The Epic Road Trip That Inspired the Interstate Highway System

The Epic Road Trip That Inspired the Interstate Highway System

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In the early summer of 1919, Dwight Eisenhower was in a funk. With his wife and infant son living 1,500 miles away in Denver, the 28-year-old lieutenant colonel stationed at Maryland’s Camp Meade wasted away his considerable boredom by playing bridge with his fellow soldiers and drowning his sorrows about being kept stateside during World War I. Needing a way to break out of his doldrums, the future president found excitement in an endeavor still undertaken by millions today—the great American road trip.

Upon hearing that two volunteer tank officers from Camp Meade were needed to participate in a coast-to-coast military convoy to San Francisco, Eisenhower immediately volunteered his services. It may not have offered a young soldier the thrill of combat, but in 1919 a cross-country road trip was indeed, as Eisenhower described it, a “genuine adventure.”

“To those who have known only concrete and macadam highways of gentle grades and engineered curves, such a trip might seem humdrum,” Eisenhower wrote in “At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends.” “In those days, we were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.” At the dawn of the motor age, drivers were more apt to encounter roads to nowhere rather than the open road. Few highways were paved. Dirt roads could be muddy quagmires or sun-baked into teeth-chattering ruts. Sixty miles an hour remained a daredevil’s dream, and many roads could only be traversed at the pace of a brisk walk.

The War Department viewed the cross-country caravan—undertaken just months after the end of World War I—as part victory lap, part publicity stunt. Prodded by automakers, gasoline companies and tire manufacturers, the military saw the convoy as a way to both test the capabilities of the Army’s Motor Transport Corps and highlight the poor state of America’s roads.

On the morning of July 7, 1919, the great “motor truck train” slowly rumbled due west out of Washington, D.C., following an elaborate dedication ceremony for the Zero Milestone, the point from which all highway miles to the nation’s capital are to be measured, just south of the White House. The 81-vehicle convoy—which included ambulances, tanker trucks, field kitchens, passenger cars carrying reporters and automotive company representatives, searchlight trucks and even a five-ton trailer hauling a pontoon boat christened Mayflower II—traveled all of four hours before problems began. A kitchen trailer broke its coupling, a fan belt broke on an observation car and another truck suffered a broken magneto before the convoy made camp for the night in Frederick, Maryland, where Eisenhower joined the more than 250 enlisted men and two-dozen officers. The troops had covered only 46 miles in seven hours—a snail’s pace of barely over six miles per hour.

Over the following days, unexpected detours arose when the roofs of covered bridges proved too low for the military’s shop trucks. The convoy halted repeatedly for stripped gears, boiled-over radiators and vehicles stuck up to their hubs in mud. The custom-design Militor tractor truck, which cost the military $40,000, quickly proved its considerable worth in towing vehicle after vehicle out of roadside ditches and mud holes with its power winch. One night the Militor even arrived in camp with four trucks in tow.

Band concerts, street dances, banquets and endless speechifying by local politicians greeted the two-mile-long convoy as it rolled across the country. Once the caravan crossed through Illinois it also left behind paved sections of the Lincoln Highway, the transcontinental road it had joined in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Scouts riding a fleet of Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles sped a half-hour in front of the convoy to inspect road conditions and blaze the trail ahead with painted arrows. In Nebraska, the trucks floundered in sand as slippery as ice. Outside North Platte, 25 trucks—including the Militor itself—slid into a roadside ditch. On one hellish stretch, it took the convoy seven hours to cross 200 yards of quicksand.

Two days were lost in Nebraska, but conditions grew even worse on Utah’s stretch of the Lincoln Highway, which Eisenhower reported was “one succession of dust, ruts, pits and holes.” Troops were forced to remove sand drifts from the road, and vehicles became stuck repeatedly in the desert where no rain had fallen for 18 weeks. When dozens of trucks mired themselves in the salt flats, the soldiers used their collective muscle to tow them out by hand. Like sun-beaten pioneers, the troops suffered from a lack of water, which was rationed to one cup for dinner and another for overnight. The commander even posted guards around the water tanker to prevent any pilfering until a shipment of water from the Utah Highway Commission arrived—being pulled by horses.

Once in California, the convoy returned to pavement and hit top speeds of 10 miles per hour. After being transported by ferry to the city’s docks, the vehicles paraded through the flag-festooned streets of San Francisco to the terminus of the Lincoln Highway six days behind schedule. The caravan had traversed 3,242 miles through 11 states in 62 days, an average of 52 miles per day.

The vehicles had performed well, given the conditions, but road conditions had proven wholly inadequate. “I think that every officer on the convoy had recommended in his report that efforts should be made to get our people interested in producing better roads,” wrote Eisenhower, who lamented the lack of investment in maintaining existing roads. “It seems evident that a very small amount of money spent at the proper time would have kept the road in good condition.”

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, Eisenhower saw first-hand how Nazi Germany’s high-speed autobahn network allowed its troops to mobilize quickly to fight on two fronts. “After seeing the autobahns of modern Germany and knowing the asset those highways were to the Germans, I decided, as president, to put an emphasis on this kind of road building,” Eisenhower wrote. The 1919 trip, however, also remained in the forefront of his mind. “The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.” With America’s roads remaining in poor condition decades after his arduous cross-country trip, Eisenhower championed the creation of the American Interstate Highway System, which was officially named in his honor in 1990.

Mankind’s Greatest Feat

The creation of the Interstate Highway System may be one of mankind’s greatest feats. The amount of work and collaboration required to complete the task of interlinking America certainly deserves some praise. However, for something as critically acclaimed as this we often overlook how impactful the Interstate Highway System is on our lives. Without a system such as this we would not be able to travel the way we do currently, our cities would look completely different from the way they do today, and rail travel might be the primary form of transportation. The Interstate Highways System is comprised of many significant features ranging from its unique method of finance to the beltways that surround many of our nation’s greatest cities. The success of the project went well past anyone’s reasonable expectations amounting to a whopping 40,000 miles of paved roads (previous estimates from the Bureau of Public Roads had the project completed at around 25,000 miles) according to Contemporary Urban Planning. It really was the first time we had come together as a nation in over a century.

The current state of the Interstate Highway System. Highways are located in all 50 states showing the projects vast impact

Though America’s highways may have had a rocky start, once their footing was established they hit the ground running. First efforts at highway construction at a national scale were seen as early as 1916 in the form of the Federal Aid Road Act. However, it was not until the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and much compromise, that Interstate Highways finally saw their conception. What resulted, from both skill and a little bit of luck, was the most successful creation by man to date. The intricate balance that results in the free flow of traffic was not easy to attain. Questions such as how to obtain funding for a project of such a magnitude and should the road be limited access were daunting and it would take years to answer them. We may rile at the idea that the interstate highway system was a success when looking at it today, that is because we are constantly exposed to its misgivings. Consider all the benefits highways have in your life. They allow us to travel distances people of the past would have considered inconceivable. It had previously taken President Eisenhower 62 days to cross the country without Interstates ( Now that trip can be ventured in under 3 days (Google Maps). They also, as much as I hate to say it, have relieved traffic congestion across the country. Yes, we may never forgive that 7 a.m. commute, but they are a huge step up from a world without them. Consider the loads that they carry each day, if highways were nonexistent single lane roads would have to carry those amounts. Not fun to imagine! We like to make fun of the poor planning behind highways and blame them for wasting our time and raising our tempers. To that I say try driving to the nearest city without taking a single highway!

Highways have evolved into an expression of design in some cases


Planning Edit

The United States government's efforts to construct a national network of highways began on an ad hoc basis with the passage of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, which provided $75 million over a five-year period for matching funds to the states for the construction and improvement of highways. [4] The nation's revenue needs associated with World War I prevented any significant implementation of this policy, which expired in 1921.

