Stored Potential 2: Transport(ation)

Rendering by Ashley Byars

Last fall, 2010, Stored Potential 1: Land Use, Agriculture, and Food began a conversation to reposition the discontinued concrete silos located on Vinton Street at the juncture of I-80 and I-480 near downtown Omaha. This fall, 2011, Stored Potential 2: Transport(ation) will continue the discourse by inviting images for 20‘x80’ banners to cover the remaining silos on the west wide of the elevator. Images will be selected based on concept, originality, larger scope of vision and how the individually submitted banners combine with one another to form a new facade. Designs should initiate conversation about the fused nature of transportation and transport in relation to the grain elevator, the citywide hiking trail (once rail) it terminates, and the 76,000 vehicles passing it each day on the cross-continental Interstate 80.

Project Brief:
The United States is built upon complex networks of transportation. Commencing with navigated natural waterways on the coasts, to an expanding cross-county railroad, then large ships moving immigrants and freight across oceans while smaller boats plied the nation’s rivers, lakes and canals. Meanwhile, carriages, wagons, and horses traversed thousands of miles of roads between the coasts according to the relentless 1 mile by 1 mile grid established by Jefferson. Eventually these modes were replaced by the car, made affordable to more and more people through mass production. From 1900 to 1920 the number of cars owned by Americans grew to 8 million.

The railroad rolled out 150,000 linear miles of tracks and the National Highway System paved 160,000 linear miles of roadway, as the world watched with awe at unprecedented speed and scale of engineering. Cities and suburbs spread out as everything became a short drive, or flight, away. By 1960, 2 million passengers plus millions of packages and high priority cargo took off from America’s airports every day. Steel containers made shipping possible anywhere in the world. The average American quickly became dependent on far-away places for basic life staples. Fruit from California, furniture from Chicago and clothes from New York crossed the country with speed and ease unknown a century previous. Over 50 million cars were on the roads, converted from dirt and gravel to asphalt and concrete.

These systems of transportation have defined American lifestyle. In Nebraska, 39.7% of the population spends 15-29 minutes commuting by car to work each way. 0.63% of Nebraskans use public transportation for their commute compared to 4.44% nationally. Across the nation, there is simultaneously too much and never enough transportation infrastructure. In 2000, there were over 220 million cars on the roads—more than 1 for every American over age 18.

While transportation infrastructures have considered the movement of people and goods from one location to another, they have much larger implications. Transport can include both the physical and metaphysical complex infrastructure networks linking people, goods, ideas, information, economic growth, urban development, cultures, resources, and technology. The discontinued silos sit as markers to the ever changing landscape of transport. As infrastructural networks advance and improve, the city is forced to confront relics of outmoded situations, ideas, and technologies. Where the interstate system brought unprecedented connectivity to the individual with the automobile, it concurrently brought the discontinuation of other systems. What will the future say about our current systems of transport, from the vehicles we drive, the computers we network with, the communication lines that have long accompanied physical infrastructure, and the empty silos we drive by each day? What type of transport might be on the horizon to identify the interstate system as a relic of the past? The past does, as we can thus be certain the future will, prove how transport(ation) infrastructure mutates with associated industry, culture, and ideas.