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Ike and the Highway System

One of President Dwight Eisenhower's greatest achievements was promoting and signing the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956. Eisenhower justified the project through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 by taking the position that it was essential to American security during the Cold War. He said that large cities would be targets in a possible future war, and the highways were designed to evacuate them and allow the military to move in. Although he used a military argument to get Congress to pay for it, this accomplishment has have a lasting peacetime benefit.

Eisenhower's vision of an improved highway system probably began with his involvement in the U.S. Army's 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. He was assigned to the project, which involved sending a convoy of U.S. Army vehicles coast to coast. He also said that his experience with German autobahns during World War II convinced him of the benefits of an Interstate Highway System. He thought an Interstate Highway System in the U.S. would not only be beneficial for military operations, but be the building block for continued economic growth.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Public Law 84-627), was enacted on June 29, 1956, when Eisenhower signed the bill into law. The original bill authorized the spending of 25 billion dollars for the construction of 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System over a 20-year period. It was the largest public works project in American history through that time.

The money for the Interstate Highway and Defense Highways was handled in a Highway Trust Fund that paid for 90 percent of highway construction costs with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent. It was expected that the money would be generated through new taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks, and tires. The Federal portion of the cost of the Interstate Highway System has been paid for by taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel.

Sometimes politicians and Presidents make the right call, and it appears that Ike make the right call on this one. I know that I certainly appreciate the highway system, especially on those times when I've made the drive to my s.o.'s home in Kansas, As we drive across Washington, parts of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas (sometimes we come back a different way going through Montana or Nebraska), the highways are always terrific.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 11th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
And I've been singing his praises ever since I was turning green on the highways in Mexico.
Feb. 11th, 2012 06:57 am (UTC)
After driving anywhere in the US, I return home so disappointed with Canada's sad highway system. One of the busiest highways in the nation, the Number One Highway going through Vancouver only has two lanes (plus one HOV lane) in each direction.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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