As President Obama has said, to win the future, we must dream big and build big. One of the best examples of dreaming and building big in our nation’s history is America’s Interstate Highway System, which marks its 55th anniversary today.
On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established a program for funding and building the new system. This legislation has been hailed by historians as one of the top ten bills in American history, surpassed only by the Civil Rights Act and Medicare, and the Interstate Highway System has been called the greatest public works project in history.
The Act proposed a length of 41,000 miles of limited-access roads linking 90 percent of all cities with populations of more than 50,000, and directed the federal government to distribute $25 billion among the states over 13 years to meet 90 percent of the cost.
In addition to the original 41,000 miles, several complete Interstate Highways have since been added to the original system, which is currently about 47,000 miles long.
The Interstate Highway System is critical to our economy and our way of life. Through 10 presidential administrations and 28 sessions of Congress, Americans planned and paved a state-of-the-art highway network that connects people with schools and jobs, and carries products of agriculture and industry to market.
Although the Interstate System accounts for about 1.1 percent of the nation’s total public road mileage, it carries 24 percent of all highway travel.
Every citizen has been touched by this system. That’s because even if they don’t drive on it, every item we buy has traveled over the Interstate System at some point.
Simply put, without modern interstate highways, there would be no modern United States.
DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) works with states to ensure interstate routes will continue to support America's economic competitiveness in the future. And just last week, FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez joined state and local officials to break ground on I-269 in north Mississippi, a new interstate highway that will help connect communities in Mississippi to major shipping corridors.
Fifty-five years later, America’s Interstate Highway System continues to shape our economy and way of life, and this Administration is committed to continuing to repair our existing infrastructure while also building new ways to move people and goods. That’s how we strengthen our communities and our economy.