You probably drive on an Interstate highway on a regular, if not daily, basis and other than concentrating on where you are going, you think little about it.
In actual fact the advent of the interstate was a remarkable change to how things could be transported. When you consider the enormous size of the U.S, building an Interstate highway system that links every city has been an incredible feat; and was the vision of President Eisenhower.
It all resulted from seeing the German autobahn system after the end of World War II. It was realized that wide efficient highways enabled vehicles to move quickly and safely around the country which up to this point in time was not the case in the U.S. Much of the original thinking was to enable American citizens to move quickly from one place to another in the event of a nuclear attack; something that was very much on the minds of the U.S. government in the early 1950s.
A road building plan was put together and was passed by congress in 1956; it proposed to build 42,000 miles of Interstate highway and would take 16 years to complete. As soon as congress had passed the plan work began and five months later an historic eight mile stretch of Interstate highway opened in Topeka, 1957 the now familiar Interstate signage was developed with the associated now famous numbering system. Here’s a little bit of trivia, if you didn’t already know it; Interstates that run north to south are all odd-numbered while highways that have a predominant east-west direction are even-numbered. Another bit of trivia; the lowest Interstate numbers are in the south and west of the U.S.
As the years passed, so the number of Interstate highways increased. Movement across the U.S. had become easier; parts of America that were difficult to reach from other parts were now connected. However, despite the best efforts of the construction companies the 16 year completion date (it was meant to be complete in 1972) passed by with still many more thousands of miles to be completed. The completion of the Interstate highway program wasn’t eventually completed until 1993, so it took 27 years in total. The final stretch of Interstate was I 105 in Los Angeles.
The original vision of President Eisenhower was to build a highway system that spanned America with its original purpose being to protect American citizens. However, as it has turned out, the Interstate highway system has provided a series of essential arteries across the whole of the U.S. It was also responsible for the number of suburbs that were built. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of traffic congestion, smog and the country’s total reliance on the motor vehicle.
The building of the Interstate put a stop on many railroad developments and while it is possible to travel by railroad to many places, the trains are slow, compared to those in many other countries, and indeed, even with the congested roads, it can often be quicker to use the road system rather than the railroad system.