In December 1918, E. J. Mehren, a civil engineer and the editor of Engineering News-Record, presented his "A Suggested National Highway Policy and Plan" [5] during a gathering of the State Highway Officials and Highway Industries Association at the Congress Hotel in Chicago. [6] In the plan, Mehren proposed a 50,000-mile (80,000 km) system, consisting of five east–west routes and 10 north–south routes. The system would include two percent of all roads and would pass through every state at a cost of $25,000 per mile ($16,000/km), providing commercial as well as military transport benefits. [5]

In 1919 the U.S. Army sent an expedition across the U.S. to determine the difficulties that military vehicles would have on a cross-country trip. Leaving from the Ellipse near the White House on July 7, the Motor Transport Corps convoy needed 62 days to drive 3,200 miles (5,100 km) on the Lincoln Highway to the Presidio army base on San Francisco Bay. They experienced significant difficulties including rickety bridges, broken crankshafts, and engines clogged with desert sand. [7]

Dwight Eisenhower, then a 28-year-old lieutenant, accompanied the trip "through darkest America with truck and tank," as he later described it. Some roads in the West were a "succession of dust, ruts, pits, and holes." Eisenhower recalled that, "The old convoy had started me thinking about good two-lane highways. the wisdom of broader ribbons across our land." [7]

As the landmark 1916 law expired, new legislation was passed—the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 (Phipps Act). This new road construction initiative once again provided for federal matching funds for road construction and improvement, $75 million allocated annually. [8] Moreover, this new legislation for the first time sought to target these funds to the construction of a national road grid of interconnected "primary highways", setting up cooperation among the various state highway planning boards. [8]

The Bureau of Public Roads asked the Army to provide a list of roads that it considered necessary for national defense. [9] In 1922, General John J. Pershing, former head of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during the war, complied by submitting a detailed network of 20,000 miles (32,000 km) of interconnected primary highways—the so-called Pershing Map. [10]

A boom in road construction followed throughout the decade of the 1920s, with such projects as the New York parkway system constructed as part of a new national highway system. As automobile traffic increased, planners saw a need for such an interconnected national system to supplement the existing, largely non-freeway, United States Numbered Highways system. By the late 1930s, planning had expanded to a system of new superhighways.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Thomas MacDonald, chief at the Bureau of Public Roads, a hand-drawn map of the United States marked with eight superhighway corridors for study. [11] In 1939, Bureau of Public Roads Division of Information chief Herbert S. Fairbank wrote a report called Toll Roads and Free Roads, "the first formal description of what became the Interstate Highway System" and, in 1944, the similarly themed Interregional Highways. [12]

Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 Edit

The Interstate Highway System gained a champion in President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was influenced by his experiences as a young Army officer crossing the country in the 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy that drove in part on the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America. He recalled that, "The old convoy had started me thinking about good two-lane highways. the wisdom of broader ribbons across our land." [7] Eisenhower also gained an appreciation of the Reichsautobahn system, the first "national" implementation of modern Germany's Autobahn network, as a necessary component of a national defense system while he was serving as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. [13] In 1954, Eisenhower appointed General Lucius D. Clay to head a committee charged with proposing an interstate highway system plan. [14] Summing up motivations for the construction of such a system, Clay stated,

It was evident we needed better highways. We needed them for safety, to accommodate more automobiles. We needed them for defense purposes, if that should ever be necessary. And we needed them for the economy. Not just as a public works measure, but for future growth. [15]

Clay's committee proposed a 10-year, $100 billion program, which would build 40,000 miles (64,000 km) of divided highways linking all American cities with a population of greater than 50,000. Eisenhower initially preferred a system consisting of toll roads, but Clay convinced Eisenhower that toll roads were not feasible outside of the highly populated coastal regions. In February 1955, Eisenhower forwarded Clay's proposal to Congress. The bill quickly won approval in the Senate, but House Democrats objected to the use of public bonds as the means to finance construction. Eisenhower and the House Democrats agreed to instead finance the system through the Highway Trust Fund, which itself would be funded by a gasoline tax. [16] In June 1956, Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 into law. Under the act, the federal government would pay for 90 percent of the cost of construction of Interstate Highways. Each Interstate Highway was required to be a freeway with at least four lanes and no at-grade crossings. [17]

The publication in 1955 of the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, informally known as the Yellow Book, mapped out what became the Interstate Highway System. [18] Assisting in the planning was Charles Erwin Wilson, who was still head of General Motors when President Eisenhower selected him as Secretary of Defense in January 1953.

Construction Edit

Some sections of highways that became part of the Interstate Highway System actually began construction earlier.

Three states have claimed the title of first Interstate Highway. Missouri claims that the first three contracts under the new program were signed in Missouri on August 2, 1956. The first contract signed was for upgrading a section of US Route 66 to what is now designated Interstate 44. [19] On August 13, 1956, work began on US 40 (now I-70) in St. Charles County. [20] [19]

Kansas claims that it was the first to start paving after the act was signed. Preliminary construction had taken place before the act was signed, and paving started September 26, 1956. The state marked its portion of I-70 as the first project in the United States completed under the provisions of the new Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. [19]

The Pennsylvania Turnpike could also be considered one of the first Interstate Highways, and is nicknamed "Grandfather of the Interstate System". [20] On October 1, 1940, 162 miles (261 km) of the highway now designated I‑70 and I‑76 opened between Irwin and Carlisle. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refers to the turnpike as the Granddaddy of the Pikes (referring to turnpikes). [19]

Milestones in the construction of the Interstate Highway System include:

  • October 17, 1974: Nebraska becomes the first state to complete all of its mainline Interstate Highways with the dedication of its final piece of I-80. [21]
  • October 12, 1979: The final section of the Canada to Mexico freeway Interstate 5 is dedicated near Stockton, California. Representatives of the two neighboring nations attended the dedication to commemorate the first contiguous freeway connecting the North American countries. [22]
  • August 22, 1986: The final section of the coast-to-coast I-80 (San Francisco, California, to Teaneck, New Jersey) is dedicated on the western edge of Salt Lake City, Utah, making I-80 the world's first contiguous freeway to span from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean and, at the time, the longest contiguous freeway in the world. The section spanned from Redwood Road to just west of the Salt Lake City International Airport. At the dedication it was noted that coincidentally this was only 50 miles (80 km) from Promontory Summit, where a similar feat was accomplished nearly 120 years prior, the driving of the golden spike of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad. [23][24][25]
  • August 10, 1990: The final section of coast-to-coast I-10 (Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida) is dedicated, the Papago Freeway Tunnel under downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Completion of this section was delayed due to a freeway revolt that forced the cancellation of an originally planned elevated routing. [26]
  • September 12, 1991: I-90 becomes the final coast-to-coast Interstate Highway (Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts) to be completed with the dedication of an elevated viaduct bypassing Wallace, Idaho. This section was delayed after residents forced the cancellation of the originally planned at-grade alignment that would have demolished much of downtown Wallace. The residents accomplished this feat by arranging for most of the downtown area to be declared a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places this succeeded in blocking the path of the original alignment. After the dedication residents held a mock funeral celebrating the removal of the last stoplight on a transcontinental Interstate Highway. [26][27]
  • October 14, 1992: The original Interstate Highway System is proclaimed to be complete with the opening of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. This section is considered an engineering marvel with a 12-mile (19 km) span featuring 40 bridges and numerous tunnels and is one of the most expensive rural highways per mile built in the United States. [28][29]

The initial cost estimate for the system was $25 billion over 12 years it ended up costing $114 billion (equivalent to $425 billion in 2006 [30] or $530 billion in 2019 [31] ) and took 35 years. [32]

1992–present Edit

Discontinuities Edit

The system was proclaimed complete in 1992, but two of the original Interstates—I-95 and I-70—were not continuous: both of these discontinuities were due to local opposition, which blocked efforts to build the necessary connections to fully complete the system. I-95 was made a continuous freeway in 2018, [33] and thus I-70 remains the only original Interstate with a discontinuity.

