Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, Previous Facts of the Day
Previous Interstate Facts of the Day
- January 29, 2010: On June 29, 1990, North Carolina opened the final link in I-40, a 2,554-mile highway from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Barstow, California. The rolling festivities included remarks by Governor James G. Martin (who called I-40 "North Carolina's Main Street"), 900 pounds of free barbecue, a military band, cheerleaders from Hobbton High School, and a descent by the Ft. Bragg's Green Beret Sport Parachute Team at the NC-50/55 interchange at Newton Grove; an ice cream social at the I-40/NC-24 rest area west of Warsaw, and a final ceremony at Grace Baptist Church near the eastern terminus in Wilmington. In 1958, the first Interstate-funded construction on I-40 nationwide had taken place in Haywood County, North Carolina. Total cost of I-40: $3.3 billion.
- January 30, 2010: The I-70 Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel in Colorado is the longest Interstate tunnel and the System's highest point above sea level (11,013 feet (east bore), 11,158 feet (west bore)). The westbound bore (completed March 8, 1973) is named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, while the eastbound bore (completed December 21, 1979) is named after former Senator and Colorado Governor Edwin C. Johnson, who had fought hard to secure the Interstate mileage west of Denver. (The lowest elevation on the Interstate System is I-8 in El Centro, California, 52 feet below sea level.)
- January 31, 2010: On June 26, 1956, after both Houses of Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the two chief authors, Senator Al Gore, Sr. (D-Tn) and Representative George H. Fallon (D-Md.) issued a joint statement saying the bill would set in motion "the greatest governmental construction program in the history of the world." Representative Fallon added:
The American people will ride safely upon many thousands of miles of broad, straight, trouble-free roads, four to eight lanes wide, criss-crossing America from coast to coast and border to border, built to the very highest standards that our highway engineers can devise.
- February 1, 2010: Rhode Island was the first State to open all of its Interstate mileage, 70.8 miles, in June 1975. Of the States with larger amounts of mileage, Nebraska was the first to open all of its 481.5 miles of Interstate System (November 1976).
- February 2, 2010: During debate on the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Senator Steve Symms (R-Id.) said, "I think in general, the Interstate and Defense Highway System has been one of the best Federal projects we have ever seen in terms of opening up commerce, industry, and opportunity and personal freedom for Americans."
- February 3, 2010: Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner submitted the final Interstate Cost Estimate (ICE) to Congress on February 4, 1991. The ICE, which was used to apportion Interstate Construction funds based on needs in each State, estimated that the total cost of the Interstate System would be $128.9 billion, with a Federal share of $114.3 billion. Of this amount, $12.9 billion remained to be expended (Federal share: $11.7 billion).
- February 4, 2010: Vermont's first Interstate highway, a section of I-91 from the Massachusetts State line to Brattleboro, opened on November 1, 1958. Besides being Vermont's first Interstate, it was the first highway in the State with full control of access and a four-lane divided design.
- February 5, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 20, 1944, authorized designation of a 40,000-mile "National System of Interstate Highways." On August 2, 1947, Commissioner of Public Roads, Thomas H. MacDonald, and the Federal Works Administrator, Major General Philip B. Fleming, designated 37,681 miles of principal highways, including 2,882 miles carrying the routes through cities. The remaining mileage, used for urban circumferential and distributing routes, was approved on September 15, 1955.
- February 6, 2010: The longest Interstate highway is I-90, stretching 3,085 miles from Boston, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington. However, I-90 is not the Nation's longest road. That would be U.S. 20, a 3,365-mile route from Boston, Massachusetts, to Newport, Oregon.
- February 7, 2010: North Dakota's first completed section of the Interstate System was dedicated on October 16, 1958. Located between Jamestown and Valley City, the 40-mile section of I-94 was opened with a ceremony at the Eckelson interchange, with Governor John E. Davis cutting the ribbon.
- February 8, 2010: In 1975, the American Society of Civil Engineers presented a Special Civil Engineering Achievement Award to the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways during a ceremony on the Ellipse south of the White House. Identical plaques were presented to Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., and William S. Ritchie, Jr., president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The twin plaques were representative of the Federal-State relationship that built the Interstate System.
- February 9, 2010: It is NOT true that one-in-five miles of the Interstate System must be straight so airplanes can land. This widespread myth has no basis in law, regulation, design manual, or fact. Airplanes occasionally land on Interstates, not because the Interstates are designed for that purpose, but because no alternative is available in an emergency.
- February 10, 2010: I-80 across Pennsylvania was completed with a ceremony on September 17, 1970, at the Milesburg interchange. At the time, the highway was known as the Keystone Shortway, but was renamed the Z. H. Confair Memorial Highway in 1984 to honor State Senator Confair, who had promoted construction of the road as president of the Keystone Shortway Association.
- February 11, 2010: The 1.7-mile, $112-million I-70 Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel opened in Colorado on March 8, 1973. During a brief ceremony about 500 feet inside the tunnel's entrance west of Denver, Governor John Love said, "This tunnel, as part of the Interstate System, represents the most recent, and possibly the most effective, answer to tying east and west Colorado together and opening the way west."
- February 12, 2010: To help resolve urban Interstate controversies, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 provided that a Governor and the local governments concerned could request withdrawal of unbuilt Interstate routes or portions thereof in an urbanized area. The Department of Transportation could withdraw approval if the withdrawn segment was not essential to completion of a unified and connected System. Transit projects in or serving the same urbanized area could be substituted, with funds from the general Treasury in an amount equal to the Federal share of the withdrawn facility. (The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976 allowed substitution of highway projects in addition to transit projects.) The first withdrawal was approved for Boston's Inner Belt (I-95 and I-695) on May 23, 1974, and the final approval occurred on September 22, 1989 (bus lanes on I-205 in Portland, Oregon). In all, a total of 50 actions involved withdrawal of 343 miles of Interstate highways in 21 States.
- February 13, 2010: The Interstate System includes 55,512 bridges and 82 tunnels (including 104 individual bores).
- February 14, 2010: Texas has more Interstate miles than any State (3,233 miles), but New York has the most Interstate Routes (29).
- February 15, 2010: Ohio completed its Interstate mileage on September 19, 2003, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the final three segments of the I-670 Spring-Sandusky-Interchange Project in downtown Columbus. The $225 million project included 15 projects to widen, reconstruct, and complete I-670 to improve safety and access where I-670, SR 315, and U.S. 33 meet.
- February 16, 2010: Although Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to the present have supported the Interstate System, only one President has participated in the opening of an Interstate highway. On November 14, 1963, President John F. Kennedy helped cut the ribbon for the opening of the Maryland Northeastern Expressway-Delaware Turnpike on I-95. Eight days later, on November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Officials in Delaware and Maryland renamed the turnpike the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway.
- February 17, 2010: The magazine Invention and Technology said: "The Interstate system works, in fact, it has exceeded its original scope and mission by revolutionizing the Nation's logistics, changing the way we travel, and knitting the country's regions closer together. Thanks to constant redesign and reconstruction, the Interstate remains a vital part of the U.S. economy." [Daniel J. McConville, "Seaway to Nowhere," Invention and Technology, Fall 1995]
- February 18, 2010: The Interstate System has had four statutory names. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 called it the National System of Interstate Highways. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 amended the name to: National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Public Law 101-427, signed by President George H. W. Bush on October 15, 1990, renamed the Interstate System the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Section 1005 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 amended the name by restoring the word "National" after the former President's name. As a result, the official name of the Interstate System is: the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
- February 19, 2010: In 1976, Life magazine published a Bicentennial Issue on "The 100 Events that Shaped America." No. 96 was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The accompanying article explained that the 1956 Act "aimed at nothing less than tying the whole continent together with a continuous network of limited-access superhighways." The Interstate System is "the most grandiose and indelible signature that Americans have ever scratched across the face of their land."
- February 20, 2010: Which Interstate highway crosses the most States? The answer is I-95, which crosses 15 States and the District of Columbia: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, the District, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. The route that crosses the second most States is I-90: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.
- February 21, 2010: The Interstate System includes seven border-to-border routes:
- I-5, San Diego, California, to Blaine, Washington (1,382.04 miles)
- I-15, San Diego to Sweet Grass, Montana (1,436.89 miles)
- I-35, Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minnesota (1,831.43 miles)
- I-55, New Orleans, Louisiana, to Chicago, Illinois (943.69 miles)
- I-65, Mobile, Alabama, to Gary, Indiana (888.08 miles)
- I-75, Miami, Florida, to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan (1,787.49 miles)
- I-95, Miami to Houlton, Maine (1,892.76 miles)
- February 22, 2010: The Interstate System connects all but four State capitals. Those not directly served are Juneau, Alaska; Dover, Delaware; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Pierre, South Dakota.
- February 23, 2010: The Central Artery/Tunnel Project ("The Big Dig") in Boston, Massachusetts, is the biggest project in Interstate history. However, it is actually several projects combined into one. The key elements are extension of I-90 to Logan International Airport and replacement of the elevated I-93/Central Artery viaduct with a tunnel that was built under the existing viaduct that continued to serve hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day. These two key elements required construction of a new Charles River crossing (the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge), a new interchange complex for I-90/I-93; and two tunnels for the I-90 extension (one across the Fort Point Channel and another across Boston Harbor to the airport).
- February 24, 2010: Representative George H. Fallon (D-Md) was committed to advancing the Federal-aid highway program throughout his House career (1945-1970). As chairman of the Subcommittee on Roads in 1955-56, he was one of the chief authors of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 and a Founding Father of the Interstate System. Based on an interview with Fallon on July 17, 1974, Professor Gary T. Schwartz reported that, "There is irony in this, since Fallon dislikes driving—freeway driving especially." ("Urban Freeways and the Interstate System," Southern California Law Review, Vol. 49.406, March 1976, page 434.)
- February 25, 2010: In 1970, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a scholar-politician, urban theorist, off- and on-critic of the Interstate System, and U.S. Senator (1977-2001), said the Interstate program was "of truly transcendent, continental consequence." It would have "more influence on the shape and development of American cities, the distribution of population within metropolitan areas and across the nation as a whole, the location of industry and various kinds of employment opportunities (and, through all these, immense influence on race relations and the welfare of black Americans) than any initiative in the middle of the twentieth century." He added that, "Activities such as urban renewal, public housing, community development, and the like are reduced to mere digressions when compared to the extraordinary impact of the highway program. ("Policy vs. Program in the '70s," Public Interest, Summer 1970, pages 90, 93-94).
- February 26, 2010: The Interstate System is often called the Greatest Public Works Project in History. Speaking on May 13, 1957, Federal Highway Administrator Bertram D. Tallamy put this statement in perspective: "This Act threw down the greatest challenge that has ever been given to any peace-time public works agency. It is bigger than the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Panama Canal, the Grand Coulee Dam, the Egyptian Pyramids and a lot of other big projects that you can think of, all rolled into one."
- February 27, 2010: The final segment of I-20 (Florence, South Carolina, to Pecos, Texas) opened on April 3, 1989. The last project consisted of grading, structures, storm sewers, and concrete pavement from west of Shepherd Road to east of Beltline Road southeast of Dallas. The total cost of I-20 (1,539.38 miles) was $1.84 billion.
- February 28, 2010: The Capital Beltway surrounding Washington, D.C., gave rise to the phrase "inside the beltway" to define information and debate of primary interest to Washington's political leaders, media, and policy wonks. The phrase is attributed to Mike Causey, a columnist for The Washington Post. ("Outside the Beltway," The Post once joked, refers to "the so-called Real World, as perceived by those unfortunate souls" who inhabit the rest of the country.) [Vic Sussman's "The Best (and Worst) of the Beltway," The Washington Post Magazine, May 21, 1989, p. 28.]
- March 1, 2010: The numbering policy for the Interstate System prohibits using the same number for an Interstate route and a U.S. numbered highway in any State. That is why the Interstate System does not include I-50. In the grid of routes, I-50 would have fallen in many of the same States as U.S. 50 (Annapolis, Maryland, to Sacramento, California), a situation that would have been confusing to motorists seeking directions ("Take Route 50").
- March 2, 2010: The familiar Interstate shield was designed by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) after considering dozens of proposals by the State highway agencies. It was placed into use on August 14, 1957. In 1966, AASHO applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the shield as a trademark, to secure ownership, and create a legal tool for controlling its indiscriminate use. Trademark Registration 835,635 was issued on September 19, 1967. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (as AASHO is now called) says the trademark "has been used several times to prevent or remove Interstate-like signs near the Interstate highways, where they might confuse the traveling public and cause accidents."
- March 3, 2010: The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge carries the Capital Beltway (I-95/I-495) across the Potomac River. It is the only part of the Interstate System that is owned by the Federal Highway Administration. All other segments are owned and operated by State agencies. (The toll segments are owned by the turnpike authorities that built them.) Construction is underway on replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge; when it is completed, the existing bridge will be removed and the new bridge will be owned by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
- March 4, 2010: On June 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 while in Walter Reed Army Medical Center following surgery for ileitis earlier in the month. The bill was in a stack of bills he signed without ceremony, statement, or photograph.
- March 5, 2010: I-80 (Teaneck, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California) was the first transcontinental Interstate highway to be completed. The final segment—between Redwood Road and 5600 West in Salt Lake City, Utah—was dedicated in a ceremony on August 22, 1986.
- March 6, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized the Secretary of Commerce, whose department included the Bureau of Public Roads, to approve as part of the Interstate System any toll road located on a route designated as part of the Interstate System. The toll roads had been built by State toll authorities established to issue bonds to finance construction without any Federal tax revenue. On August 21, 1957, Federal Highway Administrator Bertram Tallamy announced inclusion of 2,102 miles of toll roads, including 1,837 miles in operation. Today, the 46,730-mile Interstate System includes approximately 2,900 miles of turnpikes that have been incorporated under the 1956 Act or later provisions.
- March 7, 2010: On June 19, 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared June 26 National Interstate Highway Day and urged "the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." He called the Interstate System "the world's largest and most successful transportation and public works project."
- March 8, 2010: From 1957 through 2004, vehicles on the Interstate System traveled 15.8 trillion miles.
- March 9, 2010: I-70 in Colorado’s Vail Pass was completed in 1978 through a challenging, environmentally sensitive terrain. Designers incorporated techniques used in the European Alps to minimize scarring, soil erosion, water pollution, and wildlife disturbance. Two miles of I-70 were carried on pre-cast, prestressed, segmented box girders placed on concrete pylons to elevate the highway 90 feet above ground. The elevated segments were installed by gantries moving on completed portions of the highway to minimize the impact of heavy construction equipment on the mountainsides. Because the highway crossed an ancient migratory path for deer, an underpass was included in the project to allow them to move through the area safely.
- March 10, 2010: Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner said, “1990 is the greatest year for major highway completions in the history of the interstate system.” He was referring to the following openings:
- June 29: With the opening of the final link of I-40 in North Carolina, the entire route was open from Wilmington, NC, to Barstow, CA (2,554 miles).
- August 10: The Papago Freeway in Phoenix, Arizona, was the “Final Mile” of I-10, which was completed from Jacksonville, Florida, to Santa Monica, California (2,460 miles).
- October 15: Completion of I-35 in St. Paul, Minnesota, gives motorists an open highway from Duluth, Minnesota, to Laredo, Texas (1,568 miles).
- November 20: The final section of I-15 opened near Plymouth, Utah, creating a continuous Interstate highway from the Montana/Canada border at Sweet Grass, to San Diego, California (1,437).
Of these completed routes, Federal Highway Administrator Thomas D. Larson said, “President Eisenhower would be smiling.”
- March 11, 2010:
As of the end of 2005, the Interstate System included 55,512 bridges. The Interstate System includes many majestic, eye-catching spans that are among the best bridges ever built, such as the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (I-278) in New York and the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway in Florida (I-275). The System also includes many bridges built to accommodate unique circumstances, such as the I-70 viaducts through scenic Glenwood Canyon in Colorado and the viaducts that make H-3 in Hawaii one of the most scenic drives in one of the most scenic States. However, most Interstate bridges are so common no one notices them: interchange ramps and simple overpasses carrying the Interstate over local roads.
