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Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examines how Detroit, a symbol of Americaâ€™s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).Detroit is the crucible in which the nationâ€™s ability to move toward a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure is put to the test. The documentary shows how investments in the past â€” beginning with the construction of canals in the 18th century â€” profoundly shaped Detroitâ€™s physical layout, population growth and economic development. Before being dubbed the Motor City, Detroit was once home to the nationâ€™s most extensive streetcar system. In fact, it was that vast network of streetcars that carried workers to the areaâ€™s many car factories. And it was the cars made in those factories that would soon displace the streetcars in Detroit â€” and in every major American city.
Detroitâ€™s engineers went on to design the nationâ€™s first urban freeways and inspired much of Americaâ€™s 20th century transportation infrastructure system â€” from traffic signals to gas stations â€” that became the envy of the word.
But over the last 30 years, much of the world has moved on, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation and leaving America â€” and Detroit â€” behind. Viewers are taken on a journey beyond Detroitâ€™s blighted urban landscape to Spain, home to one of the worldâ€™s most modern and extensive transit systems; to California, where voters recently said yes to Americaâ€™s first high speed rail system; and to Washington, where Congress will soon decide whether to finally push Americaâ€™s transportation into the 21st century.