Class of highway with two or more lanes in each direction, designed and regulated for use by fast motor traffic only. The German super-highway concept dates from 1911, and a small length of express road was opened between Witzleben and Nikolassee, Berlin, in 1921. In Northern Italy a prototype autostrada was commenced in 1922 and opened in 1924. In Germany a similar road (Autobahn) was proposed linking Hamburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, and Basel, but the German network of motorways quickly got under way after Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) came to power in 1933, the initial planning having been carried out by private companies during the Weimar Republic (1918–33). Todt was appointed Inspector-General of German Highways in 1933. He, in turn, employed the land-scape-architect Alwin Seifert to take charge of landscaping, and the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt was opened in 1935. Bonatz designed bridges, viaducts, and other structures: his bridge over the River Lahn at Limburg was typical of his accomplishment in producing works of the highest aesthetic quality. Other bridges and monumental structures were designed by Friedrich (Fritz) Tamms (1904–80). It is not generally realized that one of the key reasons for building the Autobahnen was propaganda, to create a means by which the beauties of the German landscape could be enjoyed: the new roads would emphasize the unity of the Fatherland, dissolving the borders of the former Länder, and themselves be works of art as noble as anything the Romans had left.
In the USA national coast-to-coast highways were proposed by Manning in 1923, but the system of true motorways with limited access was commenced in the 1950s. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe huge motorway systems were constructed since the 1950s, some more successfully landscaped than others, while the pre-war Italian and German networks were expanded.
P. Adam (1992);Council of Europe (1995);Ladret (1974);Spotts (2002)