I-95 was discontinuous in New Jersey because of the cancellation of the Somerset Freeway. This situation was remedied when the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchange Project started in 2010 [34] and partially opened on September 22, 2018, which was already enough to fill the gap. [33]

However, I-70 remains discontinuous in Pennsylvania, because of the lack of a direct interchange with the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the eastern end of the concurrency near Breezewood. Traveling in either direction, I-70 traffic must exit the freeway and use a short stretch of US-30 (which includes a number of roadside services) to rejoin I-70. The interchange was not originally built because of a legacy federal funding rule, since relaxed, which restricted the use of federal funds to improve roads financed with tolls. [35] Solutions have been proposed to eliminate the discontinuity, but they have been blocked by local opposition, fearing a loss of business. [36]

Expansion Edit

The Interstate Highway System has been expanded numerous times. The expansions have both created new designations and extended existing designations. For example, I-49, added to the system in the 1980s as a freeway in Louisiana, was designated as an expansion corridor, and FHWA approved the expanded route north from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Kansas City, Missouri. The freeway exists today as separate completed segments, with segments under construction or in the planning phase between them. [37]

In 1966, the FHWA designated the entire Interstate Highway System as part of the larger Pan-American Highway System, [38] and at least two proposed Interstate expansions were initiated to help trade with Canada and Mexico spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Long-term plans for I-69, which currently exists in several separate completed segments (the largest of which are in Indiana and Texas), is to have the highway route extend from Tamaulipas, Mexico to Ontario, Canada. The planned I-11 will then bridge the Interstate gap between Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, and thus form part of the CANAMEX Corridor (along with I-19, and portions of I-10 and I-15) between Sonora, Mexico and Alberta, Canada.

Urban Interstates abandoned because of local opposition Edit

Political opposition from residents canceled many freeway projects around the United States, including:

    in Memphis, Tennessee was rerouted and part of the original I-40 is still in use as the eastern half of Sam Cooper Boulevard. [39] in the District of Columbia was abandoned in 1977. was to continue past its terminus at Interstate 465 to intersect with Interstate 70 and Interstate 65 at the north split, northeast of downtown Indianapolis. Though local opposition led to the cancellation of this project in 1981, bridges and ramps for the connection into the "north split" remain visible. in Baltimore was supposed to run from the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695), which surrounds the city to terminate at I-95, the East Coast thoroughfare that runs through Maryland and Baltimore on a diagonal course, northeast to southwest the connection was cancelled on the mid-1970s due to its routing through Gwynns Falls-Leakin Park, a wilderness urban park reserve following the Gwynns Falls stream through West Baltimore. This included the cancellation of I-170, partially built and in use as U.S. Route 40, and nicknamed the Highway to Nowhere. in New York City was canceled along with portions with I-278, I-478, and I-878. I-878 was supposed to be part of I-78, and I-478 and I-278 were to be spur routes. in San Francisco was originally planned to travel past the city's Civic Center along the Panhandle Freeway into Golden Gate Park and terminate at the original alignment of I-280/SR 1. The city canceled this and several other freeways in 1958. Similarly, more than 20 years later, Sacramento canceled plans to upgrade I-80 to Interstate Standards and rerouted the freeway on what was then I-880 that traveled north of Downtown Sacramento. , southern extension of the Jones Falls Expressway (southern I-83) in Baltimore was supposed run along the waterfront of the Patapsco River / Baltimore Harbor to connect to I-95, bisecting historic neighborhoods of Fells Point and Canton, but the connection was never built. in Connecticut was once planned to fork east of Hartford, into an I-86 to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and I-84 to Providence, R.I. The plan was cancelled, primarily because of anticipated impact on a major Rhode Island reservoir. The I-84 designation was restored to the highway to Sturbridge, and other numbering was used for completed Eastern sections of what had been planned as part of I-84. through the District of Columbia into Maryland was abandoned in 1977. Instead it was rerouted to I-495 (Capital Beltway). The completed section is now I-395. was originally planned to run up the Southwest Expressway and meet I-93, where the two highways would travel along the Central Artery through downtown Boston, but was rerouted onto the Route 128 beltway due to widespread opposition. This revolt also included the cancellation of the Inner Belt, connecting I-93 to I-90 and a cancelled section of the Northwest Expressway which would have carried US 3 inside the Route 128 beltway, meeting with Route 2 in Cambridge.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has defined a set of standards that all new Interstates must meet unless a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is obtained. One almost absolute standard is the controlled access nature of the roads. With few exceptions, traffic lights (and cross traffic in general) are limited to toll booths and ramp meters (metered flow control for lane merging during rush hour).

Speed limits Edit

Being freeways, Interstate Highways usually have the highest speed limits in a given area. Speed limits are determined by individual states. From 1975 to 1986, the maximum speed limit on any highway in the United States was 55 miles per hour (90 km/h), in accordance with federal law. [40]

Typically, lower limits are established in Northeastern and coastal states, while higher speed limits are established in inland states west of the Mississippi River. [41] For example, the maximum speed limit is 75 mph (120 km/h) in northern Maine, varies between 50 and 70 mph (80 and 115 km/h) [42] from southern Maine to New Jersey, and is 50 mph (80 km/h) in New York City and the District of Columbia. [41] Currently, rural speed limits elsewhere generally range from 65 to 80 miles per hour (105 to 130 km/h). Several portions of various highways such as I-10 and I-20 in rural western Texas, I-80 in Nevada between Fernley and Winnemucca (except around Lovelock) and portions of I-15, I-70, I-80, and I-84 in Utah have a speed limit of 80 mph (130 km/h). Other Interstates in Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming also have the same high speed limits.

In some areas, speed limits on Interstates can be significantly lower in areas where they traverse significantly hazardous areas. The maximum speed limit on I-90 is 50 mph (80 km/h) in downtown Cleveland because of two sharp curves with a suggested limit of 35 mph (55 km/h) in a heavily congested area I-70 through Wheeling, West Virginia, has a maximum speed limit of 45 mph (70 km/h) through the Wheeling Tunnel and most of downtown Wheeling and I-68 has a maximum speed limit of 40 mph (65 km/h) through Cumberland, Maryland, because of multiple hazards including sharp curves and narrow lanes through the city. In some locations, low speed limits are the result of lawsuits and resident demands after holding up the completion of I-35E in St. Paul, Minnesota, for nearly 30 years in the courts, residents along the stretch of the freeway from the southern city limit to downtown successfully lobbied for a 45 mph (70 km/h) speed limit in addition to a prohibition on any vehicle weighing more than 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) gross vehicle weight. I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park in northern New Hampshire has a speed limit of 45 mph (70 km/h) because it is a parkway that consists of only one lane per side of the highway. On the other hand, Interstates 15, 80, 84, and 215 in Utah have speed limits as high as 70 mph (115 km/h) within the Wasatch Front, Cedar City, and St. George areas, and I-25 in New Mexico within the Santa Fe and Las Vegas areas along with I-20 in Texas along Odessa and Midland and I-29 in North Dakota along the Grand Forks area have higher speed limits of 75 mph (120 km/h).

Other uses Edit

As one of the components of the National Highway System, Interstate Highways improve the mobility of military troops to and from airports, seaports, rail terminals, and other military bases. Interstate Highways also connect to other roads that are a part of the Strategic Highway Network, a system of roads identified as critical to the U.S. Department of Defense. [43]

The system has also been used to facilitate evacuations in the face of hurricanes and other natural disasters. An option for maximizing traffic throughput on a highway is to reverse the flow of traffic on one side of a divider so that all lanes become outbound lanes. This procedure, known as contraflow lane reversal, has been employed several times for hurricane evacuations. After public outcry regarding the inefficiency of evacuating from southern Louisiana prior to Hurricane Georges' landfall in September 1998, government officials looked towards contraflow to improve evacuation times. In Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, in 1999, lanes of I-16 and I-26 were used in a contraflow configuration in anticipation of Hurricane Floyd with mixed results. [44]

In 2004 contraflow was employed ahead of Hurricane Charley in the Tampa, Florida area and on the Gulf Coast before the landfall of Hurricane Ivan [45] however, evacuation times there were no better than previous evacuation operations. Engineers began to apply lessons learned from the analysis of prior contraflow operations, including limiting exits, removing troopers (to keep traffic flowing instead of having drivers stop for directions), and improving the dissemination of public information. As a result, the 2005 evacuation of New Orleans, Louisiana, prior to Hurricane Katrina ran much more smoothly. [46]

According to urban legend, early regulations required that one out of every five miles of the Interstate Highway System must be built straight and flat, so as to be usable by aircraft during times of war. There is no evidence of this rule being included in any Interstate legislation. [47] [48]

