Interstate Highway System

by admin - November 7th, 2017

By Kelsea Blair

The Dwight Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways is made up of more than 46,000 miles of intercity highways. Construction for the system was approved in 1956 by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Eisenhower believed this system of highways would eliminate traffic jams, unsafe roads, inefficient routes and also would provide a quick route of evacuation in case of an atomic attack on any major cities.

Eisenhower was inspired for the idea of the interstate highways when he was stationed in Germany during World War II. He was impressed with the “Reichsautobahnen”. Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act provided 26 billion dollars to pay for the highways to be built. The money came from the new gas tax, where gas was now 3 cents a gallon instead of 2.

Most people supported the Interstate Highway Act but some people did not like it at all. The main reasons people did not like it was because it was causing damage to some cities, displacing families from their homes and splitting up communities. In 1959 in San Francisco the Board of Supervisors stopped the construction of the Embarcadero Freeway. Following this first victory, activists in New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and New Orleans fought back too. Because of this many urban interstate highways end very abruptly, so they are referred to as the “roads to nowhere”.

The Interstate Highway System was and still is a very crucial part of the American economy. It increased the desire and need for more gas stations, shopping malls, and fast food places right near the highways for easy access. The Interstate Highway System is highly responsible for the large amount of fast food restaurants in the United States. At almost every off ramp on the highway there are at least 2 or 3 fast food options to choose from. You can also read or hear more about the other consequences the Interstate Highway System has here.

This is a map of the Interstate Highway System

The Interstate Highway System has benefited the United States since its beginning. It has provided job opportunities for many people, makes traveling much easier for people, allows goods to be delivered faster, more businesses to open up, and more tourism for bigger cities. It is a way for the country to “connect as one”.

Work Cited:

Burke, Adam. “A Road System’s Unintended Consequences.” NPR, NPR, 27 June 2006, Staff. “The Interstate Highway System.”, A&E Television Networks, 2010,

Matthews, Robert. “Interstate Highway System.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 403-405. U.S. History in Context, Accessed 6 Nov. 2017.

5 Responses to “Interstate Highway System”

  1. Meagan Perro says:

    From the title of this post I was not too sure that I was going to be interested, but I never thought about the highway system in this way. It’s weird to think what life would be like today without highways, considering I have to take the highway to get to most places, even my best friends house. Drive through restaurants emerged in the 1950’s and this must have also been largely due to the highway system. One of America’s major problems today is obesity, and I wonder how different the percentage of obese citizens would be if the highway system never existed. I also had never thought about atomic bombs relating to the highway in any way, but it does make sense that it makes a fast escape for everyone. Although, highways don’t necessarily stop traffic jams as there is usually traffic jams on highways every single day.

    • Matas Buivydas says:


      To go off on your interest on if the highway system never existed – I believe that were would definitely be more options made for transportation. Trains, airplanes, and any other sort would grow in quantity and for use. So, with that I don’t think there would be much of a drastic difference in obesity, yet you could consider the fact that people would have to walk to these locations first in order to transport themselves elsewhere.

      Aside from my reply to Meg. I really find it interesting that highways were made as a escape way from atomic bombs, although realistically speaking, it may be as helpful as it seems. In the perspective back then, especially after WW2 and during the Cold War, any sort of way to escape atomic bombs were implemented, but I don’t think that’s the main purpose of the highways creation.

  2. Victoria Lemire says:

    This article is great because I had never really thought of how the highway systems were created since they seem like such an instrumental part of our country. This system was made to make travel faster and to give people an easy escape route if there was the threat of an atomic bomb. I had never thought about how the government would try to displace people while making the highway system, and I definitely can understand why people would not be for it. If people had to move their homes and families just for a road, there would definitely be a lot of dissent from the general public.

  3. Amanda Babbitt says:

    It is interesting to learn about something that many of us use very often if not everyday. Without highways it would most likely take a lot longer to get places because you would be driving at much slower speeds. Also since most highways have multiple lanes unlike back roads, mortars can fit at once. This is probably why Eisenhower thought they would eliminate traffic jams. Today when I think of traffic I think of a lot of cars piled up on the highway and taking back roads to avoid it so its interesting to know that highways were supposed to eliminate the traffic jams. Interstate highways are definitely something most people take for granted but something that is important in many people’s day to day life.

  4. Jenna Goodreau says:

    I agree with Meg that I didn’t think that I was going to be interested in this topic, but it made me think about how I would feel if my family was displaced so a new highway system could be built. I also never really thought about how many fast food restaurants there are at almost every highway exit or in between exits. Since fast food restaurants became popular in the 50s, it make sense that they would be put along the highway since so many people began going to them rather than cooking meals at home. I also found Amanda’s point interesting that highways were created to eliminate traffic jams, yet when most people think of traffic jams they think of the highway, not backroads.