The Interstate Highway System Essay

1423 words - 6 pages

Throughout its nearly 60 year history, the Interstate Highway System has served the United States of America far beyond its original goals. From its original purposes of uniting the country and aiding defense to the more mundane, (but equally important)such as ferrying goods across the country, the Interstate Highway System has firmly entrenched itself as one of the greatest feats of engineering the world has ever known. Record setting bridges, tunnels, and length of pavement have all been made by the vast expanse of the IHS FACT. As Dwight D. Eisenhower, then president, stated “Together, the united forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name ...view middle of the document...

After the development of the Reichsautobahnen in Germany, one of the first paved highway systems, the United States realized the need for paved roads. Many roads had been initially improved upon, with gravel surfaces covering the once muddy, rutted paths. President Roosevelt eventually passed legislation in 1939 to improve roadways to proper standards. This worked until the post-war years, when a greater and greater amount of over-road trucking was occurring, as well as the widespread “family car”. The need for a super-highway system was evident when President Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed the presidency.
In 1954, just a year after taking office, Eisenhower presented the case for a system of interstate highways to the nation during the State of the Union Address. Through difficult work, Eisenhower secured the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954, which authorized $175 million dollars to the projects, with a final figure of $27 billion being reached after deliberation between the states. The project was very popular and received bi-partisan support from the Congress. The majority of Americans also supported the project, feeling that it would allow for a more stable economy in post-war America.
Legislation for the project failed in 1955, and Eisenhower was forced to revisit the matter in 1956, a presidential election year. Many suspected that a Republican president would be unable to pass a bill of such magnitude through a primarily Democratic Congress, especially on the eve of election. Through hard work and many compromises, Eisenhower was eventually able to piece together the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. His championship of the bills and similar legislation would earn him the name of “Father of the Interstate System”.
Through an ingenious plan, the Interstate System would not add to the national debt. By using taxes placed on motor-oil and gas, the project could be funded entirely. Bonds would be used to supply the bulk of the money needed, and then paid off gradually with the money from the taxes. The number, not the rate of the taxes would go up because of the highway system attracting motorists and corporations looking to transfer from rail to roadway transport. The state would not need to pay for FHWA approved projects to go along with the Interstate, but could simply appeal to the government for funding to replace any money lost. These advances were known as a whole as “self-liquidating” a term used by President Eisenhower to denote the fact that the Interstate System would place no unnecessary burden on the nation’s economy.
The first work on the Interstate System began before any bills were passed. In 1947, 37,700 miles were approved to be made according to General Fleming’s plans for a broader system. There was no system in place to pay for it, but the Federal government covered much of the cost with help from the states involved. After the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the first project to begin was in Missouri, based primarily on...

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