Primary (one- and two-digit) Interstates Edit

The numbering scheme for the Interstate Highway System was developed in 1957 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The association's present numbering policy dates back to August 10, 1973. [49] Within the contiguous United States, primary Interstates—also called main line Interstates or two-digit Interstates—are assigned numbers less than 100. [49]

While numerous exceptions do exist, there is a general scheme for numbering Interstates. Primary Interstates are assigned one- or two-digit numbers, while shorter routes (such as spurs, loops, and short connecting roads) are assigned three-digit numbers where the last two digits match the parent route (thus, I-294 is a loop that connects at both ends to I-94, while I-787 is a short spur route attached to I-87). In the numbering scheme for the primary routes, east–west highways are assigned even numbers and north–south highways are assigned odd numbers. Odd route numbers increase from west to east, and even-numbered routes increase from south to north (to avoid confusion with the U.S. Highways, which increase from east to west and north to south). [50] This numbering system usually holds true even if the local direction of the route does not match the compass directions. Numbers divisible by five are intended to be major arteries among the primary routes, carrying traffic long distances. [51] [52] Primary north–south Interstates increase in number from I-5 between Canada and Mexico along the West Coast to I‑95 between Canada and Miami, Florida along the East Coast. Major west–east arterial Interstates increase in number from I-10 between Santa Monica, California, and Jacksonville, Florida, to I-90 between Seattle, Washington, and Boston, Massachusetts, with two exceptions. There are no I-50 and I-60, as routes with those numbers would likely pass through states that currently have U.S. Highways with the same numbers, which is generally disallowed under highway administration guidelines. [49] [53]

Several two-digit numbers are shared between road segments at opposite ends of the country for various reasons. Some such highways are incomplete Interstates (such as I-69 and I-74) and some just happen to share route designations (such as I-76, I-84, I‑86, I-87, and I-88). Some of these were due to a change in the numbering system as a result of a new policy adopted in 1973. Previously, letter-suffixed numbers were used for long spurs off primary routes for example, western I‑84 was I‑80N, as it went north from I‑80. The new policy stated, "No new divided numbers (such as I-35W and I-35E, etc.) shall be adopted." The new policy also recommended that existing divided numbers be eliminated as quickly as possible however, an I-35W and I-35E still exist in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex in Texas, and an I-35W and I-35E that run through Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, still exist. [49] Additionally, due to Congressional requirements, three sections of I-69 in southern Texas will be divided into I-69W, I-69E, and I-69C (for Central). [54]

AASHTO policy allows dual numbering to provide continuity between major control points. [49] This is referred to as a concurrency or overlap. For example, I‑75 and I‑85 share the same roadway in Atlanta this 7.4-mile (11.9 km) section, called the Downtown Connector, is labeled both I‑75 and I‑85. Concurrencies between Interstate and U.S. Route numbers are also allowed in accordance with AASHTO policy, as long as the length of the concurrency is reasonable. [49] In rare instances, two highway designations sharing the same roadway are signed as traveling in opposite directions one such wrong-way concurrency is found between Wytheville and Fort Chiswell, Virginia, where I‑81 north and I‑77 south are equivalent (with that section of road traveling almost due east), as are I‑81 south and I‑77 north.

Auxiliary (three-digit) Interstates Edit

Auxiliary Interstate Highways are circumferential, radial, or spur highways that principally serve urban areas. These types of Interstate Highways are given three-digit route numbers, which consist of a single digit prefixed to the two-digit number of its parent Interstate Highway. Spur routes deviate from their parent and do not return these are given an odd first digit. Circumferential and radial loop routes return to the parent, and are given an even first digit. Unlike primary Interstates, three-digit Interstates are signed as either east–west or north–south, depending on the general orientation of the route, without regard to the route number. For instance, I-190 in Massachusetts is labeled north–south, while I-195 in New Jersey is labeled east–west. Some looped Interstate routes use inner–outer directions instead of compass directions, when the use of compass directions would create ambiguity. Due to the large number of these routes, auxiliary route numbers may be repeated in different states along the mainline. [55] Some auxiliary highways do not follow these guidelines, however.

Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico Edit

The Interstate Highway System also extends to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, even though they have no direct land connections to any other states or territories. However, their residents still pay federal fuel and tire taxes.

The Interstates in Hawaii, all located on the most populous island of Oahu, carry the prefix H. There are three one-digit routes in the state (H-1, H-2, and H-3) and one auxiliary route (H-201). These Interstates connect several military and naval bases together, as well as the important cities and towns spread across Oahu, and especially the metropolis of Honolulu.

Both Alaska and Puerto Rico also have public highways that receive 90 percent of their funding from the Interstate Highway program. The Interstates of Alaska and Puerto Rico are numbered sequentially in order of funding without regard to the rules on odd and even numbers. They also carry the prefixes A and PR, respectively. However, these highways are signed according to their local designations, not their Interstate Highway numbers. Furthermore, these routes were neither planned according to nor constructed to the official Interstate Highway standards. [56]

Mile markers and exit numbers Edit

On one- or two-digit Interstates, the mile marker numbering almost always begins at the southern or western state line. If an Interstate originates within a state, the numbering begins from the location where the road begins in the south or west. As with all guidelines for Interstate routes, however, numerous exceptions exist.

Three-digit Interstates with an even first number that form a complete circumferential (circle) bypass around a city feature mile markers that are numbered in a clockwise direction, beginning just west of an Interstate that bisects the circumferential route near a south polar location. In other words, mile marker 1 on I-465, a 53-mile (85 km) route around Indianapolis, is just west of its junction with I-65 on the south side of Indianapolis (on the south leg of I-465), and mile marker 53 is just east of this same junction. An exception is I-495 in the Washington metropolitan area, with mileposts increasing counterclockwise because part of that road is also part of I-95.

Most interstate highways use distance-based exit numbers so that the exit number is the same as the nearest mile marker. If multiple exits occur within the same mile, letter suffixes may be appended to the numbers in alphabetical order starting with A. [57] A small number of interstate highways (mostly in the Northeastern United States) use sequential-based exit numbering schemes (where each exit is numbered in order starting with 1, without regard for the mile markers on the road). One interstate highway, Interstate 19 in Arizona, is signed with kilometer-based exit numbers.

Business routes Edit

AASHTO defines a category of special routes separate from primary and auxiliary Interstate designations. These routes do not have to comply to Interstate construction or limited-access standards but are routes that may be identified and approved by the association. The same route marking policy applies to both US Numbered Highways and Interstate Highways however, business route designations are sometimes used for Interstate Highways. [58] Known as Business Loops & Business Spurs, these routes principally travel through the corporate limits of a city, passing through the central business district when the regular route is directed around the city. They also use a green shield instead of the red and blue shield. [58]

Interstate Highways and their rights-of-way are owned by the state in which they were built. The last federally owned portion of the Interstate System was the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Washington Capital Beltway. The new bridge was completed in 2009 and is collectively owned by Virginia and Maryland. [59] Maintenance is generally the responsibility of the state department of transportation. However, there are some segments of Interstate owned and maintained by local authorities.

About 70 percent of the construction and maintenance costs of Interstate Highways in the United States have been paid through user fees, primarily the fuel taxes collected by the federal, state, and local governments. To a much lesser extent they have been paid for by tolls collected on toll highways and bridges. The federal gasoline tax was first imposed in 1932 at one cent per gallon during the Eisenhower administration, the Highway Trust Fund, established by the Highway Revenue Act in 1956, prescribed a three-cent-per-gallon fuel tax, soon increased to 4.5 cents per gallon. Since 1993 the tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon. [60] Other excise taxes related to highway travel also accumulated in the Highway Trust Fund. [60] Initially, that fund was sufficient for the federal portion of building the Interstate system, built in the early years with "10 cent dollars", from the perspective of the states, as the federal government paid 90% of the costs while the state paid 10%. The system grew more rapidly than the rate of the taxes on fuel and other aspects of driving (e. g., excise tax on tires).