- March 12, 2010: U.S. Route 66, the historic road from Chicago to Los Angeles, was replaced by segments of five Interstate highways: I-55 (Chicago to St. Louis), I-44 (to Oklahoma City), I-40 (to Barstow), I-15 (to San Bernardino), and I-10 (to Los Angeles). The opening of I-40 near Williams, Arizona, on October 13, 1984, bypassed the final segment of U.S. Route 66. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which controls the designation of U.S. numbered highways, removed U.S. Route 66 from its U.S. highway records on June 27, 1985, because it no longer served interstate traffic. Although this action ended the 59-year life of the historic road, the outcry of public interest in the death of U.S. Route 66 resulted in a rebirth of interest that continues to this day.
- March 13, 2010: If an Interstate highway has a one- or two-digit even number, such as I-40, a motorist can tell it is predominantly an east-west highway. One- and two-digit odd numbers, such as I-15, are reserved for north-south routes. Parts of long-distance multi-State roads may have a different cardinal orientation, but the number is based on the termini (i.e., end points). For example, I-94 between Chicago and Milwaukee, is a north-south route, but this segment is part of an east-west route between Port Huron, Michigan, and Billings, Montana. As a result, the route carries an even number.
- March 14, 2010: On August 17, 1964, Federal, State, and local officials gathered in Maryland to mark completion of the 64.7-mile Capital Beltway around Washington. In a ceremony near the New Hampshire Avenue interchange, Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes and Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton cut a ribbon officially opening the Capital Beltway (and relieving a traffic jam that had formed while the ceremony took place). Governor Tawes called it a "road of opportunity" and Whitton called it a "huge wedding ring for the metropolitan area." (The 21.9-mile Virginia section had been completed in April 1964.)
- March 15, 2010: I-35 is the only Interstate highway with divided numbers—I-35 East and West through St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. The Interstate System once had many numbers that carried cardinal letters, including:
- I-15W—Burley to Pocatello, Idaho (now I-86); ;
- I-70N—Frederick to Baltimore, Maryland (now I-70);
- I-70S—Frederick, Maryland, to the District of Columbia (now I-270);
- I-80N—Portland, Oregon, to Council Bluffs, Iowa (now I-84 from Portland to Salt Lake City, Utah, and I-80 to Council Bluffs);
- I-80S—Denver, Colorado, to Monroeville, Pennsylvania (now I-80);
- I-81E—Stroudsburg to Scranton, Pennsylvania (now I-380);
- I-80S—Seville, Ohio, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (now I-76)
- I-80N—Crescent, Iowa, to Neola, Iowa (now I-680)
- I-70N—Valleyview, Ohio, to Columbus, Ohio (now I-670)
- I-80S—Big Springs, Nebraska, to Denver CO (now I-76)
- I-35W—Wichita to Salina, Kansas (now I-135)
- March 16, 2010: On December 17, 1965, Kansas Governor William H. Avery cut the ribbon on the segment of I-70 from Colby to Hays, Kansas, leaving only 35 miles of I-70 to be opened in the State. Snow was blowing and the temperature was 11 degrees as Governor Avery was joined by Mrs. Belle Misner, a 101-year old resident of Colby. Mrs. Misner had sold part of the land of her original family homestead for the I-70 right-of-way.
- March 17, 2010: A brief ceremony on December 21, 1965, marked the opening of the 5.4-mile long I-10 twin span bridges across Lake Pontchartrain and a 9.9-mile stretch of Interstate highways I-10 and I-59 linking New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana. The ceremony was held at the highest point of the bridge, 65 feet over the lake. The $14.8 million twin spans were constructed from pre-stressed concrete deck spans set atop pre-stressed concrete piles. The Acting Mayor of New Orleans, Joseph V. DiRosa, called it “a great day in the progress of our people.” On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina shattered the bridge. The east span reopened to two lanes of traffic on October 14, 2005, only 47 days after its destruction by the hurricane. The west span reopened on January 6, 2006, restoring four-lane traffic to the vital east-west corridor devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
- March 18, 2010: The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways includes many great bridges. The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway (I-275) in Florida, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston (I-93), the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (I-278) in New York City, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (I-80) are just a few of the world-famous bridges in the System. However, the two greatest bridges in the United States are not included. The Brooklyn Bridge, which opened on May 24, 1883, is not part of a numbered route, while San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (May 27, 1937) carries U.S. 101.
- March 19, 2010: U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) owes her political career to the Interstate System. As a social worker in Baltimore, she helped community groups block several Interstate highway projects. Her prominent role led to her election to the City Council (1971-1976), where she continued to fight for a sensible transportation network that would not destroy neighborhoods. At one point in 1973, she described the City Council’s ongoing expressway battle as “a transportation Wagnerian opera.” In 1976, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served until winning the 1992 election to the Senate. (She was most recently reelected in 2004.) The revitalization of downtown Baltimore, with its vibrant Fells Point, Federal Hill, Inner Harbor, and other areas, was made possible by Mikulski and the many other activists who blocked segments of I-70, I-83, and I-95 through these areas. Senator Mikulski still talks about “the Battle of the Expressway” as the start of her career, pointing out in a 1998 presentation that, “Protesters aren’t all that bad.”
- March 20, 2010: The average age of all Interstate bridges is 36 years.
- March 21, 2010: The I-310 Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge crosses the Mississippi River west of New Orleans, Louisiana. Opened in 1983, the $135 million bridge was the first major cable-stayed steel bridge in the country. Its beauty encouraged other States to employ cable-stayed technology.
- March 22, 2010: Federal Highway Administrator Bertram D. Tallamy (1957-1961) preferred blue for the guide signs used along the Interstate System, as was the case along the New York State Thruway he had helped build. Other officials preferred green. To resolve the issue, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway Officials, staged a 2-week test in 1957 on an unopened section of the Capital Beltway near Greenbelt, Maryland. Experimental signs were erected in blue, green, and black directing motorists to “Metropolis” and “Utopia.” When test motorists preferred green, Tallamy—who was color blind, but found that the blue signs were more vivid—approved green for the signs in January 1958. (The New York Thruway switched to green for the sake of consistency.) In an oral history, Tallamy explained, “I wasn’t the type of boss that insisted he was always right.”
- March 23, 2010: On October 9, 1961, editors of the Sunday newspaper supplement Parade magazine informed Maine highway officials that a 24-mile section of I-95 from Augusta to Waterville and Fairfield had been chosen as America’s finest new highway. In announcing America’s Most Scenic New Highway, Parade praised the segment’s combination of scenery, speed and safety that made it a “driver’s highway.” When the segment had opened in November 1960, a Maine newspaper editorial called it “the highway with a soul.”
- March 24, 2010: The Interstate highways were not built from one end to the other. The Interstate System was built under the principles of the Federal-aid highway program, which meant that each State highway agency built its segments. The State decided when each segment of its Interstate routes would be built.
- March 25, 2010: Robert Paul Jordan’s article “Our Growing Interstate Highway System” in the February 1968 issue of National Geographic began: “Americans are living in the midst of a miracle. A giant nationwide engineering project—the Interstate Highway System—is altering and circumventing geography on an unprecedented scale.”
- March 26, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 designated the "Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway" to honor the former President’s role in creating the Interstate System. The highway paralleled the route of the U.S. Army’s 1919 transcontinental motor convoy on which Eisenhower gained an understanding of the value of good roads (Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then west on the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco, California). As a result, the route doesn’t follow one highway, but goes as follows:
- I-270 from the Capital Beltway to I-70 in Frederick, Maryland.
- I-70 to I-25 in Denver.
- I-25 to I-80 at Cheyenne, Wyoming.
- I-80 to San Francisco.
- March 27, 2010: The most common types of bridge on the Interstate System:
Stringer/Multi-beam or girder: 32,084 (58 percent)
Culvert: 8,203 (15 percent)
Slab: 5,449 (10 percent)
Box beam or girders (multiple): 3,555 (6 percent)
Tee beam: 3,009 (5 percent)
The Interstate System includes 22 suspension bridges.
- March 28, 2010: I-70 is 424 miles long across Kansas. The end of construction came on June 17, 1970, when Governor Robert Docking snipped the ribbon opening the final 19-mile segment from Goodland to the Colorado line. It was a two-day celebration, beginning with a cross-State caravan from Kansas City and including ceremonies at Hays and Goodland. Many dignitaries spoke, but G. N. Farley, the State’s resident engineer at Oakley, caught the spirit of the people who built the highway. Several months before the opening, he wrote: “None of us realize our capabilities until confronted with a job as large as the Interstate but with organization and teamwork, a difficult job seems easy.” I-70 across Kansas cost $357 million, not counting the portion carried on the Kansas Turnpike.
- March 29, 2010: I-75 was completed at a cost of $3.5 billion from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to Tampa, Florida, on December 21, 1977, with the opening of a segment four miles north of Marietta, Georgia. At the ceremony, Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams called the Interstate System “the crowning achievement” of the Federal-State partnership, “the pride of every American motorist, the envy of other nations and a valuable national asset.” However, more work was needed to complete I-75, which had been extended from Tampa to Miami as part of a 1,500-mile expansion of the Interstate System authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968. The last segment opened on November 25, 1992—the final 10 miles of reconstructed Alligator Alley (Naples to Miami)—although pavement repairs and miscellaneous work remained to complete the conversion.
- March 30, 2010: In Florida, a 33.8-mile gap in I-95, from PGA Boulevard in North Palm Beach to Fort Pierce was closed on December 19, 1987. This opening completed I-95 from Houlton, Maine, to Miami, Florida—almost. A gap remains north of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is working with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on a project to complete the final link in I-95.
- March 31, 2010: With the opening of a 32-mile bypass of U.S. 22 in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, Pennsylvania, I-78 was completed at a dedication ceremony on November 21, 1989. The “missing link” was built at a cost of $402 million and included 17 miles of sound barriers as part of the environmental mitigation measures needed to resolve two decades of controversy. Governor Robert P. Casey predicted that I-78 “will usher in a new era of prosperity in the Lehigh Valley.” In May 1990, Federal Highway Administrator Thomas D. Larson, a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation, had his first opportunity to drive on the new highway. Recalling the “decades of acrimonious debate and delay,” he said that closing the gap “involved major compromises, attention to environmental concerns, and careful consensus building.” He added, “It is really amazing just how superior this road is to older Interstates.”
- April 1, 2010: The Pennsylvania Turnpike is sometimes called the “Grandfather of the Interstate System” because its design was an early inspiration for the Interstates. On October 1, 1940, at 12:01 a.m., the initial segment of the turnpike was thrown open without ceremony from Irwin to Carlisle (160 miles). It initially had no speed limit. Motorists who asked the toll-booth attendants about the speed limit were told simply, “Drive carefully.” (A 70-mph speed limit was imposed in April 1941.) The turnpike was an instant success. Initially, it carried 6,000 vehicles a day. By the end of the year, it had carried 515,000 vehicles. A total of 159.5 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike has been incorporated into the Interstate System, mostly as I-76 (the section from New Stanton to Breezewood also carries the I-70 designation). The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission operates other turnpikes carrying Interstate numbers (76, 276, and 476).
- April 2, 2010: A 12.5-mile section of I-93, featuring variable medians up to 1,400 feet in width, opened on June 29, 1964, with ceremonies in Sanborton, New Hampshire. This section included New Hampshire’s first Interstate safety rest area and the first bridge with prestressed concrete beams constructed with Federal-aid in the State. The rest area overlooked the scenic Sanborton Boulder. Governor John W. King participated in the ribbon cutting.
- April 3, 2010: Wyoming completed its 402.8-mile portion of I-80 on May 4, 1977, with the opening of the final eight-mile stretch at Cheyenne. The opening provided an uninterrupted Interstate route from the junction of I-95 near the George Washington Bridge in Hackensack, New Jersey, to Echo Canyon, 11 miles west of the Wyoming-Utah State line. The final segment included several Wyoming firsts—the first “post tension” bridge at the Archer interchange; peak depletion pond to control water drainage south of Sun Valley; and, the use of 10 tower lights, each 120 feet high, to light a highway interchange. The segment also included the most costly relocation of a power transmission line in the history of the Wyoming Highway Department to that date. During the opening ceremony, Governor Ed Hershler used a power saw to cut down the last “Temporary End I-80” sign in the State.
- April 4, 2010: The Interstate System includes 16 movable bridges. Of these, 11 are bascules or drawbridges while five are lift bridges.
- April 5, 2010: On December 15, 1995, a third harbor tunnel became the first segment of Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project (“The Big Dig”) to open. The new crossing is named the Ted Williams Tunnel after the Hall of Fame outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Instead of boring through bedrock under the harbor, engineers used immersed tube technology, placing a series of giant steel, binocular-shaped tubes in a trench on the harbor floor. Each tube section is as long as a football field. The opening ceremony began with Governor William F. Weld driving a 1966 Ford Thunderbird from the South Boston portal. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña and former Governors Edward King and Michael Dukakis were along for the ride. The four-lane I-90 tunnel, built at a cost of $1.3 billion, doubled the capacity to Logan International Airport.
- April 6, 2010: The Connecticut Turnpike, built at a cost of $464 million, opened on January 2, 1958. The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads had added the turnpike, from the New York State line to Old Lyme (98 miles), into the Interstate System as part of I-95 on August 21, 1957. The designation was made under a provision of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that allowed incorporation of turnpikes built or planned in Interstate corridors. On June 28, 1983, the turnpike bridge over the Mianus River collapsed, causing four vehicles to plunge 70 feet into the water below with three lives lost. Although the turnpike had been built without Federal-aid, a provision in the annual appropriations act for the Department of Transportation allowed the use of Federal-aid to replace the bridge but required the State to end toll collection when all bonds were retired. Toll collection ended on October 10, 1985.
- April 7, 2010: How you refer to Interstates says something about you. If you refer to an Interstate as, for example, “the 5” or “the 10,” you are from, or lived many years, in the west. If you refer to I-95 or “95,” you probably have spent some time in the east. For example, see if you can guess where Tad Friend, California correspondent for The New Yorker magazine, learned his Interstate numbers based on his description of a car chase he had seen on Los Angeles television: “a big rig filled with mixed melons . . . led police on a four-hour meander around the 5, the 605, the 215, and the 15 freeways” (edition of January 23 & 30, 2006).
- April 8, 2010: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of telecommunications law in almost 62 years and a key step in building the “Information Superhighway.” Signing the bill on February 8, 1996, President Bill Clinton compared it with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956: “The Interstate Highway Act brought Americans closer together. We were connected city to city, town to town, family to family, as we had never been before. That law did more to bring Americans together than any other law this century, and that same spirit of connection and communication is the driving force behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996.” The President noted that he was signing the Act with one of the pens President Dwight D. Eisenhower had used to sign the 1956 Act. That pen had been given to Senator Al Gore, Sr., Chairman of the Subcommittee on Roads and one of the chief authors of the legislation. He had given the pen to his son, Vice President Al Gore, who brought it to the ceremony at the President’s request.
- April 9, 2010: I-90, from the Seattle waterfront across the Cascade Mountains to eastern Washington, is known as the Mountains to Sound Greenway. It is the only segment of the Interstate System designated on its own as one of America’s Byways® under the National Scenic Byway Program. On June 9, 1998, Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater designated the Mountains to Sound Greenway a National Scenic Byway, a classification meaning that it exemplifies the regional characteristics of our Nation. The America’s Byways Web site says, “From Puget Sound to the Cascade Mountains, the Mountains to Sound Greenway is one of the most spectacular journeys in the Pacific Northwest.” It adds that a trip along the byway is “an experience you will never forget.”
- April 10, 2010: The western section of I-76, from I-70 in Denver, Colorado, to I-80 just beyond the Nebraska line (187.34 miles), was completed on September 15, 1993. A “Spirit of I-76” ceremony dedicated the I-76/I-25 interchange in Denver and the section of I-76 from I-25 to Pecos Street. The route had originally been numbered I-80S, but was renumbered I-76 to commemorate the Nation’s Bicentennial and Colorado’s 100th birthday in 1996. According to the opening day brochure, construction of the six-mile segment of I-76 from I-70 to I-25 began in 1978 and included enough soil to fill Denver’s Mile High Stadium not once, but 11 times, and 14 million pounds of reinforcing steel, which is equal in weight to 84,395,606 Snickers candy bars. This segment was also the last segment of Colorado’s Interstate System to open.
