If you have ever taken a road trip, you have experienced the interstate highway system. Established in the 1950s and named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower. the sprawling system of highways greatly changed the way Americans live their lives. The large project was first proposed in 1939 but it took a push by the president to make the project move forward. The large project required a lot of input and work from civil engineering company contractors around the nation. This was before advances in technology such as GPR pavement so the job was a huge undertaking and big advancement in transportation planning.
Here are some other fun trivia about our nation’s interstate highway system:
- It caused riots and protests. When people in the United States first heard about the plans to create the interstate highway system, people generally thought it was a good idea. You did not have to work at a civil engineering company to see the utility of this kind of plan but when it was discovered that it was going to be used as an excuse to tear down low income neighborhoods in many cities, people began to sour on the idea. In the 1960s, people rioted in New Orleans, Washington, DC, Baltimore and New York City. This caused delays as construction had to be halted during the protests.
- Not all major cities are on the system. There are a number of prominent United States cities which cannot be reached from an interstate highway. Those include Pierre, South Dakota, Juneau, Alaska, Dover, Delaware and Jefferson City Missouri. If you want to get to these state capitals, you are going to have to find a non-interstate highway to do that.
- States own their part of the interstate highway system. States need to be able to provide their own civil engineer services because they are responsible for the upkeep of the roads that are part of the interstate highway system that go through their area. That means if there are potholes in their segment of the system, they have to take care of it. If you are driving on a highway and encounter a pothole, do not blame the feds, that is all on the state.
- Each state sets its own speed limit. They own the property and they can dictate how fast people can drive on it. There have been efforts to change this. In 1974, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, which was in response to the oil crisis. This law set the national speed limit at 55 but it was hated by drivers all over the country. In 1995, the law was repealed and authority to set speed limits was given back to the states.
- The interstate highway system was part of the national defense plan. President Eisenhower had been a general in World War II and was very concerned with what the country would do if it was ever hit by an atomic bomb. One of the justifications that was used to fund and hire civil engineering company consultants to build the interstate highway system was to be able to evacuate people if the country was attacked this way.
- Hawaii has highways that are part of the interstate highway system. When Hawaii became a state in 1960, it got its own interstate highways. This may seem counterintuitive as the term “interstate” means something should run from one state to another. The main reason Hawaii got its own interstate highways was that it was seen to be an important part in the protection of the area if it was attacked with a nuclear weapon. The main thing about roads in the system is they receive funding from the federal government. Hawaii’s interstates are not designated “I” for intestate but “H” for Hawaii.
The interstate highway system represented an important development how people in the United States live. Of course an army of civil engineering company consultants needed to work out the details of the structural design of the system but most people in the country benefited from the new roads. Not only were people able to get from place to place but so were goods such as food.