The rest of the costs of these highways are borne by general fund receipts, bond issues, designated property taxes, and other taxes. The federal contribution comes overwhelmingly from motor vehicle and fuel taxes (93.5 percent in 2007), as does about 60 percent of the state contribution. However, any local government contributions are overwhelmingly from sources besides user fees. [61] As decades passed in the 20th century and into the 21st century, the portion of the user fees spent on highways themselves covers about 57 percent of their costs, with about one-sixth of the user fees being sent to other programs, including the mass transit systems in large cities. Some large sections of Interstate Highways that were planned or constructed before 1956 are still operated as toll roads, for example the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), the New York State Thruway (I-87 and I-90), and Kansas Turnpike (I-35, I-335, I-470, I-70). Others have had their construction bonds paid off and they have become toll-free, such as the Connecticut Turnpike (I‑95), the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in Virginia (also I‑95), and the Kentucky Turnpike (I‑65).

As American suburbs have expanded, the costs incurred in maintaining freeway infrastructure have also grown, leaving little in the way of funds for new Interstate construction. [62] This has led to the proliferation of toll roads (turnpikes) as the new method of building limited-access highways in suburban areas. Some Interstates are privately maintained (for example, the VMS company maintains I‑35 in Texas) [63] to meet rising costs of maintenance and allow state departments of transportation to focus on serving the fastest-growing regions in their states.

Parts of the Interstate System might have to be tolled in the future to meet maintenance and expansion demands, as has been done with adding toll HOV/HOT lanes in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Although part of the tolling is an effect of the SAFETEA‑LU act, which has put an emphasis on toll roads as a means to reduce congestion, [64] [65] present federal law does not allow for a state to change a freeway section to a tolled section for all traffic. [ citation needed ]

Tolls Edit

About 2,900 miles (4,700 km) of toll roads are included in the Interstate Highway System. [66] While federal legislation initially banned the collection of tolls on Interstates, many of the toll roads on the system were either completed or under construction when the Interstate Highway System was established. Since these highways provided logical connections to other parts of the system, they were designated as Interstate highways. Congress also decided that it was too costly to either build toll-free Interstates parallel to these toll roads, or directly repay all the bondholders who financed these facilities and remove the tolls. Thus, these toll roads were grandfathered into the Interstate Highway System. [67]

Toll roads designated as Interstates (such as the Massachusetts Turnpike) were typically allowed to continue collecting tolls, but are generally ineligible to receive federal funds for maintenance and improvements. Some toll roads that did receive federal funds to finance emergency repairs (notably the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95) following the Mianus River Bridge collapse) were required to remove tolls as soon as the highway's construction bonds were paid off. In addition, these toll facilities were grandfathered from Interstate Highway standards. A notable example is the western approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, where I-676 has a surface street section through a historic area.

Policies on toll facilities and Interstate Highways have since changed. The Federal Highway Administration has allowed some states to collect tolls on existing Interstate Highways, while a recent extension of I-376 included a section of Pennsylvania Route 60 that was tolled by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission before receiving Interstate designation. Also, newer toll facilities (like the tolled section of I-376, which was built in the early 1990s) must conform to Interstate standards. A new addition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009 requires a black-on-yellow "Toll" sign to be placed above the Interstate trailblazer on Interstate Highways that collect tolls. [68]

Legislation passed in 2005 known as SAFETEA-LU, encouraged states to construct new Interstate Highways through "innovative financing" methods. SAFETEA-LU facilitated states to pursue innovative financing by easing the restrictions on building interstates as toll roads, either through state agencies or through public–private partnerships. However, SAFETEA-LU left in place a prohibition of installing tolls on existing toll-free Interstates, and states wishing to toll such routes to finance upgrades and repairs must first seek approval from Congress. Many states have started using High-occupancy toll lane and other partial tolling methods, whereby certain lanes of highly congested freeways are tolled, while others are left free, allowing people to pay a fee to travel in less congested lanes. Examples of recent projects to add HOT lanes to existing freeways include the Virginia HOT lanes on the Virginia portions of the Capital Beltway and other related interstate highways (I-95, I-495, I-395) and the addition of express toll lanes to Interstate 77 in North Carolina in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

Chargeable and non-chargeable Interstate routes Edit

Interstate Highways financed with federal funds are known as "chargeable" Interstate routes, and are considered part of the 42,000-mile (68,000 km) network of highways. Federal laws also allow "non-chargeable" Interstate routes, highways funded similarly to state and U.S. Highways to be signed as Interstates, if they both meet the Interstate Highway standards and are logical additions or connections to the system. [69] [70] These additions fall under two categories: routes that already meet Interstate standards, and routes not yet upgraded to Interstate standards. Only routes that meet Interstate standards may be signed as Interstates once their proposed number is approved. [56]

Interstate shield Edit

Interstate Highways are signed by a number placed on a red, white, and blue sign. The shield design itself is a registered trademark of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. [71] The colors red, white, and blue were chosen because they are the colors of the American flag. In the original design, the name of the state was displayed above the highway number, but in many states, this area is now left blank, allowing for the printing of larger and more-legible digits. Signs with the shield alone are placed periodically throughout each Interstate as reassurance markers. These signs usually measure 36 inches (91 cm) high, and is 36 inches (91 cm) wide for two-digit Interstates or 45 inches (110 cm) for three-digit Interstates. [72]

Interstate business loops and spurs use a special shield in which the red and blue are replaced with green, the word "BUSINESS" appears instead of "INTERSTATE", and the word "SPUR" or "LOOP" usually appears above the number. [72] The green shield is employed to mark the main route through a city's central business district, which intersects the associated Interstate at one (spur) or both (loop) ends of the business route. The route usually traverses the main thoroughfare(s) of the city's downtown area or other major business district. [73] A city may have more than one Interstate-derived business route, depending on the number of Interstates passing through a city and the number of significant business districts therein. [74]

Over time, the design of the Interstate shield has changed. In 1957 the Interstate shield designed by Texas Highway Department employee Richard Oliver was introduced, the winner of a contest that included 100 entries [75] [76] at the time, the shield color was a dark navy blue and only 17 inches (43 cm) wide. [77] The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standards revised the shield in the 1961, [78] 1971, [79] and 1978 [80] editions.

Exit numbering Edit

The majority of Interstates have exit numbers. Like other highways, Interstates feature guide signs that list control cities to help direct drivers through interchanges and exits toward their desired destination. All traffic signs and lane markings on the Interstates are supposed to be designed in compliance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). There are, however, many local and regional variations in signage.

For many years, California was the only state that did not use an exit numbering system. It was granted an exemption in the 1950s due to having an already largely completed and signed highway system placing exit number signage across the state was deemed too expensive. To control costs, California began to incorporate exit numbers on its freeways in 2002—Interstate, U.S., and state routes alike. Caltrans commonly installs exit number signage only when a freeway or interchange is built, reconstructed, retrofitted, or repaired, and it is usually tacked onto the top-right corner of an already existing sign. Newer signs along the freeways follow this practice as well. Most exits along California's Interstates now have exit number signage, particularly in rural areas. California, however, still does not use mileposts, although a few exist for experiments or for special purposes. [81] [ self-published source ] In 2010–2011, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority posted all new mile markers to be uniform with the rest of the state on I‑90 (Jane Addams Memorial/Northwest Tollway) and the I‑94 section of the Tri‑State Tollway, which previously had matched the I‑294 section starting in the south at I‑80/I‑94/IL Route 394. This also applied to the tolled portion of the Ronald Reagan Tollway (I-88). The tollway also added exit number tabs to the exits. [ citation needed ]

Exit numbers correspond to Interstate mileage markers in most states. On I‑19 in Arizona, however, length is measured in kilometers instead of miles because, at the time of construction, a push for the United States to change to a metric system of measurement had gained enough traction that it was mistakenly assumed that all highway measurements would eventually be changed to metric [82] proximity to metric-using Mexico may also have been a factor, as I‑19 indirectly connects I‑10 to the Mexican Federal Highway system via surface streets in Nogales. Mileage count increases from west to east on most even-numbered Interstates on odd-numbered Interstates mileage count increases from south to north.