- April 11, 2010: Design Standards, Part 1: From the start, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) and its successor, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, have developed minimum design standards for the Interstate System. The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) and its successor, the Federal Highway Administration, adopted the standards. After the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 authorized designation of a 40,000-mile “National System of Interstate Highways” (but not a program to build it), AASHO’s Special Committee on Planning and Design Policies developed the initial standards, which AASHO adopted on August 1, 1945. Rather than calling for a rigid pattern, AASHO varied the standards based on traffic, population density, topography, and other factors.
- April 12, 2010: Design Standards, Part 2: Following enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the American Association of State Highway Officials adopted new geometric design standards for the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” on July 12, 1956. On July 17, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads approved the standards, which reflected the importance of the Interstates “as the backbone of the Nation’s highway systems.” All lanes were to be 12-feet wide, with shoulders of at least 10 feet. Two-lane divided Interstates were permitted in less populated areas on right-of-way wide enough to allow widening to four lanes when justified by traffic. Control of access was required, but intersections at grade were permitted in sparsely settled rural areas. All railroad-highway grade crossings were to be eliminated. Design speed (the speed used to determine geometric design features) varied based on whether the terrain was flat (70 mph), rolling (60 mph), or mountainous (50 mph). In urban areas, the design speed should be at least 50 mph.
- April 13, 2010: Design Standards, Part 3: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 called for Interstate projects to be designed to meet traffic demand in 1975, a few years after the Interstate System was expected to be completed. As that year came closer, officials worried that Interstate routes built in the late 1960s and early 1970s would soon be obsolete. Therefore, the Federal-Aid Highway Amendments Act of 1963 required design for a 20-year period commencing on the date of plan approval. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1966 made another key change in design standards by providing that “such standards shall in all cases provide for at least four lanes of traffic.”
- April 14, 2010: Design Standards, Part 4: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials issued the most recent edition of A Policy on Design Standards – Interstate System in January 2005. The six-page policy called for a minimum of four lanes, 12 feet wide, with additional lanes if needed to provide an acceptable level of service for applicable conditions. Full control of access is to be maintained throughout the Interstate System, with no at-grade intersections. A minimum design speed of 70 mph applies in rural areas, but in mountainous areas, a design speed of 50 to 60 mph may be used. In urban areas, the design speed shall be at least 50 mph. Other minimum standards covered such features as bridges and other structures, gradients, horizontal clearance to obstructions, interchanges, right-of-way, shoulders, sight distance, and tunnels.
- April 15, 2010: The biggest Interstate year was 1967, when the States opened 3,354.20 miles. Counting turnpikes (2,303.30 miles) incorporated into the Interstate System, a total of 25,641.90 miles had been opened by the end of the year.
- April 16, 2010: I-70 crosses the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois, on the Poplar Street Bridge. It consists of two independent bridges, side-by-side, 2,165 feet long. Excluding approaches, the Poplar Street Bridge cost $13.2 million. When it opened on November 9, 1967, the Poplar Street Bridge was the Nation’s first orthotropic bridge (from “orthogonal-anisotropic”). This type of plate-girder bridge can achieve longer spans with a steel-plate deck that is designed to function as a unit with the supporting steelwork. At the time of the opening, Missouri Highway News said, “Clean of line but strong of sinew, the Bridge is a masterful blending of beauty and function.”
- April 17, 2010: By the 1970s, concern was growing about wear and tear on the older Interstate segments. With the States solely responsible for maintenance, the problem became acute when State gas tax revenue fell after oil shortages began in October 1973 when problems in the Middle East prompted the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to reduce, then halt, shipments of oil to the United States. Section 106 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976 addressed the maintenance problem by authorizing $175 million a year (FY 1978-1979) for resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation of non-toll Interstates that had been in use for more than 5 years. The initial program, known as I-3R, was the forerunner of today’s Interstate Maintenance Program (approximately $5 billion a year).
- April 18, 2010: The Interstate System includes 19,765 concrete bridges (36 percent of all Interstate bridges); 13,910 prestressed concrete bridges (25 percent); and 21,759 steel bridges (39 percent).
- April 19, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968 expanded the mileage limitation on the 41,000-mile Interstate System to 42,500 miles. In response to the call for proposals, the State highway agencies requested more than 10,000 miles of new Interstates. On December 13, 1968, Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd announced designation of 1,472.5 miles in 28 States. (A reserve pool of 27.5 miles was retained in case adjustments were needed.) Secretary Boyd said the new mileage “will lend more flexibility to the entire system to permit it to meet the tremendous changes in population and development that have occurred since the original 41,000 mile network was charted.”
- April 20, 2010: Section 17 of the Hawaii Omnibus Act (approved July 12, 1960) removed the limitation restricting designation of the Interstate System to the continental United States. On August 29, 1960, Federal Highway Administrator Bertram D. Tallamy approved three routes, designated H-1, H-2, and H-3, on the Island of Oahu. Although they were not connected to the rest of the Interstate System, the routes were constructed to full Interstate standards. On November 1, 1989, the Federal Highway Administration approved the State's request for a fourth route, a 4.1-mile section of Moanalua Freeway/State Route 78 that had been upgraded to Interstate standards without Interstate Construction funds. It was assigned the temporary number H-1-A, and numbered H-201 on December 8, 1990, but the Hawaii Department of Transportation has chosen not to display the number on the route.
- April 21, 2010: The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge carrying I-66 between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia opened on June 23, 1964. The 3,026-foot long bridge crosses the Potomac River, the Theodore Roosevelt Island, and the Little River. Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the former President’s daughter, cut the ribbon opening the bridge.
- April 22, 2010: Public Law 90-238, enacted on January 2, 1968, was a free-standing bill that authorized “Howard-Cramer” Interstate route additions, named after Chairman James J. Howard (D-NJ) and Representative William C. Cramer (R-FL) of the Committee of Transportation and Public Works. Under the Act, if a State and the Secretary of Transportation agreed that a portion of an Interstate route was not essential to a unified and connected System, the Secretary could withdraw the mileage and apply it to another Interstate. The Act made 200 miles available as a supplement if the withdrawn mileage was not sufficient for the new routes. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 increased the supplemental mileage to 500 miles. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 ended the Howard-Cramer provision. In all, a total of 403 miles of Howard-Cramer Interstate routes, or portions thereof, was designated in nine States.
- April 23, 2010: Part 1: When the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge on the Capital Beltway was dedicated on December 28, 1961, Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges discarded his prepared remarks. Given the biting winds and near-freezing temperatures, he told the shivering spectators: “I know you just can't wait to hear an address on a day like this. Here it is.” With that, he dropped the folder containing his notes onto the lectern and said, “So let's cut the ribbon.”. (See Part 2 in April 24 Fact of the Day.)
- April 24, 2010: Part 2 (see April 23 Fact of the Day): Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton recalled the incident on January 11, 1964, when his turn to speak came during the opening of the Gastonia link in I-85 in North Carolina. With the temperature in the 30s and the wind blowing, he told participants about Secretary Hodges’ speech. Discarding his own remarks, Whitton said simply, “When completed, the highway will stretch from Montgomery, Ala., to Petersburg, Va. And it will bring people closer together.” Whitton and other participants got into a 1910 automobile for a brief ride to the ribbon that they promptly cut.
- April 25, 2010: The Central Artery (I-93) in Boston, Massachusetts, opened in 1959. The elevated viaduct was soon badly congested. As early as 1964, State highway officials were seeking ways to increase capacity. James D. Fitzgerald, head of the Massachusetts Department of Public Works, asked his staff to consider double-decking the viaduct. He told The Boston Globe on February 3, 1964, “We do not know whether it can be done, but we intend to look into that possibility.” By the early 1970s, the State was studying a proposal to rebuild the Central Artery in a tunnel under the viaduct, a project that became one element of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.
- April 26, 2010: On July 1, 1964, Texas officials opened an 11.4-mile link in I-10 that completed the Interstate from Houston to Orange, Texas, at the Louisiana State line. The ceremony near the Chambers-Jefferson County line featured installation of a gold-painted guard rail to mark the occasion. Chairman Herbert C. Petry of the Texas Highway Commission placed a gold-painted bolt in the guardrail after calling the 107-mile Houston-to-Orange segment a “golden freeway.” He explained that the golden guardrail “fuses the glitter and promise of two of the State’s most exciting cosmopolitan complexes, Houston and the Beaumont-Orange-Port Arthur Golden Triangle area.” Petry added that with this new link, Texas had completed 1,100 miles of its planned 3,100 miles of Interstate network.
- April 27, 2010: The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) selected the bi-level Sherman Minton Bridge on I-64 as “the most beautiful long-span bridge opened to traffic in 1961.” The bridge crosses the Ohio River connecting Louisville, Kentucky, with New Albany, Indiana. (Minton, a New Albany native, was a United States Senator and Supreme Court Justice.) The double-decked dual suspended arch bridge was built at a cost of $14.8 million.
- April 28, 2010: On June 1, 1964, Wisconsin became the first State to have authorized the acquisition of all its right-of-way for the Interstate System. By authorizing acquisition of property for a seven-mile segment of I-90 southeast of Tomah and a 10-mile segment of I-94 northwest of Tomah, Wisconsin also became the first State to establish the location for its entire Interstate System. By then, Wisconsin had opened 60 percent of the 455 miles of Interstate designated to that point, and all other segments were under some stage of engineering, planning, or construction. Later designations, such as the designation of I-43 (Milwaukee to Green Bay) in 1968, increased the State’s total to 578 miles eligible for Interstate Construction funds. (Construction of I-39 from I-90/94 at Portage to Wassau and extension of I-43 to I-90 at Beloit without Interstate Construction funds increased the State’s total to 742 Interstate miles.)
- April 29, 2010: Dignitaries traveled in a caravan of 40 cars as part of daylong ceremonies on October 6, 1964, opening a 112.4-mile segment of I-94 in North Dakota. The segment from State Route 25 west of Mandan to Fryburg at the eastern side of Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, parallels the route taken by General George A. Custer and his troops to their final battle at Little Big Horn in 1876. Successive dedications were held at State Route 25, New Salem, Glen Ullin, Hebron, Richardton, Dickinson, and Belfield.
- April 30, 2010: The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) authorized the final funds for the Interstate Construction Program initiated by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. ISTEA authorized $1.8 billion a year for Fiscal Years 1992 through 1996, a total of $7.2 billion. Including funds authorized in 1952 and 1954 for the Interstate System, this amount brought total authorizations for the Interstate Construction Program to $119 billion to pay the Federal share of costs.
- May 1, 2010: The Fort McHenry Tunnel, which carries I-95 across the Baltimore Harbor in Maryland, opened on November 23, 1985. Crossing the harbor on a bridge was rejected because of potential impacts on the view from historic Fort McHenry, site of the battle on September 12-14, 1814 (part of the War of 1812), that prompted Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the National Anthem. The tunnel, built at a cost of about $750 million, is the world’s largest submerged tube tunnel designed for vehicular traffic.
- May 2, 2010: The average daily traffic on all Interstate bridges is 1.9 billion vehicles a day. This total includes 244.8 million trucks.
- May 3, 2010: Shortly after passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, Commissioner of Public Roads C. D. “Cap” Curtiss of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads addressed the Southeastern Association of State Highway Officials. He concluded by saying, “In the final analysis, we will be judged not by the speed of construction or the difficulties overcome but by what the driving public sees and feels as they use the Nation’s most important highways—the Interstate System.”
- May 4, 2010: Several Interstate highways have the “splits”—unconnected roads carrying the same number. For example, the eastern portion of I-76 links I-676 in Camden, New Jersey, and I-71 west of Akron, Ohio (434.36 miles). The western portion of I-76 runs from I-70 in Denver, Colorado, to I-80 just beyond the Nebraska line (187.34 miles). I-84 is another example. The eastern portion links I-90 north of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and I-380 in Scranton, Pennsylvania (232.39 miles). In the West, I-84 runs from I-5 in Portland, Oregon, to I-80 near Echo, Utah (769.62 miles). Other splits include I-86 and I-88.
- May 5, 2010: I-27 is a 124-mile Interstate in Texas that connects I-40 in Amarillo and 82nd Street in Lubbock. It was added to the Interstate System on December 12, 1968, after the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968 increased the Interstate mileage limitation by 1,500 miles (to 42,500 miles). The final section (from 19th to 54th Street in Lubbock) was dedicated with a ceremony on September 3, 1992, at the 34th Street overpass. Total cost of I-27: $579 million.
- May 6, 2010: Section 107 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 prohibited the Secretary of Transportation from designating additional routes for development with Interstate Construction funds authorized under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, as amended. The section also mandated that segments should be removed from Interstate designation unless an environmental impact statement had been submitted to the Secretary by September 30, 1983. In these and other provisions, Section 107 encouraged expedited Interstate completion.
- May 7, 2010: The final link in I-70 (Baltimore, Maryland, to Cove Fort, Utah) was completed with the opening of the 12-mile segment through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, on October 14, 1992. At a cost of $4.1 billion, I-70 was open for its entire length of 2,175 miles. When I-70 opened through Glenwood Canyon, Federal Highway Administrator Thomas D. Larson called it “a world class piece of environmentally sensitive engineering.” He added, “While some may think that this is an oxymoron, in fact this project proves that desirable environmental goals and great engineering feats can be mutually compatible.”
- May 8, 2010: Louisiana’s Interstate network originally included I-10 and I-20 crossing the State, east-to-west, with no link between them. The State considered a toll link, but rejected the idea. In the mid-1970s, the Federal Highway Administration approved an Interstate link from I-10 at Lafayette to I-20 at Shreveport, using mileage released from other routes the State decided not to build, plus 153 miles from a supplemental reserve. The 212-mile I-49 was completed on May 1, 1996, at a cost of about $1.38 billion. It was the longest Interstate that began and ended in one State. The final segment was a 16.6-mile segment in Alexandria known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. For the opening ceremony, President Bill Clinton sent a congratulatory statement noting, “This major arterial marks the completion of nearly 900 miles of Interstate in Louisiana.” Plans to extend I-49 south to New Orleans and north to Kansas City, Missouri, are underway as a High Priority Corridor of the National Highway System.
- May 9, 2010: I-57 is the longest Interstate highway in Illinois. From I-94 in Chicago to the Mississippi River north of Cairo, it is 358 miles long. The route continues on to I-55 in Miner, Missouri, an additional 22 miles. The next longest Interstate in Illinois is I-55 at 313 miles. The State’s shortest Interstate is I-190 in Chicago, a 3-mile long route from I-90 to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
- May 10, 2010: South Carolina awarded its first Interstate contract under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 on September 21, 1956. The Inland Bridge Company of Chester was awarded the $280,000 contract to construct a bridge over the Broad River in Cherokee Contract on a route that became I-85.
- May 11, 2010: President Dwight D. Eisenhower planned to ask the Nation’s Governors for help in realizing his “Grand Plan” for highways during their annual conference, held on July 12, 1954, at Lake George, New York. (Because of a death in the President’s family, Vice President Richard M. Nixon delivered the speech.) The Interstate nearest to Lake George is I-87, a New York-only route from the Canadian border at Rouses Point to I-287 near the New Jersey Border (330 miles). South of Albany, I-87 is carried on the New York State Thruway; this segment was completed in August 1956. North of Albany, I-87 is the toll-free scenic Adirondack Northway. Construction began in 1957 and was completed on August 30, 1967, without ceremony when workers removed barricades blocking the final 30-mile stretch from Underwood to Keeseville in Essex County.
- May 12, 2010: New York has the most Interstate routes: 29. The longest is I-90 (387 miles) and the shortest is I-78, which crosses the Hudson River through the Holland Tunnel before ending in Manhattan (0.50 miles). (California, with 25 routes, is second.)
