United States

Interstate Highway System





At the end of the 19th century, there was only one motorized vehicle on the road for every 18,000 Americans.  Roads were made of packed dirt or mud, and outside of the towns there were no gas stations or street signs.  This changed in 1908 with Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T, and by 1927 Ford had sold 15 million automobiles; cars had become a necessity instead of a luxury.  Roads were built, however designs and colors varied from one state to another, resulting in confusion among motorists.


President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, creating a 41,000-mile national system of interstate highways that would, according to Eisenhower, eliminate unsafe roads and inefficient routes, and would promote speedy, safe transcontinental travel.  He felt that in the event of an atomic attack on key U.S.  cities, the highways would allow quick evacuation.  In addition to connecting the nation, the highways would provide ground transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments in the event of a foreign invasion.  The allocation of $26 billion to fund the project, which standardized U.S. highway signs, was paid for by way of an increased gasoline tax. 


The existence of the Interstate Highway System has had a huge impact on the country.  It accelerated the development of commerce throughout the nation, allowing trucks to move quickly from one region to another.  It has increased the mobility of Americans, enabling them to move out of the cities into the suburbs, and to travel quickly from one area to another for vacation and business.  The economic impact of the Act is still felt today due to the maintenance required for the highways.



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