Some highways, including the New York State Thruway, use sequential exit-numbering schemes. Exits on the New York State Thruway count up from Yonkers traveling north, and then west from Albany. I‑87 in New York State is numbered in three sections. The first section makes up the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, with interchanges numbered sequentially from 1 to 14. The second section of I‑87 is a part of the New York State Thruway that starts in Yonkers (exit 1) and continues north to Albany (exit 24) at Albany, the Thruway turns west and becomes I‑90 for exits 25 to 61. From Albany north to the Canadian border, the exits on I‑87 are numbered sequentially from 1 to 44 along the Adirondack Northway. This often leads to confusion as there is more than one exit on I‑87 with the same number. For example, exit 4 on Thruway section of I‑87 connects with the Cross County Parkway in Yonkers, but exit 4 on the Northway is the exit for the Albany airport. These two exits share a number but are located 150 miles (240 km) apart.

Many northeastern states label exit numbers sequentially, regardless of how many miles have passed between exits. States in which Interstate exits are still numbered sequentially are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts (although efforts to use mile-based exit numbers began in 2020), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont as such, five of the main Interstate Highways that remain completely within these states (87, 88, 89, 91, and 93) have interchanges numbered sequentially along their entire routes. Maine, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida followed this system for a number of years, but have since converted to mileage-based exit numbers. Georgia renumbered in 2000, while Maine did so in 2004. The Pennsylvania Turnpike uses both mile marker numbers and sequential numbers. Mile marker numbers are used for signage, while sequential numbers are used for numbering interchanges internally. The New Jersey Turnpike, including the portions that are signed as I‑95 and I‑78, also has sequential numbering, but other Interstates within New Jersey use mile markers.

A 7-Year Journey Across the US, One Highway at a Time

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

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When the novelist John Steinbeck set out on an epic road trip to see the country with his poodle Charley in 1960, he mostly avoided superhighways, considering these "high-speed slashes of concrete and tar" ill-suited for the inspection of the landscape. "When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must," he wrote in Travels with Charley, "it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing."

Decades after Steinbeck, Joshua Dudley Greer also hit the road with his pooch, an English bulldog named Echo. But unlike Steinbeck, Greer stuck as close to the interstates as he could, making photographs with a Toyo large format camera that appear in his new book Somewhere Along the Line. "These highways don't have a lot of mystique or romance to them," he says, "but they are such an essential part of our landscape and economy that they deserve to be pictured."

Greer has a point: The Interstate Highway System stretches 46,876 miles, twice the length of the equator though aging, it's still among the best road networks in the world. Before President Dwight D. Eisenhower funded it in 1956, taking a trip to see your Aunt Leona meant a long, uncomfortable ride down mostly irregular two-lane roads. Eisenhower, (inspired by Germany's autobahn), envisioned more uniform and efficient four-lane highways connecting all major American cities, making driving faster and safer, improving the economy, and helping defend the country "should an atomic war come." Building it was a gargantuan undertaking one report predicted it would require moving enough dirt to bury a small state. Now, an ungodly tonnage of explosives and more than $128 billion later, you can no longer blame potholes for staying home.

But it comes with a cost: car culture, pollution, maybe the end of our species . to say nothing of the gray, lackluster visuals. Although the interstates carry you anywhere you want to go—Colorado's ski slopes, Nevada's salt flats, Hawaii's jungle—the panorama out the window whizzes past so fast you can't take it in. Was that a watermelon stand? Too late to stop. As Steinbeck wrote, "You are bound to the wheel and your eyes to the car ahead . and at the same time you must read all the signs for fear you may miss some instructions or orders."

Greer has experienced this countless times, from his first cross-country road trip at age 19 to the many journeys he took later while working on personal photo projects. In 2011, he began training his camera on the highways themselves, curious to see if he could "make interesting photographs in a space that was built around sameness."

"I didn't want my photographs to look monotonous or indulge in some kind of aesthetic fixation with the infrastructure," he says. "I wanted to make narrative pictures that pushed against the banality—something with a sense of humor, humanity and melancholy."

Over seven years, he traversed 100,000 miles up and down the interstates, mostly during summer and winter breaks from his teaching job in Tennessee. Instead of Steinbeck's camper-truck, he drove a humble minivan, rigged with a platform bed and blackout curtains to block the light at truck stops and parking lots at night. When something caught his eye, he tried his best to pull over, sometimes jumping barriers and impediments to get the right vantage point as cars sped by. "I don't think of it as being any more dangerous than driving," he says.

However inhumane the highways might be—built as they are for cars instead of people—Greer found them "crawling with humanity." His images reveal the unlikely poetry he encountered amid the concrete: a veteran saluting the American flag, tourists watching a bison give birth, a man charging his electric wheelchair just off the road. They're the sort of vignettes you might find in a Steinbeck novel—had Steinbeck spent more time on highways.

1. Interstate 90: Seattle to Boston

Interstate 90 is the longest you can take on in the nation, crossing 13 states and 3,085 miles. It starts near Safeco Field in Seattle then passes through a tunnel under Mount Baker Ridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As you leave Seattle, you’ll cross two floating bridges, including Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the longest and widest floating bridge in the world.

You’ll then cross the scenic Lake Washington before continuing through places like Wallace in Idaho where the Battle of the Little Bighorn took place. Make a stop in the city of Cleveland, before reaching the end near the Logan International Airport in historic Boston.

Interstate Highway System

Definition and Summary of the Interstate Highway System
Summary and Definition: The Interstate Highway System one of the most important public works projects in American history, making travel faster, easier, and safer. President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act on June 26, 1956 and construction on the federal highway system began. The interstate highway system was one of the important factors that supported the trends of increased automobile use and the suburbanization of population and jobs. The length of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways is 47,856 miles (77,017 km). The National Highway System covers 160,000-mile (260,000 km).

Interstate Highway System
Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th American President who served in office from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961. One of the important events during his presidency was the start of construction of the Interstate Highway System.

1955 Map of the Interstate Highway System

Interstate Highway System Facts: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Interstate Highway System.

Why was the Interstate Highway System built? The Interstate Highway System was built to enable traffic to move quickly and efficiently across the nation and goods to be distributed more efficiently. The new highways allowed people living in the suburbs to commute to jobs that were miles away

When was the Interstate Highway System built? President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act on June 26, 1956 beginning the construction Interstate Highway System and the building of freeways continues to this day

Interstate Highway System Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting information, history and facts on Interstate Highway System for kids.

Interstate Highway System Facts for kids

Interstate Highway System Facts - 1: The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways is a network of controlled-access highways that forms a part of the United States National Highway System. A controlled-access highway provides an unhindered flow of traffic.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 2: The "free-flowing" system had no traffic signals, intersections or property access. The controlled entrance and exit points allowed cars to travel at much faster speeds

Interstate Highway System Facts - 3: The construction of the interstates began during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. He was inspired to start there project by his experiences in traveling long distances.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 4: In 1919 Eisenhower joined nearly 300 members of the army to travel 2,800 miles across the country from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. The journey took 62 days and averaged just 5 miles per hour. At this time in history the roads were made not of asphalt or concrete but were old trails consisting of packed dirt or mud. In the 1920s, 70% of travel between cities was by railroads

Interstate Highway System Facts - 5: The first petrol or gasoline powered automobile was only invented in 1886 by Karl Benz. In 1903 Henry Ford opened the Ford Motor Company and by 1908 the Henry Ford Model T automobiles were coming off the production line. Americans had cheap access to automobiles which were great in the cities but restricted outside due to the lack of roads.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 6: The nation needed new roads and before 1956 the federal government split the cost of road building with the states.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 7: Eisenhower's career in the army took him to Europe during WW2 and he was greatly impressed with the Autobahn, Germany's freeway system that provided transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 8: Ike assumed the presidency in 1953 in the early stages of the Cold War with USSR. Tensions were high and the ability to move troops and equipment quickly and efficiently across the country gained vital importance as an efficient infrastructure could well determine whether America could survive a Soviet attack.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 9: The disorganized infrastructure of the country had 2-lane highways but these were not connected in a rational and efficient manner.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 10: In addition the number of Americans with cars was increasing rapidly. In 1950 there with 25 million registered automobiles on the road and the need for efficient new routes for travel also increased. (By 1958, this figure would increase to more than 67 million cars)

Interstate Highway System Facts - 11: President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act on June 26, 1956 that authorized the construction of a 41,000-mile network of interstate highways that would span the nation and allocated $26 billion to pay for them.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 12: The passage of the law began the construction of the Interstate Highway System. Road signs were standardized. Exit signs had white writing on a green background and interstate route signs were red, white, and blue. The signs for rest areas were white on blue.