- May 13, 2010: Four States have only three Interstate routes--the fewest of any State:
Delaware: I-95, I-295, I-495 (41 miles)
New Mexico: I-10, I-25, I-40 (71 miles)
North Dakota: I-29, I-94, I-194 (571 miles)
Rhode Island: I-95, I-195, I-295 (1,000 miles)
- May 14, 2010: Texas has more Interstate miles than any State (3,233 miles).
- May 15, 2010: At 367 miles, I-30 is the shortest two-digit Interstate with a number ending in zero (Fort Worth, Texas, to Little Rock, Arkansas).
- May 16, 2010: The two-lane West Virginia Turnpike (I-77) opened on November 8,
1954. The project to upgrade the turnpike to four lanes was
completed on September 2, 1987. During a ceremony in Sharon,
Highway Commissioner William Ritchie called the upgrading
"the toughest, hardest, meanest construction job" in
the State's history.
- May 17, 2010: The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, part of I-278, opened on November 21,
1964, at a cost of $325 million. It links the borough of
Brooklyn with Staten Island in New York. The bridge, which is
longer than the Golden Gate Bridge by 60 feet, was the longest
suspension bridge in the world at the time (6,690 miles between
anchorages; 4,260 feet from tower to tower). A second
six-lane deck below the original six-lane deck opened on June 28,
1969. (Japan's Akashi Kaikyo Bridge linking Kobe and
Naruto opened in 1998 and is now the world's longest
suspension span at 6,527 feet.)
- May 18, 2010: Half of the 41,000-mile Interstate System, or 21,185 miles, was
open by the end of 1965. This total included 2,166 miles
opened in 1965. To that point, the States had put $24.7
billion to work on Interstate projects. By 1968, when
Congress authorized designation of an additional 1,500 miles,
approximately 65 percent of the Interstate System (more than 27,600
miles) had been opened, so 1965 remains the halfway mark.
- May 19, 2010: In 1955 and 1956, Congress was looking for a way to pay for a
program that would complete the Interstate System in 10 years at a
cost of $27 billion. Using the Consumer Price Index, this
would translate into searching for a source of $196 billion in
- May 20, 2010: From the 2005 Annual Report of the Nebraska Department of
Roads: "On October 19, 1974, a "Golden
Link" ceremony was held near Sidney and marked the opening of
the final mainline segment of I-80 in Nebraska. The
From the 2005 Annual Report of the Nebraska Department of
Roads: "On October 19, 1974, a "Golden
Link" ceremony was held near Sidney and marked the opening of
the final mainline segment of I-80 in Nebraska. The
‘Golden Link' was an embedded brass-top section of
channel-iron across all four lanes of traffic. There is also
an informational marker about the I-80 construction . . . The final
construction cost for the 455.3 miles of I-80 in Nebraska was $390
million, about $800,000 per mile." The report adds that
25 safety rest areas serve the I-80 corridor in Nebraska, including
10 with computer kiosks that provide weather and traveler
- May 21, 2010: Only two Interstates end at international borders at both termini
(Canada and Mexico): I-5 and I-35.
- May 22, 2010: The first section of the New York State Thruway (I-90) opened on
June 24, 1954—Lowell to Rochester (115 miles).
- May 23, 2010: Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast States on September 16,
2004. Passing through Pensacola, Florida, the hurricane
damaged the twin-span I-10 bridge across Escambia Bay.
Governor Jeb Bush commented, "The I-10 issue creates some
logistical challenges—not just for the hurricane efforts but
ongoing efforts to sustain the economy in northwest
Florida." A photograph of the broken bridge with a
truck dangling over a damaged section became the symbol of the
hurricane. Through remarkable cooperation among Federal and
State officials, as well as the contractor, officials reopened one
span of the bridge within three weeks.
- May 24, 2010: I-45 is the shortest two-digit Interstate ending in
"5." It's a 285-mile route that connects
Galveston and Dallas, Texas. The first Texas Interstate
project under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was for a section
of I-45 in Navarro County near Corsicana in 1956. The final
gap between the two cities was completed on October 13, 1971, with
the opening of a 12-mile section between Fairfield and Streetman in
Freestone County. (Work on I-45 in Dallas remained to
- May 25, 2010: Out of nearly four million miles of public roads in the United
States, a total of about 96,712 miles is eligible for Federal-aid
highway funds. The Interstate System totals 4.8 percent of
mileage eligible for Federal-aid.
- May 26, 2010: The I-80 bridge across the Mississippi River linking Illinois and
Iowa opened on October 27, 1966, on a beautiful sunny day.
Iowa Governor Harold Hughes arrived by helicopter to tell
spectators and officials from both States, "This is not the
first bridge over the Father of Waters, but it is the
greatest." Francis S. Lorenz, director of the Illinois
Department of Public Works, stated that I-80 is the greatest
transcontinental route and would shrink coast-to-coast travel time
by 45 percent. His Iowa counterpart, Harry Bradley, Jr.,
chairman of the Iowa Highway Commission, said of the bridge and
additional mileage that would be opened later that year:
"This is more than concrete and steel. It is the labor
of many men," three of whom lost their life building the
bridge. The bridge is named after Representative Fred Schwengel, who represented Davenport from 1955 to 1965 and 1967 to 1973,
- May 27, 2010: Although the Interstate System accounts for about 1.1 percent of the Nations total public road mileage, it carries 24 percent of all highway travel.
- May 28, 2010: Mississippi's first Interstate project after enactment of the
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was a 27-mile segment of I-55
linking Hernando, Coldwater, and Senatobia. Although the
project was one of several to go to contract in late 1956,
groundbreaking for the first contract to go to construction was in
July 1957 at Coldwater. The bridge is named after Representative Fred Schwengel, who
represented Davenport from 1955 to 1965 and 1967
- May 29, 2010: The Eisenhower Interstate System includes approximately 15,000
- May 30, 2010: On December 14, 1973, Arizona opened its section of I-15 through
the Virgin River Gorge in the northwest corner of the State.
The segment was hailed even before it opened as Arizona's
most spectacular scenic highway. A 1988 article in Arizona
Highways described the section: "The smoothly
banked and graceful lines of the roadway seem to flow through the
canyon as naturally as the Virgin River itself." The
article added that the project "enhanced rather than
distracted from Nature's handiwork."
- May 31, 2010: Near-freezing temperatures and a
misty rain cut the dedication ceremony short on February 23, 1968,
for I-10 between Franklin and St. Bernard Avenues in New Orleans,
Louisiana. According to an article in the New Orleans
Times-Picayune, "A handful of city, state and federal
officials braved the inclement weather atop the $23.5 million
roadway for the speeches dedicating the highway." The
newspaper added that E. J. Grizzaffi, chairman of the Louisiana
Board of Highways, called the 1.8-mile section of I-10 "the
most expensive" stretch of roadway among current
- June 1, 2010: Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., approved
Federal-aid Interstate funds for construction of the controversial
I-66 from the Capital Beltway to the District of Columbia on
January 5, 1977. To address concerns about the highway,
Secretary Coleman limited I-66 to a four-lane, limited access
highway with Metrorail's Vienna line in its median. Heavy
trucks were excluded and, during peak hours, traffic in the peak
direction would be limited to buses, automobiles with four
occupants, emergency vehicles, and Dulles Airport traffic.
The last segment of I-66 opened on December 22, 1982.
- June 2, 2010: The Interstate System carries
about 721,381,000,000 Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) a year.
About 91,296,000,000 VMT are by heavy single-unit and combination
- June 3, 2010: I-980, a 0.8-mile link between the port of San Francisco Bay and
downtown Oakland, was added to California's Interstate System
in 1976. A ribbon cutting ceremony on March 6, 1985, marked
completion of the Interstate.
- June 4, 2010: The Mackinac Bridge in Michigan carries I-75 across the Straits of Mackinac between lower Michigan and its Upper Penninsula. Designed by David B. Steinman, one of the 20th centurys greatest bridge engineers, the 5-mile long Mackinaw Bridge opened on November 1, 1957. The first Michigan resident to cross the bridge: Governor G. Mennen Williams, who paid a toll of $3.25.
- June 5, 2010: When Georgia opened its first four-level interchange in 1988,
connecting I-85 and I-285 on the northeast side of Atlanta,
residents nicknamed it the "Super Looper." The
interchange covers 311 acres and is composed of 12 ramps and 14
bridges, totaling 2.62 miles and containing 150,000 cubic yards of
- June 6, 2010: The Interstate System carries 40.3 percent of single and
combination-unit truck travel on all public roads in the United
- June 7, 2010: The two-year, $210-million reconstruction of the Dan Ryan
Expressway (I-90/94) in Chicago, between 31st Street and the
Eisenhower Expressway, began on March 1, 1988. The public and
media expected massive congestion while work was underway on the
heavily used freeway. However, because of careful planning of
alternate routes and an extensive publicity campaign, the closing
of two northbound lanes did not result in the widely expected
traffic nightmare. A March 2 article in the Chicago
Sun-Times about the closing was headlined, "A
Breeze!" and began, "Rush hour? What rush hour?"
- June 8, 2010: On May 25, 1987, Maryland highway officials conducted several
important events known collectively as a "Five-Star Highway
Commemoration Day." Ground was broken for the final
link in the National Freeway, I-68, in the western part of the
State. Elsewhere, the State rededicated I-81 as the Maryland
Veterans Memorial Highway and a sign was unveiled along I-70
honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his role in getting the
Interstate program started. The day included placing a plaque
dedicated to former Congressman Goodloe E. Byron at the Monocacy
River Overlook on I-270, and the opening of a three-span, 680-foot
bridge over Deep Creek Lake on U.S. 219, replacing a two-span
bridge that had been built in 1924.
- June 9, 2010: I-65 is an 888-mile route from I-10 in Mobile, Alabama, to an
approach to I-90 (East-West Toll Road) in Gary, Indiana. The
route was completed with the opening of the final 14 miles of I-65
in Alabama in December 1985.
- June 10, 2010: The five Interstate routes that pass through the most urbanized
areas (i.e., areas with populations over 50,000) are:
- I-95 (26 areas)
- I-80 (22)
- I-75 (22)
- I-10 (21)
- I-90 (20)
- June 11, 2010:
In some States, a high proportion of statewide traffic is on the Interstate System; while in others, the Interstate System carries a lower proportion of all traffic:
Most Served: Least Served: Utah: 36% Florida: 18% Connecticut: 33% Wisconsin: 17% Wyoming: 32% Vermont: 17% Alaska: 30% Delaware: 15% Maryland: 30% Washington, DC: 12%
"Most" and "least" are relative terms. Utah's Interstate System comprises two percent of its total road mileage and carries 8.9 billion Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT). Florida's Interstates equal one percent of the State's total road mileage but carry 31.7 billion VMT.
- June 12, 2010: The first segment of Tennessee's 7.5-mile I-440 opened in
Nashville on December 12, 1985, from I-24 to I-65. The
right-of-way had been acquired in the late 1960s, but the alignment
had proven controversial. Several designs were considered
before a depressed parkway design was adopted. Construction
began in early 1982 with earth berms and extensive landscaping to
complement the depressed design and minimize adverse impacts on the
neighborhood the Interstate passes through. Completion of
I-440 in April 1987 would complete the State's
Interstates. (The first Interstate segment to open in the
State had been I-65 in Ardmore on November 15, 1958.)
- June 13, 2010: With the opening of I-90 at the Montana-Wyoming border on October
10, 1985, Wyoming completed its 914-mile Interstate System.
The final project covered a 10-mile section of I-90 from the
Montana-Wyoming border to the Ranchester interchange northwest of
Sheridan. The Wyoming had completed its $6.2 million project
in the summer, but the opening was delayed until Montana completed
the adjoining section of I-90. Contracts for new Interstate
construction in Wyoming totaled $570 million.
- June 14, 2010: The 7.4-mile Golden Strip Freeway (I-385) in Greenville, South
Carolina, opened on October 14, 1984. Built at a cost of $44
million, the freeway was part of the State's designated
mileage under the Interstate Construction Program. A 36-mile
extension of the route to I-26 at Clinton was built outside the
Interstate program with other funding.
- June 15, 2010: To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Interstate System in
1986, highway officials, congressional leaders, and other
dignitaries gathered in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Former Federal Highway Administrator Francis C. (Frank)
Turner—who played a key role in developing the Federal-Aid
Highway Act of 1956—told the gathering, "We are paying
honor today not only to the physical construction of the Interstate
System, but to its integral fiscal structure, which is its
inseparable foundation." Special guest Susan
Eisenhower, granddaughter of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
said, "We are proud and happy for this national recognition
of one of Grandfather's crowning achievements. He was
committed to a strong Interstate transportation network and never
doubted that it would happen, and I think this would have been one
of his proudest moments." Barnhart, noting that 97
percent of the Interstate System was open, said, "America is,
in fact, mobility, and the Interstate system is the backbone of
- June 16, 2010: Interstate loops (linked to other Interstates on both ends) and
spurs (linked on only one end) are assigned three-digit numbers:
even for loops (e.g., I-295), odd for spurs (I-195).
To avoid duplication within a State, a progression of prefixes is
used for the three-digit numbers (e.g., I-295, 495, 695,
etc.). This system is not carried across State lines.
As a result, the same three-digit numbers may be used in each State
the one- or two-digit numbered Interstate crosses. On this
basis, I-295, which is used for seven Interstate routes in eight
States and the District of Columbia, is the most used three-digit
number (Delaware/New Jersey, Florida, Maine, DC/Maryland,
Massachusetts/Rhode Island, New York, and Virginia).
- June 17, 2010: Fun with numbers (East): I-95 from the Canadian border at
Houlton, Maine, to U.S. 1 in Miami, Florida, passes through 15
States and the District of Columbia. Maryland has the most
loop and spur routes numbered on the basis of links to I-95 (I-195,
295, 395, 495, 595, 695, 795, and 895). Four I-95 States are
tied for the second most linked routes: Florida (I-195, 295,
395, and 595), Maine (I-195, 295, 395, and 495), Massachusetts
(I-195, 295, 395, and 495), and Virginia (I-195, 295, 395, and
495). Five States have no loop/spur routes linked to I-95
(Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South
Carolina). In two States, the entire Interstate network
consists of I-95 and "95" variations: Delaware
(I-95, 295, and 495) and Rhode Island (I-95, 195, and 295).
The District of Columbia has five Interstate routes, four of which
are linked to I-95 (I-95, 295, 395, and 695), plus I-66.
- June 18, 2010: Fun with numbers (West): I-5 from the Canadian Border at
Blaine, Washington, to the Mexican border south of San Diego,
California, passes through three States—California, Oregon,
and Washington—the fewest States of any border to border
north-south "5" variation. California has the
most loop and spur routes numbered on the basis of links to I-5
(I-105, 205, 305, 405, 505, 605, and 805). Three loop/spur
variations exist in Oregon (I-105, 205, 405) and Washington (I-205,
405, and 705).
- June 19, 2010: Fun with numbers (North): I-90 from Logan International
Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, to I-5 in Seattle, Washington,
passes through 13 States (the second highest number of States
behind I-95, which passes through 15 States and the District of
Columbia). New York has the most loop and spur routes
numbered on the basis of links to I-90. In fact, it uses
every possible prefix (I-190, 290, 390, 490, 590, 690, 790, 890,
and 990). Two States have two loop/spur routes each numbered
on the basis of I-90 links, Illinois (I-190 and 290) and
Massachusetts (also I-190 and 290). Ohio (I-490) and South
Dakota (I-190) have one each loop/spur variant of I-90. Seven
States have no loop/spur routes based on links to I-90 (Idaho,
Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Wisconsin, and
- June 20, 2010: Fun with numbers (South): I-10 from I-95 in Jacksonville,
Florida, to California Route 1 in Los Angeles (Santa Monica) passes
through eight States. Louisiana has the most loop and spur
routes numbered on the basis of links to I-10 (I-110, 210, 310,
510, and 610). Two States have three loop/spur routes linked
to I-10, California (I-110, 210, and 710) and Texas (I-110, I-410,
and I-610). Two States have one loop each, both numbered
I-110 (Florida and Mississippi), but no spurs, while three States
have no loop/spur routes based on the mainline number (Alabama,
Arizona, and New Mexico).
