What do Elvis Presley, Rocky Marciano and Dwight Eisenhower have in common?
If you answered that they all had significant achievements 65 years ago (1956 for those of you who are math challenged) - you are correct. For Elvis Presley it was making it to the U.S. music charts for the first time with his hit Heartbreak Hotel. For boxing great Rocky Marciano it was time to hang up his gloves as the first undefeated Heavyweight Champion. And for Dwight Eisenhower it was signing landmark legislation to create the Interstate Highway System. All significant accomplishments but the one that has a lasting impact on every American is the Interstate Highway System. OK, I am a bit biased, but this is a blog about transportation infrastructure after all!
The System's origin goes back to then-Lt. Colonel Eisenhower who took part in the U.S. Army's first Transcontinental Motor Convoy from the White House to San Francisco in 1919 on the Lincoln Highway. The terrible condition of the 'roads' over the two-month journey made an impression on Eisenhower - especially compared to the marvel of Germany's autobahn that he witnessed first-hand during World War II. As President, he sought to build a nation-wide network that culminated in the crafting of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act that he signed into law on June 29, 1956.
Today, America's economy is inextricably linked to the Interstate Highway System. Every day goods are being transported by trucks across regions from factories to store shelves and farms to tables. As a result, we have come to expect fresh produce, the latest fashions or large and varied selections of other consumer goods every time we visit a store. It has also provided enormous mobility for the average person in that travel between cities and/or regions can be done quickly and reliably.
In recognition of the 65th birthday of the Interstate Highway System I thought it might be useful to list some fun facts:
It comprises nearly 48,000 miles
Odd numbers are assigned to North-South routes ie. I-5 along the West Coast
Even numbers are assigned to East-West routes ie. I-10 along the Gulf Coast
Interstate Highways and their rights-of-way are owned by the state in which they were built
About 70 percent of the construction and maintenance costs on Interstate Highways are paid by the users of the System - primarily the fuel tax - collected by the federal, state and local governments
The federal fuel tax has been set at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993
The longest North-South route at 1,908 miles is I-95 from the Canadian Border to Miami
The longest East-West route at 3,020 miles is I-90 from Boston to Seattle
New York State is home to the most Interstates within its borders with 32 routes
So, go ahead and celebrate its 65th birthday and while you're at it, thank President Eisenhower for his vision of the Interstate Highway System and how it helped to transform the United States into the world's leading economic power.