Facts about the Interstate Highway System for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Interstate Highway System.

Interstate Highway System Facts for kids

Interstate Highway System Facts - 13: The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. The reason the word "Defense" was added to the title of the Act was firstly because some of the original cost of the project was diverted from defense funds. Secondly, most US Air Force bases would have a direct link to the system.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 14: The Yellow Book officially known as the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, mapped out what became the Interstate System. Charles Erwin Wilson, who was still head of General Motors when President Eisenhower selected him as Secretary of Defense in January 1953, assisted in the planning.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 15: The Interstate Highways were planned so that they connected to other roads that were a part of the Strategic Highway Network, and identified as critical to the United States Department of Defense.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 16: The interstates had overpasses and underpasses instead of intersections. They were at least 4 lanes wide and were designed for high-speed travel.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 17: The money to pay for the ambitious project came from the Highway Trust Fund that paid for 90% of highway construction costs with an increased gasoline tax, with the states required to pay the remaining 10% of the cost. Interstate highways are owned by the state in which they were built.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 18: The initial cost of the project estimate of $25 billion over 12 years ended up costing $114 billion and took 35 years. Approximately 2,900 miles (4,700 km) of toll roads are included in the Interstate Highway System.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 19: Advantages: The interstates enabled a faster and more efficient distribution of goods aiding the US economy. Goods could be shipped longer distances, expanding market area for farms, and manufacturing companies moved to cheaper locations, reducing costs and increasing profits. The interstates also contributed to the growth of suburban communities allowing people to commute to jobs that were miles away from their homes.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 20: Advantages: The interstates drastically reduced the amount of time to cross the continent of North America. Ike's original trip took 16 days (it now takes just over 4 days). The fatality rate on interstate highways was lower than on other roads and over 50 years, the Road Information Project estimates that the interstates have saved about 234,000 lives

Interstate Highway System Facts - 21: Disadvantages: The construction of the interstates disrupted the lives of many Americans, and destroyed the wildlife in their paths. The highways ruined the city neighborhoods in their path. People lost their homes and their friends and neighbors as established communities were sliced in half.

Interstate Highway System Facts - 22: Disadvantages: The interstates led to abandonment and decay in towns and cities. Americans, who had initially supported the system began to fight against it. The opposition mounted by many anti-road activists and campaigners prevented interstates running through their areas and ruining their neighborhoods and as a result, many urban interstates ended abruptly and were called the "roads to nowhere."

Interstate Highway System Facts - 23: The numbering system for the Interstate Highway System was developed in 1957 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The numbering system for the assigned even numbers for the east-west highways and odd numbers for the north-south highways

Interstate Highway System Facts - 24: The interstates system allows the procedure known as the 'contraflow lane reversal' to be put into place. This procedure maximizes traffic throughput on a highway by reversing the flow of traffic on one side of a divider so that all lanes become outbound lanes. The 'contraflow lane reversal' procedure facilitates evacuations during times of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Facts about Interstate Highway System:
For visitors interested in the history of transport in the USA refer to the following articles:

Epic Road Trips for this Summer and Beyond

According to a recent survey of more than 1,500 Americans, commissioned by car rental company Hertz, more than 80 percent plan to take a road trip this summer, and 86 percent agreed they are more likely or as likely to hit the road compared to previous years. While local COVID restrictions remain a factor when preparing for a vacation, 52 percent of respondents plan to resume travel as early as June. Domestic travel will be key as 74 percent said they would stay in the U.S. including 42 percent planning to visit the South and, 32 percent visiting the West.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the pandemic in retreat, many Americans are heading out on the open road eager to rediscover the country. Why not join them in an RV?

The following collection of road trips features intriguing routes and destinations from South Carolina to Arizona. There’ll be encounters with history in Charlestown and Savannah, natural wonders to explore in the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, and good food in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It’s a moveable feast for a nation on the move once more.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Deliciously Diverting Road Trips through the Deep South

A Deep South road trip is a fantastic way to experience the sights, food, and culture of the South. Some of the best southeast destinations are New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah. When you set out to drive to New Orleans you’re better off taking it slow. You could drive from Nashville to New Orleans’s French Quarter in less than eight hours but what a pity that would be. Opt instead to take a slower, far more scenic route.

Charlestonn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first road trip starts in Nashville. Before leaving Music City consider exploring a few of the city’s unique neighborhoods including Opryland/Music Valley, East Nashville, and Germantown. Learn about the state’s history at the (free!) Tennessee State Museum and hit some balls at Topgolf.

Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On this amazing tour from Tennessee through Mississippi and Louisiana you’ll be passing through sultry small towns that invite you to linger and enough poignant sites of American history to keep you engaged. Chief among them: the Mississippi towns of Tupelo, Oxford, and Natchez. From there drop into Louisiana for a po’boy sandwich and pecan praline cheesecake at Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge before arriving in New Orleans to partake of its everlasting party. You can never run out of things to see in New Orleans, the most popular destination in the Bayou State, and for good reason. The music is magnificent and the architecture amazing. It isn’t called the Big Easy for nothing. Then there’s the food—an unapologetic celebration of simple carbohydrates.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another amazing Deep South road trip itinerary includes Charleston and Savannah. Charleston is the perfect place for your first stop. Charleston exudes Southern charm. Meander cobblestone streets lined with elegant mansions, a vibrant downtown with eclectic shops, arts and culture, music, and nightlife. The Historic Charleston City Market which spans four blocks is brimming with food, art, sweetgrass baskets, clothing, toys, jewelry, crafts, and so much more from over 300 vendors. It has a food scene that is one of the best in the country and there is a lot to see and do. Savor diverse cuisine from around the world and Southern specialties like fresh oysters, crab cakes, and pan-roasted boat catch. Save room for decadent desserts.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are also a number of museums and old houses that are worth visiting including Charleston Museum and the Old Slave Mart Museum which offers an emotional but realistic look into life as a slave. Head out of town and visit some of the old plantation homes around Charleston. There are four within a twenty minute drive of the city: Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place Plantation, and Drayton Hall.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heading on to Savannah—Georgia’s first city, founded in 1733—succumb to the Gothic charms (iron gates, massive, moss-covered oak trees) that have enchanted writers such as Flannery O’Connor and John Berendt (You can tour the sites made famous from his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, such as the Mercer Williams House and the Bonaventure Cemetery). Spend a few nights at CreekFire Motor Ranch, Savannah’s newest RV park, and take your time wandering this many-storied city. About 20 minutes west of downtown Savannah, you can have fun and excitement when you want it—and relaxation and solitude when you need it.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah has a totally different vibe to Charleston and there’s plenty to see and do here as well. Taking a tour around Savannah in a horse-drawn carriage is a fun way to see the city. It’s one of the most popular Savannah tourist attractions. They also have a guide that will tell you about the unique landmarks and about all of the historic homes you pass.

If you tack an additional 20 minutes onto your journey, you can check out laid-back Tybee Island with its tiny cottages, five miles of tidal beaches, the tallest lighthouse in Georgia, and camping at River’s End Campground.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time Travel to the Old West

Any list of cross-country trips should include Route 66, the country’s “Mother Road” between the Midwest and California before the Interstate Highway System. It’s going back in time! On this 2,448-mile-long drive, you’ll pass by iconic monuments like the St. Louis Gateway Arch and quirky roadside attractions like Illinois’s 1924 Ariston Café and the Cadillac Ranch art installation in Amarillo, Texas.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Arizona, slight detours will take you to Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest national parks. If there’s one place you’re planning to go when you visit Arizona, there’s a good chance it’s the Grand Canyon. It’s the most popular of all of these great road trips in the Southwest and with good reason! It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a truly awe-inspiring place to visit. Standing over the canyon, it seems to go on forever! It’s a striking place to visit and nowhere else will you feel so small, in a good way.

Painted Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Petrified Forest National Park you’ll find remains of a colorful prehistoric forest, some of the logs more than 100 feet long and up to 10 feet in diameter. But there’s so much more: artifacts of the ancient indigenous people who lived here including the remains of large pueblos and massive rock art panels, fossils of plants and animals from the late Triassic period (the dawn of the dinosaurs), and a striking and vast Painted Desert (a badland cloaked in a palette of pastel colors).