- June 21, 2010: To build I-70 west of Denver, highway officials in Colorado created
a monumental natural art work in the geological formation called
the Hogback. It had been formed 50 to 80 million years ago by
the gigantic upheaval that produced the Rocky Mountains. With
the help of conservation and civic groups, Colorado highway
officials cut the six-lane I-70 through the Hogback with an
imaginative proposal. As the Bureau of Public Roads explained
at the time, "Instead of a steeply benched cut through the
Hogback, why not widen it with broad terraces, which would be more
pleasing aesthetically? [Bared] for the first time, the
strata stood out in beautiful, well-defined pastel
bands." Construction of I-70 through the Hogback was
completed in 1969. The Hogback cut remains a nature study
area with marked trails to points of special interest.
- June 22, 2010: The New York/northeastern New Jersey urbanized area is served by
460 miles of Interstate highway, the most of any urbanized area.
- June 23, 2010: The first section of San Francisco’s Junipera Serra Freeway
(I-280) was dedicated on July 13, 1971. The $12 million eight-lane
elevated freeway (between 18th and Mariposa Streets and
Sixth and Brannan Streets) used airspace over the Southern Pacific
Railroad mainline. During the opening ceremony, State highway
officials cited the beautiful view the freeway provided of the
city’s skyline, as well as the direct connection to the
Southern Freeway that would relieve the “already
overburdened” James Lick and Central Freeways (U.S.
101). The final section of the freeway, from Belmont to
Woodside, opened on September 7, 1973.
- June 24, 2010: The Great Truck Blockade occurred on Interstate highways in early
December 1973 as a protest against the high price of diesel fuel,
fuel shortages, and lowered speed limits in the wake of the oil
embargo initiated by Middle East countries opposed to
America’s support of Israel. Among the protests:
drivers jack-knifed 4,000 tractor-trailers to stop traffic on the
Ohio Turnpike (I-80/I-90), caused a seven-hour backup on the
Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295), and created a 15-mile jam on I-80
in Pennsylvania. As U.S. News and World Report put it,
“Like widely scattered thunderstorms, one industry’s
pent-up frustration over energy problems burst wide open in early
- June 25, 2010: A 12-mile section of I-26 in Madison County, North Carolina, has
been designated a State scenic byway. The final nine-mile
section, from Mars Hill to the Tennessee State line, opened on
August 5, 2003, completing I-26 in the State. During the
opening ceremony, Secretary Lyndo Tippett of the North Carolina
Department of Transportation said, “From the wildlife
underpasses to the native stone incorporated into the welcome
center, we have taken special care to make sure that this project
protects and enhances its natural surroundings.” I-26
has been designated from U.S. 17 in Charleston, South Carolina, to
I-81 in eastern Tennessee.
- June 26, 2010: Decade-by decade Vehicle Miles Traveled on the Interstate System
(in millions, i.e., add six zeroes):
Year Rural Urban Total
- June 27, 2010: I-10 in Mobile, Alabama, was built in a tunnel across the Mobile
River because of its proximity to the Mobile City Hall, which is a
National Historic Landmark, and other buildings that comprise a
National Register Historic District (such as the County Courthouse,
L&N Depot, and the Police Building). Special care was
taken during construction to preserve these landmarks. Strict
control and monitoring of ground water in the area of excavation
and a ground water recharge system were employed. The
cofferdam sheet piles were vibrated into place instead of using
impact driving. Excavation revealed artifacts and relics from
Fort Condé, which was built by the French in 1723 and
remained in use through 1820. Construction of the tunnel,
which began on October 9, 1969, was completed with its opening on
February 9, 1973. The tunnel is named the George
Wallace Tunnel after the former Alabama Governor who served from
1963 to 1967, 1971 to 1979, and 1983 to 1987.
- June 28, 2010: A 184-mile section of I-5 opened between Los Banos and Wheeler
Ridge, California on March 1, 1972. The $90-million link,
one of the largest Interstate sections opened at one time, was
expected to relieve traffic on parallel U.S. Routes 99 and 101 and
offer economic opportunities for the rural area between Los Angeles
and San Francisco. As The Los Angeles Times pointed
out, “The estimated 8,750 motorists who will use Interstate 5
each day will find it 27 miles shorter than 99. It should
save 40 minutes of driving time between Los Angeles and San
- June 29, 2010: Indiana completed its segment of I-65 on June 30, 1972.
Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb opened the final 30-mile link between
I-465 in Indianapolis and Taylorsville with a ceremony at the State
Route 44 interchange east of Franklin. The section cost $1.2
million and was expected to save about 19 minutes compared with
parallel U.S. 31.
- June 30, 2010: Alfred E. “Alf” Johnson, Executive Secretary of the
American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), applied
the original numbers to the Interstate System in 1957.
Johnson was a career employee of Arkansas’ highway agency who
rose to Chief Engineer and Chief Engineer-Director. He served
as president of AASHO in 1954 before becoming Executive Secretary
in December of that year. He recalled, “At the time we
started on this job of Interstate System numerology, we had a
special committee appointed that spent some two or three days on
the assignment. After that length of time, they left me with
some general instructions and suggested I complete the assignment,
which later was approved by the Route Numbering Committee and the
Executive Committee.” The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads
approved the plan on September 10, 1957.
- July 1, 2010: The Interstate System was born in two reports to Congress, Toll
Roads and Free Roads (1939) and Interregional Highways
(1944). They were largely the work of two men, Thomas H.
MacDonald and Herbert S. Fairbank. MacDonald was born in 1881
in Leadsville, Colorado, but his family moved to Iowa in
1884. In 1904, he took a leadership role in Iowa’s new
highway agency. He became Chief of the U.S. Bureau of Public
Roads in 1919, and would serve in that capacity through March
1953. During that time, he saved the floundering Federal-aid
highway program; focused its resources on a Federal-aid system of
roads; built solid partnerships with the State highway agencies,
the construction industry, and university researchers; and took the
country from dirt roads to the Interstate era. When he died
in April 1957, The Washington Post said, “Everyone who
drives a car or truck, for business or for pleasure, across the
face of America stands indebted to this quiet, forceful public
servant who earned the title, ‘the father of all good roads
in the United States.’”
- July 2, 2010: The two reports to Congress that launched the Interstate System
(Toll Roads and Free Roads (1939) and Interregional
Highways (1944)) were a product of many contributors, but
Herbert S. Fairbank wrote them. A native of Baltimore,
Maryland, Fairbank joined the U.S. Office of Public Roads (as it
was then called) in 1910 and proved to be a talented writer,
scholar, researcher, and pioneer planner. He conceived and
launched the mid-1930s statewide highway surveys that provided the
data he used to support the conclusion of the two reports that the
country needed an express highway network for interstate service
and to address urban needs. His concepts, which were
visionary and yet grounded in facts, laid the foundation for the
Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense
Highways. In 1944, he told the American Planning and Civic
To those who doubt on grounds of financial feasibility whether we can afford the modernization of our highway system, who say in effect: “Yes, this all sounds very attractive; we recognize the need, but can we accomplish the ambitious ends proposed?” It might be answered that a better question would be: “Dare we fail?”
Fairbank retired in 1955 after completing one last report to Congress, Needs of the Highway Systems, 1955-84, that provided a useful information as the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 made its way to passage and President Eisenhower’s signature. Fairbank died in 1962.
- July 3, 2010:
Francis C. “Frank” Turner joined the U.S. Bureau of
Public Roads (BPR) after graduating from what is now Texas A&M
University in 1929. After a career that took him to Arkansas,
the Alaska Highway, and the Philippines, he became Assistant to the
Commissioner of Public Roads, Thomas H. MacDonald. He was
Executive Secretary of the Clay Committee appointed by President
Dwight D. Eisenhower to develop a funding plan for the Interstate
System and other highway improvements, and served as BPR liaison to
the congressional committees that developed the Federal-Aid
Highway Act of 1956. Through the biggest years of
Interstate construction, he was involved in Interstate location and
design decisions around the country. Under President Richard
M. Nixon, Turner became the Federal Highway Administrator in 1969,
the only person to rise through the ranks to the top
position. In accepting Turner’s resignation in 1972,
President Nixon said:
As an architect of the interstate system, you should feel a very special sense of pride in the fact that this, the largest public works program in world history, has been administered with uncompromising integrity and steadfast dedication to public trust. This record fully merits the gratitude of all our fellow citizens, and, in their behalf as well as that of your many friends and colleagues throughout Government, I want to express my deep appreciation for your service and my best wishes for the years ahead.
- July 4, 2010: On September 22, 1969, the reversible express lanes in the median
of the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (I-95, now I-395) in
Northern Virginia were restricted to buses in the morning peak
period. It was the first time in the country that lanes were
reserved for buses. With construction still under way to
widen Shirley Highway, the buses were limited to the express lanes
from Edsal/Seminary Roads to Shirlington, but the lanes were
eventually extended from the Capital Beltway into the District of
Columbia. On December 11, 1973, the bus lanes were opened to
carpools with four or more occupants.
- July 5, 2010: Crossing Allen Creek in Rochester, New York, I-490 is carried
across a 75 to 80-foot section of a structure that was built in
1905 for the Rochester to Syracuse interurban railroad. The
twin-cell concrete rigid frame structure with an arch top was built
to look like stone. In 1956/1957 when that section of the
Interstate was built in Rochester, traffic on one side of the
Interstate was carried on this 1905 structure, with the other side
carried on a new concrete structure. In 1991, the structure
was lengthened to accommodate a widened Interstate, but the 1905
structure remains in use.
- July 6, 2010: I-84 over the Connecticut River between Hartford and East Hartford,
Connecticut, is carried on the Morgan G. Bulkeley Bridge. The
bridge, which opened in 1908, was widened to eight lanes to carry
I-84 traffic. Bulkeley was a Hartford insurance executive and
civic leader who served as Mayor (1879-1887), Governor (1889-1893),
and United States Senator (1905-1911). Connecticut’s
98-mile section of I-84 was completed on December 14, 1969, with
the opening of the segment between Southington and Hartford.
- July 7, 2010: Between Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas, I-40 carries
the interstate traffic that once used U.S. 70, the modern
descendant of a Federal military road built in the 1820s.
- July 8, 2010: The earliest section of I-75 opened in August 1951 (the section in
Atlanta, Georgia, that overlaps I-85) before the
Interstate numbers were applied to the network in September
1957. The first segment to open after enactment of the
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was in Michigan, just across
the Ohio line (September 1956).
- July 9, 2010: From August 7 to August 11, 1997, the reversible lanes on a
7.6-mile stretch of I-15 about 10 miles north of downtown San
Diego, California, were the site of the Nation’s first
operational automated highway system. Thousands of magnetic
markers were embedded in the roadway to control vehicles that were
equipped with in-vehicle sensors, computers, and communication
- July 10, 2010: In Vermont, I-89 is called the Veterans Memorial Highway. The
name was chosen because the summer scenery along I-89 reminded
Vietnam War veterans of Highway 1 in the central highlands of
Vietnam. On October 30, 1982, officials and veterans
dedicated a memorial to Vermont’s Vietnam veterans in the
northbound I-89 rest area near Sharon. When the rest area was
reconstructed in 2005, a more permanent memorial, including a
museum, was added.
- July 11, 2010: The twin suspension spans known as the Iowa-Illinois Memorial
Bridge carry I-74 across the Mississippi River between Bettendorf,
Iowa, and Moline, Illinois. The first span, carrying
northbound traffic, opened in November 1935. The southbound
span opened in December 1959.
- July 12, 2010: The Cochran Hill Tunnel on I-64 in Louisville, Kentucky, was built
under Cherokee Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead
and opened in 1892. The tunnel was one of the first attempts
in the State to minimize the environmental impacts of road
- July 13, 2010: The bridge carrying the Capital Beltway (I-495) across the Potomac
River between Maryland and Virginia opened on December 31, 1962,
and was known unofficially as the Cabin John Bridge, inheriting the
name of an earlier span. On Memorial Day 1969 (May 30),
the Maryland State Roads Commission officially named the span the
American Legion Memorial Bridge to honor the 50th
anniversary of the American Legion.
- July 14, 2010: Wisconsin completed its 187-mile portion of I-90 with the opening
of the 38-mile section between LaCrosse and Tomah on November 4,
- July 15, 2010: Motorists crossing Nebraska’s 455-mile I-80 may wish to enjoy
a stop at one of the 50 lakes known as the “Chain of
Lakes.” They are located mostly along a 160-mile
stretch from Grand Island to Hershey. Highway engineers
created the lakes by excavating the sites for dirt (“borrow
pits”) to use in construction of I-80. Mel Steen,
Director of the State’s Games and Parks Commission at the
time, is credited with the idea of converting the borrow pits for
- July 16, 2010: Federal Highway Administrator Francis C. “Frank” Turner
was on hand as North Dakota celebrated completion of its 352 miles
of I-94 on August 7, 1970. Construction of I-94 had begun
with bid letting on December 17, 1956, for a 39-mile segment
between Valley City and Jamestown. The new highway cut
2½ hours off the cross-State trip on U.S. 10. The
ceremony took place in the safety rest areas at Oriska, Apple
Creek, and Painted Canyon. Turner, speaking at Apple Creek,
congratulated North Dakota on being one of only three States to
have completed its Interstate route from border to border and on
dedicating the longest stretch of Interstate completed to
date. “North Dakota is clearly in the lead,” he
- July 17, 2010: During the dedication of North Dakota’s I-94 on August 8,
1970, Governor William L. Guy mentioned a message he found on a
rest room wall while inspecting rest areas along the route several
years earlier. The message read: “It seems to me
a state that can afford to landscape its Interstate highways can
afford to install running water.” A California resident
had signed the message, but a dozen motorists from other States had
added their names to it at later dates. Returning to
Bismarck, the Governor stopped by the State Highway Department and
said, “It seems to me a state that can afford to landscape
its Interstate highways …” As a result of that rest
room message, all the State’s rest areas were equipped with
running water and heat. [Source: “Guy Decides to
Heed Handwriting on Wall,” Bismarck Tribune, August
- July 18, 2010: On June 18, 1990, Senator John Heinz (D-Pa.) introduced a proposal
to rename the Interstate System the “Dwight D. Eisenhower
Interstate Highway System,” with Senators Bob Dole (R-Ks.),
Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Ks.), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY.),
and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) as cosponsors. With October 14
marking the centennial of the former President’s birth,
Senator Heinz thought it fitting to name the Interstate Highway
System after the man who strived so hard to make it a
reality. When Senator John F. Kerry (D-Ma.) introduced an
amendment on October 4 changing the name to the “Dwight D.
Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways,”
Senator Heinz spoke in support of the measure: “Among
Ike’s many, many lasting contributions to our Nation, none
has more profoundly changed the shape of American life than the
legacy of a modern system of highways.” President
George H. W. Bush signed the bill on October 15, 1990, one day
after the centennial. (Section 1005 of the Intermodal
Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 restored the word
“National” after the former President’s name.)
- July 19, 2010: The twin-span Delaware Memorial Bridge carries I-295 from
Wilmington, Delaware, across the Delaware River to New
Jersey. The first suspension span cost $44 million and opened
on August 15, 1951. It was dedicated to the memory of men and
women from Delaware and New Jersey who had lost their lives in
World War II. To meet traffic needs, the two States built a
second suspension span. It cost $77 million and opened on
September 12, 1968. The second span is dedicated to those
lost during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
- July 20, 2010: I-95 has made it into songs by artists such as Sheryl Crow
(“Maybe Angels”), Joe Ely (“95 South”) Sue
Foley (“Baltimore Skyline”), Hammel on Trial (“95
South”), Little Feat (“Let It Roll”), G.
Love & Special Sauce (“I-76”), Roger McGuinn
(“Southbound 95”), Shawn Mullins (“North on
95”), and John Waite (“I-95”). In
“I-95,” Waite sings:
I'm so glad I can drive
Burning down I-95
It's a simple song of freedom.
