users.
(15)The usefulness of super computer systems has been grossly reduced by
the technological advances associated with very powerful Unix work
stations. Super computers fill a diminishing niche in science and
(16)NSF is looking for potential users that can use more than one super
computer center and use the VBNS to make the application work.
Applications of this nature are a bit obscure.
(17)There are no specifications for commercial providers.
(18)NSF super computer centers are no longer funded by NSF so they
compete for commercial and non-commercial business.
(19)NSF is asking the NSF super computer centers to develop demonstration
applications which show how the network might be used. These
applications would demonstrate, and not necessarly do anything useful.
(20)The major telecommunications suppliers will be selling similar
services this year without the complications of the NAP's. The NAP's
primary function would allow communications between commercial vendors
which would be very useful, but it is unclear if the
telecommunications suppliers will "buy" into this concept.
© 1993 Peter Langston