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend the night in Holdbrook’s real cool Wigwam Motel comprised of 15 large wigwam sleeping units and vintage cars including a 1932 Studebaker and an RV. Continue on to Kingman and visit the old powerhouse which has been converted to a Route 66 Museum and visitor’s center. The Powerhouse Building is also home to Arizona’s Route 66 Association. Tucked away on a very old section of Route 66, Oatman is about 25 miles from Kingman. As with most mining towns of the Old West, Oatman is a shadow of its former self. Upon entering the historic old downtown, visitors are greeted by wild burros that roam up and down the main street hoping to get a healthy snack.

In California, you’ll pass near the desert wilds of Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks before concluding the trip in Los Angeles at the Santa Monica Pier on the Pacific Ocean.

Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Time Out on the Third Coast

It’s got to be the easiest “long” drive in Texas: south from Austin on U.S. Highway 183—Lockhart, Luling, Gonzales, Cuero, and Goliad State Route 339 to Tivoli and 35 to Rockport. One of the reasons to enjoy U.S. 183 so much is that it’s not a very modern road, not efficient in the Point-A-to-Point-B way that interstates are. In fact, for much of its length in this part of the state, it follows the old stage route from San Antonio to Indianola, winding, and dipping, crossing rivers and creeks at natural fords. If the verdant roadside landscape and gentle hills aren’t distraction enough, there are the Victorian courthouse squares along the way. Every one of those towns—with the exception of Tivoli—has one.

Presidio la Bahia, Goliad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway 183 means a trip into history. The first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired near Gonzales and in Goliad, you will pass Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga on the right (now a state park) and Presidio la Bahia established in 1749 on the left. The Capilla or chapel (Our Lady of Loreto) has been in continuous use as a church since about the time of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It was at Goliad that the Mexican Army on the orders of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna massacred 342 captured Texas soldiers on Palm Sunday in 1836. A monument marks their gravesite.

Goliad State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here too, some seven years before the Goliad massacre, Ignacio Seguín Zaragoza was born. Zaragoza would go on to lead the Army of the East to victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday in Mexico, is still celebrated here.

Just past the presidio, it’s a left on State Highway 239, a half-hour drive along the San Antonio River Valley and through the pastures and grain fields of O’Connor Ranch to Tivoli.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then it’s a right on State Highway 35—a flat, straight drive through the cotton fields and rust-red acres of sorghum. To the right near a rest stop stands a sabal palm, remnant of one of just three native species of palm that once flourished here. Farther ahead to the left is Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, winter home to most of the world’s population of whooping cranes.

You’ll cross the causeway at Lamar Point to Rockport-Fulton‘s towering, twisted oak trees (the town is built on aptly named “Live Oak Peninsula”). RV parks here are plentiful.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive out State Highway 361 and onto the ferry for the short boat ride to Port Aransas and check out the sights: the World War II gun emplacements overlooking the Gulf beach and channels (German U-boats were active in the area early in the war), the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and its modest aquaria, and The Tarpon Inn whose lobby walls are covered in trophy tarpon scales dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fished here and a signed scale and photo grace the walls.

The sunset paints the water deep, liquid blues and golds and pinks. A quick jaunt to Mustang Island State Park and then it’s back into Rockport to your campsite.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do You Know the REAL Story Behind the U.S. Interstate Highway System?

On the eve of our planned trip to Tucson, Arizona, for the annual meeting of LCOC National, a one-day, 475-mile trip from southern California over excellent freeways all the way, I can’t help but wonder what this effort would have been like 100 years ago.

A recent online issue of Hemmings Daily carried a fascinating story of the origin of the nation’s Interstate Highway System, which drastically changed the history of the country and greatly contributed to the popularity of the collector car hobby we enjoy today.

Everyone knows the Interstate system began in the 1950s under President Dwight Eisenhower, but who knows the REAL story behind the germ of an idea that grew into the massive national highway network we enjoy today?

According to Hemmings, the idea first took root 100 years ago when then-Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower participated in the first military motorcade to attempt a cross-country trip. With few improved roads in 1919 making the crossing was no easy feat.

Although the convoy did make it from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, logistically the mission was a disaster. According to the article, the Transcontinental Army Motor Transport Expedition in the summer of 1919 “arrived several days late, abandoned nine vehicles and all but one of its kitchen trailers, destroyed 88 bridges, and had more than 200 unintentional off-road incidents,” mostly due to the horrendous condition of the roadways along the way.

Young Eisenhower’s report of the 62-day journey along the original Lincoln Highway noted that “It seemed that there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways, and from the standpoint of promoting this sentiment, the trip was an undoubted success.”

The convoy was memorable enough for the 28-year-old Eisenhower to later include a chapter about the trip, titled “Through Darkest America With Truck and Tank,” in his book At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1967). “The trip had been difficult, tiring and fun,” he said.

“The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.” His “Grand Plan” for highways, announced in 1954, led to the 1956 legislative breakthrough that created the Highway Trust Fund to accelerate construction of the Interstate System.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Eisenhower signed the bill into law. With an original authorization of $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System supposedly over a 10-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history through that time. Hmmm, more than ever We Like Ike.

Besides the Interstate highways we use every day, what makes this epic convoy topical today is that two caravans will recreate the original convoy’s feat in 2019. The first, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association’s 2019 caravan, will depart the MVPA’s annual convention in York, PA, on Aug, 10 and end up in San Francisco on Sept. 14. This will be its second caravan to retrace the path of the original journey the first recreation was in 2009.

American Road : The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age

On July 7, 1919, an extraordinary cavalcade of sixty-nine military motor vehicles set off from the White House on an epic journey. Their goal was California, and ahead of them lay 3,250 miles of dirt, mud, rock, and sand. Sixty-two days later they arrived in San Francisco, having averaged just five miles an hour. Known as the First Transcontinental Motor Train, this trip was an adventure, a circus, a public relations coup, and a war game all rolled into one. As road conditions worsened, it also became a daily battle of sweat and labor, of guts and determination.

American Road is the story of this incredible journey. Pete Davies takes us from east to west, bringing to life the men on the trip, their trials with uncooperative equipment and weather, and the punishing landscape they encountered. Ironically one of the participants was a young soldier named Dwight Eisenhower, who, four decades later, as President, launched the building of the interstate highway system. Davies also provides a colorful history of transcontinental car travel in this country, including the first cross-country trips and the building of the Lincoln Highway. This richly detailed book offers a slice of Americana, a piece of history unknown to many, and a celebration of our love affair with the road.

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Account of a post-Great War military and public relations expedition to drive a truck convoy cross-country from the White House to San Francisco. This story of the First Transcontinental Motor Train . Читать весь отзыв

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American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age

On July 7, 1919, an extraordinary cavalcade of sixty-nine military motor vehicles set off from the White House on an epic journey. Their goal was California, and ahead of them lay 3,250 miles of dirt, mud, rock, and sand. Sixty-two days later they arrived in San Francisco, having averaged just five miles a

A fascinating account of the greatest road trip in American history.

On July 7, 1919, an extraordinary cavalcade of sixty-nine military motor vehicles set off from the White House on an epic journey. Their goal was California, and ahead of them lay 3,250 miles of dirt, mud, rock, and sand. Sixty-two days later they arrived in San Francisco, having averaged just five miles an hour. Known as the First Transcontinental Motor Train, this trip was an adventure, a circus, a public relations coup, and a war game all rolled into one. As road conditions worsened, it also became a daily battle of sweat and labor, of guts and determination.

American Road is the story of this incredible journey. Pete Davies takes us from east to west, bringing to life the men on the trip, their trials with uncooperative equipment and weather, and the punishing landscape they encountered. Ironically one of the participants was a young soldier named Dwight Eisenhower, who, four decades later, as President, launched the building of the interstate highway system. Davies also provides a colorful history of transcontinental car travel in this country, including the first cross-country trips and the building of the Lincoln Highway. This richly detailed book offers a slice of Americana, a piece of history unknown to many, and a celebration of our love affair with the road.


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