- July 21, 2010: Illinois completed its 163-mile section of I-80 on January 17,
1968. The final segment incorporates five miles of the
Tri-State Tollway and three miles of the Kingery Expressway.
At an opening ceremony at the intersection with Illinois Route 7,
Governor Otto Kerner said the opening was “an historic event
for Illinois which is celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary
- July 22, 2010: The first leg of the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) opened in
Chicago on December 15, 1962. Governor Otto Kerner said of
the 14-lane, 16-mile expressway: “This gives Chicago and its
suburbs the finest system of expressways of any city in the
world.” At a luncheon, he gave the scissors he used to
cut the ribbon to County Commissioner Ruby Ryan, widow of Dan Ryan,
who had served as President of the Cook County Board of
Commissioners. The first leg was the portion north of the
Chicago Skyway. The final three-mile leg (147th
Street to Kilpatrick Avenue) opened on December 1, 1970, as part of
- July 23, 2010: With the opening of a 1.1-mile elevated freeway in Sacramento
(16th Street to Alhambra Boulevard) on June 25, 1968,
California completed its section of I-80. The San
Francisco Examiner and Chronicle explained that, “It will
be a day of emancipation for Sacramentans who for years have
suffered recurring weekend and summer-vacation traffic jams on city
streets, and the invective of through travelers¾primarily
from the Bay Area¾who create them.” The
newspaper added that, “not a single traffic signal will
impede an uninterrupted traffic flow.”
- July 24, 2010: During the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 18, 1968, opening
the final 4½-mile segment of I-10 linking Phoenix and
Tucson, Governor Jack Williams called it the most important link in
Arizona’s Interstate System. Participants in the
ceremony stressed that I-10 brought the two cities, 113 miles
apart, closer, comparing the 100-minute trip on the Interstate with
the drive on U.S. 80 that took 2½ to 3 hours.
- July 25, 2010: On November 1, 1968, Delaware became the third State to complete
its portion of I-95 (after Connecticut’s 111 miles and New
York’s 23 miles). Its portion of the route is 23 miles
long, with 11 miles of a toll section from Newport to the Maryland
line (the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway). The State held a
symbolic opening ceremony at the Delaware-Pennsylvania State line
on September 23, 1968, as part of the 13th annual
Delaware Highway Day (symbolic because the final section in
Wilmington would not be ready for traffic until November).
Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr., said of the opening, “It is a
landmark step in Delaware’s continuing effort to link what
was once an isolated peninsula with the great market and urban
centers that sprawl around us.”
- July 26, 2010: I-684 in Connecticut is the only Interstate without access from the
State in which it is located. The 1.4-mile segment of I-684
in Connecticut is part of a 28-mile route from I-287 in White
Plains, New York, to I-84 near Brewster, New York. The
Connecticut segment, which cuts across the southeastern corner of
the State in Greenwich County, was opened along with the adjoining
stretches in New York from White Plains to U.S. 22 near Amonk on
October 30, 1968. As a headline in the Hartford Times
put it, “Our Land, Their Road.” Built as part of
I-87, the route was renumbered I-684 in October 1969.
- July 27, 2010: The MacVicar Freeway (I-235) was completed in Des Moines, Iowa, on
October 30, 1968. Construction of the 14-mile freeway began
in 1959. At the dedication ceremony, Lt. Governor Robert D.
Fulton said, “The happiness associated with the opening of
this freeway is about like having a new baby … and, like
having a baby, it also will bring with it new
responsibilities,” including law enforcement and highway
maintenance. Harry Bradley, Jr., a city native who chaired
the Iowa State Highway Commission, said the freeway would save
“minutes, dollars, and lives.”
- July 28, 2010: Originally, I-80N (now I-84) was designated to cross I-205 in
Portland, Oregon, and end at an I-5 interchange. Oregon
officials planned to build the Mt. Hood Freeway to carry I-80N
between I-5 and I-205, but the route proved controversial. At
the request of State and local officials, the Mt. Hood Freeway was
withdrawn from the Interstate System in May 1976. As a
result, I-80N ended at I-205. In late 1983, State
transportation officials requested designation of the Banfield
Expressway, which had been built in the 1950s before the Interstate
program, as the western extension of I-84 to I-5. The Federal
Highway Administration approved the designation on March 8,
- July 29, 2010: Until June 4, 1989, I-90 traffic in Seattle
crossed Lake Washington on the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge,
which had opened on July 2, 1940. The Murrow Bridge, named in
1967 after its Chief Engineer and the State’s Director of
Highways in the 1930s, was the world’s first concrete
floating bridge, with 6,561 feet of roadway carried on 25
pontoons. On June 4, 1989, the Washington State Department of
Transportation opened a parallel seven-lane concrete floating
bridge. It was intended to carry westbound traffic, but
initially carried traffic in both directions while the Murrow
Bridge was closed for reconstruction. The new bridge was
named in 1993 for Homer M. Hadley, who had conceived the idea of
building a floating bridge across the lake. Flooding
destroyed the Murrow Bridge on November 25, 1990, while the
reconstruction project was underway. When the replacement
bridge opened on September 12, 1993, the National Society of
Professional Engineers included it among the 10 Outstanding
Engineering Achievements of 1993.
- July 30, 2010: A wooden barrier was all that blocked the opening of a 16-mile link in I-95 at the Connecticut/Rhode Island State line. On December 15, 1964, Governor John N. Dempsey of Connecticut and Governor John H. Chafee of Rhode Island sawed through the barrier like “hardy lumberjacks” (in the words of the Hartford Courant) to open the segment. The segment from Hopkinton at the State line to the New London area linked with the Connecticut Turnpike to make the State the first to complete its portion of I-95.
- July 31, 2010: The June/July 2005 issue of American Heritage magazine listed “The Top 10 Makers of the Modern American Summer.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower was item number 5 for launching the program to build the Interstate System. “Ike’s legacy of Interstate highways has made the summer road trip a cherished American institution.”
- August 1, 2010: In a Message to Congress on February 28, 1961, President John F. Kennedy described the “vital contribution” the Interstate Program “makes to our security, our safety, and our economic growth.” Timely completion was essential to security because the Nation’s defense “will always depend, regardless of new weapon developments, on quick motor transportation of men and material from one site to another.” With 38,000 fatalities on the Nation’s highways in 1960, President Kennedy emphasized that when completed, the Interstate System would save an estimated 4,000 lives a year. Early completion was also essential for the economy:
This is true not only in terms of the stimulus and employment it provides now, in a time of recession, to such vital industries as steel, construction, cement, and others. It is also a key to development of more modern and efficient industrial complexes—turning marginal land or clogged cities into attractive sites for commercial or industrial development—and to lower motor transportation costs generally.
- August 2, 2010: In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for a 10-year program to build the Interstate System, with the funds raised upfront through the sale of bonds. After choosing a pay-as-you-go financing method involving dedicated highway user taxes, Congress stated in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that the Interstate System would “be completed as nearly as practicable over a thirteen-year period.” Therefore, it authorized Interstate Construction funds through Fiscal Year (FY) 1969, with the funds available for expenditure for two years beyond the authorization date to wrap up work. Thus, the last dollars were available through FY 1971 (June 30, 1971). As Congress gradually extended authorizations, it also amended the completion date to “fifteen years” (1964 Act), “sixteen years” (1966 Act), “eighteen years” (1968 Act), “twenty years” (1970 Act), and “twenty-three years” (1973 Act).
- August 3, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976 extended authorizations for construction of the Interstate System through Fiscal Year (FY) 1990 (September 30, 1990), with the funds to remain available for two years beyond the authorization date. To accommodate the extension, the Act changed the number of years for completion to “thirty-four years.” However, with passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1978 (Title I of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978), Congress made clear that it wanted the program to end sooner rather than later. Therefore, the Act specified that, “The Secretary shall not designate any Interstate route or portion thereof under authority of this paragraph after the date of enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1978” (November 6, 1978). This meant that the Federal Highway Administration could not designate additional routes for development with Interstate Construction (IC) funds.
- August 4, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1981 restricted IC funds to “the construction necessary to provide a minimum level of acceptable service on the Interstate System.” The minimum level of acceptable service consisted of full access control, pavement design to accommodate a 20-year design, essential environmental requirements, no more than six lanes in rural areas and urbanized areas with populations under 400,000, up to eight lanes in urbanized areas with populations of 400,000 or more, and high occupancy lanes included in the Interstate Cost Estimate (ICE) for Fiscal Year 1981. The Act also limited funding to “the actual costs of only those design concepts, locations, geometrics, and other construction features” in the 1981 ICE unless the Secretary determined that a change was required by Federal law.
- August 5, 2010: Although Congress hoped to bring construction of the Interstate System to an end within the limits of funding authorized through Fiscal Year (FY) 1990, additional funds would be needed. The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 authorized Interstate Construction (IC) funds through FY 1993 and changed the statutory completion time frame to “thirty-seven years.” One reason for the extension was Section 138, which established that the Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project in Boston (building a tunnel to replace the I-93/Central Artery viaduct and an I-90 extension through a third harbor tunnel to Logan International Airport) would be eligible for full IC funding except the portion of the Central Artery replacement tunnel between High Street and Causeway Street (the termini of the depressed section). President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, citing the funding levels and its "narrow, individual special interest highway and transit construction projects." One of these was the CA/THT project, which President Reagan called "unfair because for all other States, the Interstate System was closed to add-ons in 1981." Congress overrode the veto by one vote in the Senate and it became law on April 2, 1987.
- August 6, 2010: In developing the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987, Congress thought it was authorizing the final funds for construction of the Interstate System. If the Members were in any doubt, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and floor manager of the Bill “repeatedly reminded the Senate that this would be the final legislation of the Interstate era, and that in 1991 a new period would begin” (as he recalled in 1991). As Congress considered that “new era” in 1991, Senator Moynihan acknowledged that more Interstate Construction (IC) funding, totaling $8 billion, was needed for the I-105 Glenn M. Anderson Freeway in Los Angeles and the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston. Therefore, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 authorized IC funds totaling $7.2 billion through Fiscal Year 1996. The Act changed the statutory completion time frame to “forty years” and stated that the authorization was “the final authorization of appropriations and apportionments for completion of construction of such System.” Later legislation has retained the 40-year completion time-frame, without additional IC authorizations, for the 10-year program President Dwight D. Eisenhower had envisioned.
- August 7, 2010:
In the Disney/Pixar animated film “Cars” (2006), a flashy racecar crossing the country on I-40 is stranded in Radiator Springs, a U.S. Route 66 town that was bypassed in the Southwest by the Interstate. John Lasseter, the 49-year old director and creative head of Pixar Animation Studio, recalled the early Interstate years:
For a lot of our vacations, my brother and sister and I would pile into the station wagon, and our parents would drive Route 66 from L.A. When they started building the Interstate, my dad would drive it for parts of our journeys and say, “Now we can really make time.” But the Interstate was so smooth, you’d lose track of where you were. When you drove Route 66, you really felt the land. You knew where it was hilly and where it was flat. On the Interstate it was all flat. [From Charles Solomon’s “With ‘Cars,’ Pixar Revs Up to Outpace Walt Disney Himself,” The New York Times, May 28, 2006.]
- August 8, 2010: In August 1970, Federal Highway Administrator Francis C. “Frank” Turner discussed how the Interstate System was “shrinking” distances between cities by reducing travel time for motor vehicle trips. “A 2,830-mile journey from New York to Los Angeles, which took 79 hours in 1956 when Interstate mileage was negligible, can now be made in 62 hours by using Interstate routes in the same general corridor. The 17-hour reduction permits a motorist who drives 8 or 9 hours a day to cross the country in two fewer days.”
- August 9, 2010: On February 22, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower submitted his proposal on the National Highway Program. It proposed to finance the Interstate System by issuing bonds to pay the full cost, with the excise tax on gasoline dedicated to their repayment. The funding proposal found little support in either House of Congress. Leading the opposition was Senator Harry Flood Byrd (D-Va.), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. A lifelong highway booster, he had become president in 1908 of the Shenandoah Valley Turnpike Company, which owned and operated a turnpike built in the 1830s between Winchester and Staunton. He owned an apple orchard and published a newspaper, and served as a State Senator and Governor before joining the Senate. Throughout his life, he was a lifelong pay-as-you-go man with a nearly pathological hatred of debt, whether personal or public. Although he strongly supported construction of the Interstate System, his opposition to the President’s financing plan doomed it in the Senate.
- August 10, 2010: Opposition to the bond financing mechanism proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 22, 1955, was such that leading Republicans, even those on the Committees on Public Works of the House and Senate, gave it only token support. It fell to freshman Senator Prescott Bush (R-Ct.) to promote the concept. Bush, a wealthy investment banker, had been elected to the Senate in 1952 and served on the Subcommittee on Roads. He understood bonds and could explain how the President’s proposal would work. However, it was doomed. He was more successful in supporting apportionment of Interstate Construction funds based on relative need, the concept that was adopted in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. He also backed legislation to create a position of Federal Highway Administrator, subject to Senate confirmation, to head the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. (President Eisenhower signed the legislation, P.L. 84-966, on August 3, 1956.) Senator Bush retired in 1962, citing poor health, and died on October 8, 1972, from lung cancer. His son, George H. W. Bush, would become the Nation’s 41st President and his grandson, George W. Bush, the 43rd.
- August 11, 2010: On June 25, 1956, both Houses of Congress acted on the final version of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The House of Representatives approved the bill by voice vote. The Senate voted 89 to 1 in favor of the Bill. Senator Russell B. Long (D-La.) cast the “no” vote. He supported increased funding for highways, particularly the Interstate System. However, he felt the increased taxes were unnecessary. With the Federal Government predicting a $2 to $3 billion surplus, he said, "all that was needed was a Bill to authorize expanded Federal-aid for highways.” In his view, the surplus would prompt Congress to cut the income tax, which he believed would mean that "much of the reduction in the income taxes will be financed by additional taxes on highway users." He believed, in short, that "highway users are already paying enough in taxes for the building of highways." As a result, Senator Long became the lone dissenter in either House of Congress.
- August 12, 2010: On October 24, 1968, North Carolina dedicated a 23-mile stretch of I-40 through Pigeon River Gorge from Dellwood to the Tennessee State line. (The companion 15 miles in Tennessee were also dedicated.) Roadways magazine explained: “For more than 150 years, man’s efforts to slash a passage through the rugged Pigeon River Gorge in North Carolina’s Southern Appalachian Mountains ended in frustration. The formidable mountain terrain discouraged engineer after engineer, depleted the coffers of at least two surveying companies seeking a railroad path, and stopped a plank road after it had encroached only six miles.” The $33 million project required 125 carloads of explosive, 21,758,887 cubic yards of excavation, and three tunnels. Heavy equipment had to be dismantled, carried in piece-by-piece, and reassembled. Although the stretch was dedicated, both States had additional work to do before I-40 was open to full traffic.
- August 13, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 is rightly celebrated for launching the Interstate Program and creating a financing mechanism and appropriate taxes via the Highway Trust Fund. However, the Interstate provisions were only part of the 1956 Act. The Act also authorized Federal-aid highway funds for the primary and secondary systems and their extensions in urban areas, Forest Highways, Forest Development Roads and Trails, roads and trails in National Parks, and Public Lands Highways for Fiscal Years 1957 through 1959; and entitled the Territory of Alaska to receive Federal-aid highway programs under the same conditions as the States.
- August 14, 2010: Although the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 launched the Interstate Program, it contained many provisions related to the Federal-Aid Highway Act. It directed the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a highway safety study and provide recommendations to Congress on the subject; authorized $30 million for an emergency fund to assist in repair or reconstruction of Federal-aid highways and bridges that have suffered serious damage over a wide area during a natural disaster; provided that placing temporary and permanent geodetic markers in accordance with specifications of the Coast and Geodetic Survey would be eligible for Federal-aid highway funds; authorized the use of Federal-aid highway funds for archeological and paleontological salvage on Federal-aid projects; and stated that in carrying out the provisions of the Act, the Secretary may approve the use photogrammetric methods in mapping.
