Interstate Highway System

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956

What Is The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956?

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was an act signed in to law in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The act proposed a system of interstate highways across the country that would provide safe, simple, and uniform transcontinental travel. The problem plaguing highways back in the day was safety. There were intersections to little shops in the middle of the highway, there were telephone poles right alongside the highway and almost no shoulder. The interstate highways aimed to change all this. Along the interstates there would be no intersections, only uniform on and off ramps where there would be raised intersections, so no one on the highway would need to stop. The highways were usually 4 lanes, with a median in between the two roads, each side would have an extra wide shoulder in case of emergencies. The interstate highway system changed the safety of transcontinental car travel forever. (Picture from
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The Interstate Also Had A Secondary Use.

The interstates were also created and funded for another reason, other than safe travel and comfort. The military saw use in the interstate system as a way for mass transit in case of a nuclear attack. If the Russians or someone else were to attack a big city with an atomic weapon, the interstates would make it a lot easier for mass evacuation. Most major military outpost are also connected to the interstate system, making it very easy for the outposts to transport military supplies if need be. (Map from

The Man Who Made It Happen:

“The U.S. Interstate System is unique. There is nothing like it in the world.” -Dan McNichol

How Did Americans Feel About The Interstates?

Americans welcomed the creation of the Interstate System at first, but as the construction of the roads dragged on through the years, Americans, especially lower income Americans, began to realize that as the interstates cut through towns they could wipe out the lower income parts of towns and completely divide up communities. There would be big protests to have the construction stop, that is why in some cities, like Baltimore and New York, the interstates stop abruptly, becoming what is known as "roads to nowhere". Nowadays the interstates are celebrated as a jewel of the American spirit, and something that makes America truly great. (picture from

Impact On the Decade

Back when the interstates were first created it changed the way people saw their country. Before, America was such an enormous land mass that even though some had automobiles, only the bravest would set out and drive across the entire continent. America was divided. After the interstates were constructed America was one country that you could travel across in a matter of days or weeks. Today, the drive from San Diego California to New York, New York, would only take 41 hours driving time. The interstates are a huge expression of the American spirit.
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Connections to Today and Solutions for the Future

Today there is almost nothing stopping an American from picking up and getting in his or her car, and driving across the entire country in only a few days. If we didn't have the interstates, common good such as avocados, chocolates, other groceries and toiletries would be incredibly expensive. Without the interstates those goods would be incredibly hard to transport from where they are processed, to the grocery stores. The interstates have stimulated all parts of the american economy, from consumerism, to the automobile industry, to the travel industry. Nothing in America would be the same without the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956


Robert O'Neil (1999, November 01). Anniversary Issue: Hitting the roads. American City & County, Retrieved from

Ronald, K. (2004, October 07). It's the highways, stupid!. Machine Design, (19), 12, Retrieved from

Smith, J. N. (2004, May 01). The Interstate Highway System. World Trade, (5), 74, Retrieved from