- August 15, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 authorized designation of a 40,000-mile National System of Interstate Highways (but without funding or a program to build it). In signing the legislation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Adequate facilities for highway communication will be essential in the future as a part of an expanding, prosperous economy that will insure jobs. They will be essential also to the national defense, as well as to the safe and efficient transportation service which belong to America’s way of living.” He added, “This legislation makes possible the advance planning of the needed facilities on a sound basis. Now it becomes a challenge to the States, counties and cities which must originate the specific projects and get the program ready for construction after the war ends.”
- August 16, 2010: According to the final Interstate Cost Estimate (1991), the estimated cost of Interstate construction in California was higher than in any other State ($11.3 billion).
- August 17, 2010: The first section of Grand Central Parkway in Queens, New York City, opened in July 1933 (Kew Gardens to Glen Oaks). The section between Kew Gardens and the Triborough Bridge opened in July 1936. [Source: nycroads.com] The Grand Central Parkway was incorporated into I-278, a three-digit route that never reached its two-digit mainline namesake, I-78. The planned I-278 link from U.S. 1 to I-78 in New Jersey was withdrawn from the Interstate System on March 20, 1968, under the Howard-Cramer substitution provision (see April 22 I-Fact for information on this withdrawal mechanism).
- August 18, 2010:
Prior to 1978, the Bureau of Public Roads/Federal Highway Administration had the authority to designate Interstate mileage for development with Interstate construction funds within statutory mileage limits. Although Section 107(b) of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act ended this authority, the legislation was the first to identify additional Interstate routes for designation. Section 140 stated that “notwithstanding” Section 107(b), the Secretary of Transportation shall designate within 60 days:
- California: 20.5 miles of State Route 11 (Harbor Freeway) in Los Angeles from I-10 to SR 47 in San Pedro (became I-110);
- New York: 4.2 miles of the Lockport Expressway in Amherst (became I-990 in the Buffalo area); and
- New York: 5.1 miles of proposed I-481 connecting Exit 34-A of I-90 to the Bear Road Interchange of I-81 in Onondaga County, New York (part of the I-481 loop at Syracuse).
- August 19, 2010: I-476 in Pennsylvania is the longest three-digit Interstate route at 122 miles (from I-95 in Chester to I-81 in Clarks Summit).
- August 20, 2010: The Kansas Highway Commission was reconstructing U.S. 40 from Topeka’s western city limits to the Waubaunsee County line (Valencia Road to Maple Hill Road) when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. With the new Interstate Construction funds, Kansas completed the eight-mile, two-lane project on November 14, 1956—the first segment completed under the terms of the 1956 Act. It would serve two-way traffic on future I-70 until construction of two additional lanes. Kansas completed its 424 miles of I-70 on June 17, 1970 with a ceremony near Goodland.
- August 21, 2010: On August 2, 1956, Missouri became the first State to award a contract under the terms of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The contract was for work on U.S. 66 (future I-44) in Laclede County. A second contract awarded that day for U.S. 40 (I-70, Mark Twain Expressway) in St. Charles County—would be the Nation’s first roadway to go to construction under the terms of the 1956 Act on August 13. The work—2.6 miles of bridging, grading, and paving from Cole Creek to the Missouri River—was completed in December 1957. On September 19, 1965, Federal and State officials gathered in Columbia to celebrate completion of Missouri’s 252-mile I-70. As one account put it, “At the late afternoon ceremonies at Columbia’s new Parkade Plaza, the rain stole the show from such names as Governor Warren E. Hearnes, Senator Edward Long, Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton and Secretary of Commerce John T. Connor.” When rain began as the ceremony was to start at 4:30, the dignitaries headed for cover. The dedication was completed at a dinner for 500 at a nearby motel.
- August 22, 2010:
On April 14, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a National Interregional Highway Committee to investigate the need for a limited system of national highways, advise the Federal Works Administrator on the desirable character of such improvements, and evaluate the possibility of using ex-soldiers and freed industrial capacity in the development of the new system after the ongoing defense emergency was over. The members were:
Thomas H. MacDonald, Commissioner, U.S. Public Roads Administration
G. Donald Kennedy, Michigan’s State Highway Commissioner
The Honorable Bibb Graves, former Governor of Alabama
Charles M. Purcell, California State Highway Engineer
Frederic A. Delano, Chairman, National Resources Planning Board
Harland Bartholomew, City Planner, St. Louis, Missouri
Rexford G. Tugwell, Chairman, New York City Planning Commission
- August 23, 2010: At the first meeting of the National Interregional Highway Committee on June 24, 1941, the members elected U.S. Commissioner of Public Roads, Thomas H. MacDonald, to be chairman. He appointed his top aide, Herbert S. Fairbank, secretary. Three members of the committee played little or no role. Former Governor Bibb Graves of Alabama died; Rexford G. Tugwell was appointed Governor of Puerto Rico; and Frederic A. Delano withdrew from an active role. The committee finished its work in 1941, but its report (written mainly by Fairbank) was delayed until President Franklin D. Roosevelt transmitted it to Congress on January 12, 1944, with his transmittal letter endorsing the recommendations. Congress acted on the report in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944, which authorized designation of a 40,000-mile “National System of Interstate Highways,” but without a financing mechanism or commitment.
- August 24, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 authorized the first funds for the Interstate System--$25 million a year for Fiscal Years 1954 and 1955. The Federal-State matching share was 50-50. President Harry S. Truman signed the bill on June 25, 1952. The token funding for the Interstate System was less than highway interests had hoped for, but with the Korean War underway, it was the best Congress could do. Executive Vice President Eugene Reybold of the American Roads Builders’ Association said, “I am glad that a step has been taken to provide for the development of the important Interstate System. The $25 million authorized is sadly inadequate, but it gives recognition to a critical problem.”
- August 25, 2010: After Thomas H. MacDonald, who had headed the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads from 1919 to 1953, died on April 7, 1957, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) created an award in his name to honor lifetime achievement. In Chicago for AASHO’s annual meeting, D. C. Greer, Texas State Highway Engineer, presented the first Thomas H. MacDonald Award to MacDonald’s longtime aide, Herbert S. Fairbank, on November 18, 1957. In summarizing Fairbank’s lifetime of achievement, Greer cited Toll Roads and Free Roads (1939) and Interregional Highways (1944), the reports that provided the conceptual framework for the Interstate System. In accepting the award, Fairbank said of MacDonald, “If ever a man deserved the name of prophet it was he. If ever a public servant could truly boast of an administration of the people’s business virtually without flaw, it was he. If ever in any man there can be combined just that conjunction of the qualities of the able engineer, the perceptive political economist, the skilled diplomatist, and the sure and faithful administrator, that it takes to make a great highway engineer, it was in Thomas H. MacDonald that these qualities found their rarest blending.”
- August 26, 2010:
The shortest Interstates are:
I-110 in El Paso, Texas: 0.94 miles
I-315 in Great Falls, Montana: 0.82 miles
I-980 in Oakland, California: 0.80 miles
I-395 in Baltimore, Maryland: 0.72 miles
I-878 in New York City: 0.70 miles
- August 27, 2010: In the view of many, Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” conveys the mystique of an Interstate road trip the best: Get your motor running/Head out on the highway/Looking for adventure/In whatever comes our way. Many other lesser known songs speak to this feeling. For example, Little Feat’s “Drivin’ Blind” sums up the experience: Roll down the window/The freeway is clear/Suddenly all my passions re-appear. But perhaps Susan Cowsill’s “I Know You Know (Love)” puts the feeling in its simplest form: Isn't this a perfect day?/Everybody let me change lanes/On the freeway.
- August 28, 2010: On May 18, 2006, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta joined officials from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to dedicate the first span of the new 1.1-mile Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge to carry the I-95/495/Capital Beltway across the Potomac River. The new bridge will be owned by the three jurisdictions, unlike the existing bridge, which was owned by the Federal Highway Administration. The new span, which began carrying its first traffic on June 11, will carry traffic in both directions until the old bridge is removed so a second span can be built in its place.
- August 29, 2010: The first segment of what is now the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) in Chicago, from Mannheim Road to First Avenue, opened on December 21, 1954. The final segment, from Soffel Avenue to Madison Street, opened on December 18, 1961. In 1964, the City Council decided to name the expressway, then part of I-90, after President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “Eisenhower’s response was lukewarm,” according to reporter William Mullen. “Chicago reporters who sought him out for a comment found him vacationing at the El Dorado Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif. His brief statement, issued through a secretary, was ‘I am highly complemented by the action of the city council and the mayor and express my appreciation to anyone connected with this thought.’” (The Eisenhower Expressway became I-290 in July 1977.) [Mullen, William, “Road Warriers,” Sunday, The Chicago Tribune Magazine, October 20, 1985]
- August 30, 2010: From the start, the Interstate System has been credited with many benefits, but the Argus-Leader of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, identified an unexpected benefit in the issue of January 27, 1964. “[D]evelopment of the Interstate highway system around Sioux Falls is helping to curtail bruising of livestock.” A spokesperson for the 6th Annual Livestock Truckers’ Recognition Day explained that “use of the Interstate by truckers eliminates the many stops at crossroads and in-city stoplights and causes less jostling and bruising of cattle.”
- August 31, 2010: In July 1964, construction of I-91 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was halted when workers found dinosaur tracks that may have been 180 million years old in the highway’s path. The footprint was 14 inches long and a foot wide, with the third toe missing.
- September 1, 2010: In September 1965, Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton (1961-1966) described the changing attitudes toward highway location as the Interstate System spread across the country. “Highway construction has come a long way since the days when the transportation of people and goods was a road’s sole function. There is no doubt that while they continue to serve that purpose, highway builders exercising social responsibility will construct roads which are aesthetically attractive and a force for improving the social and economic health of the American people.”
- September 2, 2010: The Maine Turnpike was the second modern turnpike, after the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) was established in 1941. Following World War I, the MTA issued bonds to finance construction. The initial four-lane section opened on December 13, 1947, between Kittery and South Portland. The turnpike extension to Augusta via Lewiston was completed on December 13, 1955. In August 1957, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads incorporated two sections of the Maine Turnpike (Kittery to northwest of Portland, and Gardiner to Augusta, a total of 60 miles) into the Interstate System, but provided for a more direct, toll-free connection between Portland and Gardiner. The two turnpike segments and the toll-free section became I-95. In August 1987, the turnpike between Portland and Gardiner was designated I-495. However, in October 2002, the numbering was revised to reflect the motorists’ point of view. The I-95 designation was transferred to former I-495 while the former I-95 between Portland and Gardiner became I-295.
- September 3, 2010: The 1.4-mile, four-lane Harbor Tunnel Thruway (part of I-895) opened across the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 29, 1957. By eliminating passage on city streets with 51 traffic signals, the tunnel helped reduce the “Baltimore Bottleneck” for East Coast traffic. More than 23.5 million vehicles used the tunnel in the most recent fiscal year.
- September 4, 2010: The northern terminus of the 1,786-mile I-75 is the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge across the St. Mary’s River between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. On the Canadian side, the bridge is the southern terminus of Highway 17, Ontario’s main link in the 5,000-mile Trans-Canada Highway. Considered one of Michigan’s five monumental bridges, the International Bridge opened on October 31, 1962. (The southern terminus of I-75 is State Route 826 (Palmetto Expressway) at State Route 924 (Gratigny Parkway) in Miami, Florida.)
- September 5, 2010: The I-80 Allegheny River Bridge between Clintonville and Emlenton, Pennsylvania, is the highest bridge in the State. The deck is 271 feet over the water.
- September 6, 2010: I-90, the transcontinental highway from Boston to Seattle, was completed twice. The first time was on September 12, 1991, when a $40-million viaduct bypassing Wallace, Idaho, opened. Completion of the viaduct diverted Interstate traffic from the widely publicized "last stoplight on I-90" (at Seventh and Bank Streets in Wallace). However, an extension of I-90 in Boston from I-93 to Logan International Airport was part of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. The extension opened in stages. The Ted Williams Tunnel opened in December 1995; the Leverett Circle Connector opened in October 1999; and on January 17, 2003, the I-90 Connector opened east and westbound to the Ted Williams Tunnel, Logan Airport, and State Route 1A opened in East Boston.
- September 7, 2010:
The Penn-Lincoln Parkway (I-376) was dedicated on June 5, 1953, the first modern expressway in the Pittsburgh area.
- September 8, 2010: President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s financing plan for the Interstate System called for a Federal share of 90 percent. The States had stated that they did not want to be forced to increase their taxes to pay for this national priority. With the Federal Government paying 90 percent of the cost, the States’ share would equal the amount they would pay under the 60-40 Federal-State matching ratio established for the $175 million a year that the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954 had authorized for the Interstate System. Although Congress rejected the President’s financing plan, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 retained the 90-10 Federal-State matching ratio.
- September 9, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 authorized designation of a 40,000-mile “National System of Interstate Highways.” The U.S. Public Roads Administration (now the Federal Highway Administration) worked with the State highway agencies to select the routes. On March 28, 1946, Nebraska became the first State to accept its integrated Interstate System.
- September 10, 2010: On April 6, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 4263, naming I-195 in New Jersey the "James J. Howard Interstate Highway" (from I-295 in Trenton to NJ 34) after the late Chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee. The President said that Chairman Howard, who had died on March 25, was being honored for his "untiring efforts to bring this country a modern network of highway and mass transit projects."
- September 11, 2010: In April 1970, Secretary of Transportation John Volpe agreed to shift I-75 in Florida 300 feet to avoid disturbing an eagle's nest in a 50-foot pine tree on the banks of the Manatee River, northeast of Bradenton. A bald eagle couple moved into the nest each fall and departed as soon as their eaglets became airborne. The shift, according to Federal Highway Administrator Francis C. “Frank” Turner, pointed up the value of the public hearing process. "The eagle's nest was called to official attention during the initial public hearings on the extension of Interstate 75 from Tampa to Miami. The route was moved without a murmer of dissent, for everyone wants to do all he can to try to preserve this symbolic American bird which is on the verge of extinction."
- September 12, 2010: Interstate 5th Anniversary: On June 29, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1961, which permanently increased the gas tax to 4 cents to support Interstate construction. He signed the legislation “with the greatest pleasure,” explaining that the revenue assured “the Federal Government can continue with the construction of the new highway system, a system which will increase our defense readiness, decrease the appalling highway accident toll, lower transportation costs, and stimulate economic development.” The President used several pens to sign the law, giving them to congressional leaders and Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton. Whitton, whose family still has the pen, would say of it, “It is not an expensive pen, but it is the most important one I ever owned, for it was an instrument of writing a solution to the highway financing crisis which has bothered so many of us for several years.”
- September 13, 2010: Interstate 10th Anniversary: For the 10th Anniversary of the Interstate System, the Associated Press (AP) distributed an article about “Highways Greatest Peacetime Program.” Motorists could, AP said, “travel as much as 1,328½ miles without hitting a traffic light,” based on the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads’ calculation of a trip from West Campton in New Hampshire’s White Mountains to Tomah, Wisconsin (toll booths were the only obstructions). The new highways increased safety—“if you don’t punish the accelerator too mercilessly you will be three times safer on the new highways than the old-fashioned ones.” To convey the scale of Interstate construction, AP said, “Total excavation will move enough dirt and rock to blanket Connecticut knee-deep. Sand, gravel and crushed stone for the construction would build a mound 50 feet wide and 9 feet high completely around the world. The concrete would build six sidewalks to the moon; the tar and asphalt would build driveways for 35 million homes.”
- September 14, 2010: Interstate 20th Anniversary: Because the 20th Anniversary, June 29, 1976, was so close to the Nation’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, the anniversary appears to have received little note. However, the Federal Highway Administration published its Bicentennial history, America’s Highways 1776-1976, which includes detailed information about the evolution of the Interstate System. The New York Times noted the occasion with an article on November 14, 1976, by William K. Stevens. In Topeka, Kansas, near the first Interstate segment (part of I-70) completed under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, Stevens stated that no bands would play, no birthday parties were planned, not even “here in the wide open spaces, where superhighways are not only an inseparable part of the free life but almost an article of faith.” He added, “That is perhaps one measure of how thoroughly taken for granted, and how deeply embedded in American life, the greatest public works project in history (so it is called) has become.”
- September 15, 2010: Interstate 30th Anniversary: Nearly 500 transportation construction executives gathered on May 20, 1986, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington for "Interstate Nite," a celebration of the Interstate's 30th Anniversary sponsored by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Federal Highway Administrator Ray Barnhart and five of his predecessors attended (John Volpe, Frank Turner, Norbert Tiemann, Karl Bowers, and John Hassell). Barnhart said of the Interstate System, “It’s importance to industry, commerce, the economy and recreation and travel cannot be overstated.” On June 26, designated by President Ronald Reagan as “National Interstate Highway Day,” Barnhart joined congressional leaders and industry figures for a celebration on Capitol Hill. Susan Eisenhower, the former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter, said, “He was committed to a strong Interstate transportation network and never doubted that it would happen, and I think this would have been one of his proudest moments.”
- September 16, 2010: Interstate 40th Anniversary: In San Francisco, Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Slater began a road tour on June 7, 1996, to celebrate the Interstate System’s 40th Anniversary. His trip across the country roughly paralleled, in reverse order, the U.S. Army’s first transcontinental motor vehicle convoy, which took two months to travel from Washington, DC, to San Francisco in 1919. On the convoy, a young officer named Dwight D. Eisenhower gained his first understanding of the need for good roads. In Washington on June 26, Slater joined industry and congressional leaders in a gala sponsored by the American Highway Users Alliance in a tent near the Zero Milestone on the Ellipse, the starting point of the 1919 convoy. Vice President Al Gore, whose father Senator Al Gore, Sr. (D-Tn.) was a chief author of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, said of the Interstate System that, “It is virtually impossible to overstate the importance of this investment . . . . The Interstate highway System has literally changed the way we work and the way we live.”
- September 17, 2010: The Leonard B. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge on I-93 in Boston includes diamond-shaped holes that allow sunlight to filter down to the Charles River to guide alewife (also known as mulhaden, grey herring, golden shad) to their seasonal spawning pools up-river.
- September 18, 2010: In Parade magazine for October 20, 2002, the Sunday supplement’s weekly column, “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade,” answered this question from J.T. of Middlebury, Vermont: “In your opinion, which President made the greatest achievements in the 20th century?” Scott presented “a nonpartisan Top 10, in chronological order”: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. For President Eisenhower, Scott listed as his major achievement: “Interstate Highway System.”
- September 19, 2010: The first expressway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, opened on January 27, 1962. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Gaylord Nelson hailed the 4.86-mile segment of the Milwaukee County Expressway (I-94) as a “marvelous asset” to the area. According to an account in the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads newsletter, “Following the ribbon cutting, the parade of officials proceeded to drive all links—from Wisconsin Avenue south to National Avenue and back to the stadium interchange; east to 16th Street and then west to the exit at N. 68th Street and W. Stevenson Street.”
- September 20, 2010: Congressman George H. Fallon (D-Md.), one of the chief authors of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, was on hand as Governor J. Milliard Tawes and other officials opened a five-mile section of the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 2, 1962. With the opening of the segment from Cold Spring Lane to the Baltimore Beltway, motorists could travel from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to the center of Baltimore without encountering a traffic light.
- September 21, 2010: H-1 in Honolulu, Hawaii, between Pele and Ernest Streets, crosses the slopes of Punchbowl, the crater of an extinct volcano. This section of H-1 is depressed to go under Ward Avenue. The August 1968 issue of Pacific Roadbuilder and Engineering Review explained that, “The outstanding feature of the project will be the landscaped terraces which will be built into the banks along the higher side of the depressed portion . . . . These banks will be landscaped with trees and shrubs, illuminated at night by recessed lighting, and made available to pedestrians by stairways at three locations.” The “garden platforms” were the idea of Albert C. Zane, Chief of the Highways Division of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. “Without special treatment,” he explained, “this side would present a large, dull blank surface of concrete for we must provide means of retaining cuts for a roadbed as much as 45 feet below neighboring land.” He added that the other side of the roadway did not require a deep cut, but would be landscaped as well.
- September 22, 2010: Construction Breakthroughs, Part 1 of 2: Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton (1961-1966) was a pivotal figure in saving the Interstate System from early critics who wanted to halt the program. The October/November 1966 issue of Caterpillar World (published by the equipment manufacturer) contained one of his last interviews before leaving office on December 31, 1966. Asked what “major breakthroughs” had occurred in road-building techniques during the first ten years of the Interstate program, Whitton replied: “There have been a number of breakthroughs. Highway engineering productivity has been greatly increased through application of the electronic computer, aerial photography, photogrammetry and surveying instruments. Fast, non-destructive testing methods are more widely used, thereby reducing delays to contractors.” To be continued…
- September 23, 2010: Construction Breakthroughs, Part 2 of 2: This is the second part of Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton’s reply to a question on construction breakthroughs resulting from the Interstate System: “Slip-form pavers increase production of concrete pavements. More powerful, faster grading equipment has increased production and kept costs down. Portable bituminous concrete plants are reducing haul time. Electronic controls on batch plants, grading equipment and pavers are increasing accuracy. A new rock-splitting technique enables contractors to blast rock cuts to conform more closely to plans, thus reducing both the quantity of material to be moved, and the amount of scaling to be done. Production cost studies provide data on delays and nonproductive time. New compaction equipment that uses vibration and allows the operator to change tire pressures without stopping expedites work on embankments, bases and surfaces. Wider use of standard plans … and prefabrication of steel and concrete structures also increases productivity.”
- September 24, 2010: Can you find the “Dwight D. Eisenhower Freeway” in the District of Columbia? Signing has been sporadic over the years, but if you were driving on Southeast-Southwest Freeway (I-395/295) in the city, you would discover this highway is, indeed, officially called the Dwight D. Eisenhower Freeway. The idea for the name came from a committee looking into ways of commemorating the centennial of President Eisenhower’s birth on October 14, 1890. In the absence of a monument to the former President, the committee suggested naming a freeway after the man who did so much to create the Interstate System. Mayor Marion Barry signed the legislation in 1990.
- September 25, 2010:
Routes with numbers ending in “5” are the main north-south Interstates. From I-5 to I-95, the longest is I-95 from Houlton, Maine, to Miami, Florida (1,831 miles) and the shortest is I-45 from Galveston to Dallas, Texas (284.95 miles).
- September 26, 2010: I-96 is located entirely in Michigan from its interchange with I-75 in Detroit to U.S. 31 south of Muskegon, a distance of 192 miles. The route has one spur, I-196, linking I-96 in Grand Rapids to I-94 in Benton Harbor (80 miles). In Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties, I-196 is called “The Gerald Ford Freeway” in honor of the 38th President, who was from Grand Rapids. (A three-digit route connecting Interstates on both ends would normally have an even prefix. However, I-196 was first assigned to a spur (connecting with an Interstate on only one end) from Grand Rapids to U.S. 31 near Muskegon, but the number was swapped with I-96 in a series of actions initiated by the State so that “196” linked two Interstates.)
- September 27, 2010:
I-480 in Omaha, Nebraska, is called the “Gerald Ford Freeway” in honor of the 38th President. Ford was born in the city as Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by his mother and stepfather, Gerald R. Ford, Sr. I-480 in Omaha is part of a five-mile route from I-80 in Omaha to I-29 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
- September 28, 2010: I-79 is a two-State Interstate from State Route 5 in Erie, Pennsylvania, to I-77 in Charleston, West Virginia (343 miles).
- September 29, 2010: Ambrose, Part 1 of 5: Stephen E. Ambrose’s biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower explained why Eisenhower wanted the Interstates: “By early 1955, a boom was on, but without inflation . . . The result was a buying spree. The auto industry benefited most dramatically . . . The American people for their part had never seen so many cars; the problem was that the road system was woefully inadequate.” After citing Eisenhower’s experiences on the Army’s Transcontinental Road Convoy in 1919 and on the autobahn in Germany during and after World War II, Ambrose said, “Eisenhower wanted the highways built. To him it was an ideal program for the Federal Government to undertake.” The need was “clear and inescapable.” A “unified system could only be erected by the Federal Government.” Because it would be “the largest public-works program in history,” it “could put millions of men to work without subjecting itself to the criticism that this was ‘make-work,’” a common criticism of public works programs during the Depression of the 1930s. “By tailoring expenditures for highways to the state of the economy, Eisenhower could use the program to flatten out the peaks and valleys in unemployment.” Finally, Ambrose explained, “Eisenhower wanted the highways as a part of his overall Cold War program.” He worried how to evacuate cities in the event of a nuclear attack. “Four-lane highways out of the cities would make evacuation possible; they would also facilitate the movement of military traffic in the event of war.” [Ambrose, Stephen E., Eisenhower (Volume Two: The President), Simon and Schuster, 1984, p.249-251.]
- September 30, 2010: Ambrose, Part 2 of 5: As explained in Stephen E. Ambrose’s biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “One of Eisenhower’s favorite programs for reducing the peaks and valleys on the GNP [Gross National Product] chart was the Interstate System.” In November 1955, he told Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks to plan on using the Interstate System for managing the economy. As Dr. Gabriel Hauge, one of Eisenhower’s economic aides, put it, “That was the fundamental purpose of the plan in the initial instance.” After Eisenhower’s financing plan involving bonds and dedication of the gas tax to their retirement failed in 1955, he agreed to cooperate with the Democrats who controlled both Houses of Congress “in order to get started on construction.” Ambrose explained, “In the House, Hale Boggs of Louisiana and George Fallon of Maryland had introduced a bill providing for users’ taxes to pay for the system. Eisenhower gave the word to the Republican leaders—cooperate with Boggs and Fallon and ‘yield to Democratic insistence on financing,’ until a bill was passed. Through the late winter and early spring, Boggs and Fallon, with Republication cooperation, worked on their bill.” [Ambrose, p. 301.] The Fallon/Boggs Bill was combined with a bill introduced in 1955 by Senator Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee and became the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.
- October 1, 2010: Ambrose, Part 3 of 5: President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term began on January 20, 1957. He had a range of Presidential problems, but managed to relax most weekends on his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “Eisenhower,” biographer Stephen E. Ambrose explained, “enjoyed everything about the farm, even the drive from Washington to Pennsylvania.” In March 1957, according to Ambrose, the President “got into a discussion with the Republican leaders about advertising along the Interstate highways. The President admitted ‘he rather liked to read the Burma Shave signs along the way,’ but did say he was opposed to billboards beside the new highways.” [Ambrose, p. 391-392.] (Burma Shave advertised its brushless shaving cream by posting a series of signs along main roads, with the last sign saying the product name. For example: Don't take a curve / at 60 per / we hate to lose / a customer / Burma-Shave.) The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1958, which President Eisenhower signed on August 7, included a “Bonus Program” to encourage States to control outdoor advertising along the Interstates.
- October 2, 2010: Ambrose, Part 4 of 5: In his second term, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned that the Democrats, who controlled both Houses of Congress, were going to send the budget into deficit. He could not hold back all the spending programs so in early 1959, “he urged Republican leaders to stop any movement toward a tax cut” they had been considering, according to biographer Stephen E. Ambrose. Ambrose added, “The one place Eisenhower was willing to spend money was on roads. At every Republican leaders’ meeting that spring, he brought up the subject, stressing ‘the great need for catching up on the building of roads.’ He said he wanted to stick to the original idea of finishing the Interstate System within thirteen years, and was appalled at the warnings that the program, which had gotten off to a fast start, would have to be stopped in its tracks because of insufficient financing.” Eisenhower told the leaders he “was willing to raise gasoline taxes to keep the program going.” [Ambrose, p. 527-528.] Although the President proposed a 1 ½ cent increase in the 3-cent a gallon gas tax, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1959 (approved September 21) increased the gas tax by only 1 cent on a temporary basis, leaving the financing difficulties to be solved permanently by the next President.
- October 3, 2010: Ambrose, Part 5 of 5: By 1959, the Interstate System was in “bad trouble,” as Stephen E. Ambrose put it in his biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower. One of the problems was urban construction, which was displacing homes and businesses and generating criticism from urban planners. In President Eisenhower’s vision, “the superhighways were not supposed to have gone into the cities, but only around them, as in Europe.” Ambrose stressed, “His objections were not sociological—few if any of those associated with the building of the Interstates anticipated the tremendous effect the urban freeways would have on housing patterns, schools, inner-city conditions, the spread of the suburbs, or the other nearly limitless ways in which the four- and six- and eight-lane highways changed the face of urban America.” Eisenhower’s objections “were to the cost, not the result.” As the President put it in a discussion with officials conducting a mass transit survey for Washington, DC, “It was very wasteful to have an average of just over one man per $3,000 car driving into the central area and taking all the space required to park the car.” Nevertheless, he realized that the urban segments were part of the program his Administration sold to the Congress (without his being aware of the urban part) and it “had reached the point where his hands were virtually tied.” [Amrbose, p. 547-548.]
- October 4, 2010: The highest point on transcontinental I-80 is Sherman Hill Summit east of Laramie, Wyoming, at 8,640 feet above sea level. The most striking feature of the Summit Rest Area Information Center is a three-ton, 42.5-foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln. Sculpted by Robert Russin of Laramie, the statue had been placed at the highest point on the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) in 1959. In the fall of 1968, the statue was moved to the rest area at the highest point on I-80.
- October 5, 2010:
East of the Mississippi River, the highest point on I-80 is 2,250 feet above sea level near State Route 153 in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
- October 6, 2010: In 1992, the Military Order of the Purple Heart launched a campaign to establish the Purple Heart Trail in all 50 States. The trail commemorates the men and women wounded or killed in combat while serving in the United States armed forces. In response to this campaign, some States, such as Kansas and Montana, have designated their entire Interstate System as the Purple Heart Trail. Others have designated single Interstate routes, such as I-64 in Kentucky, I-40 in New Mexico, I-35 in Texas, I-80 in Utah, and I-95 in Virginia.
- October 7, 2010: Louis Jacobson of Roll Call (“The Newspaper of Capitol Hill Since 1955”) wrote “Ten Bills That Really Mattered” for the issue of May 3, 2005. Since the founding of the newspaper, Congress had passed approximately 28,000 bills, but “only a small minority of them have had a profound impact on American life.” At the newspaper’s request, a panel of congressional scholars identified the ten most important bills during that time. Jacobson noted that the scholars had a clear consensus on the top five: Civil Rights Act (1964), Voting Rights Act (1965), Medicare and Medicaid Acts (1965), Federal-Aid Highway Act (1956), and Economic Recovery Tax Act (1981), but “diverged wildly” on the rest. Of the 1956 Act, Jacobson said, “Its title is obscure, but its impact is not: The Act created the Interstate Highway System, which touched virtually every aspect of American life in the past 50 years. Faster roads intensified economic growth, boosted domestic tourism and made possible just-in-time manufacturing processes.” On the negative side, he added that the Interstate System enhanced suburbanization, hurt downtowns, and “irreversibly solidified the primacy of the automobile, worsening air pollution and climate change and cementing the strategic importance of the Middle East.”
- October 8, 2010: George Will, Part 1 or 4: In 1995, the columnist George F. Will referenced the Interstate System in several columns following up on the November 1994 elections that gave Republicans control of both Houses of Congress. In one column (May 19, 1995), he explained, “The political culture is now national . . . in part because the mobility of Americans attenuates localism.” Referring to the Interstate System, Will pointed out, “this powerful instrument for nationalizing Americans was conceived by a conservative Republican president, Eisenhower.”
- October 9, 2010: George Will, Part 2 or 4: In a column on June 25, 1995, George F. Will discussed highway speed limits. A Federal law adopted in 1974 to conserve fuel prohibited the Federal Highway Administration from approving Federal-aid projects in any State with a speed limit above 55 mph (all States lowered the limit). A 1987 law gave States the option of increasing speed limits to 65 mph on rural Interstates. In 1995, as Congress considered eliminating the restriction entirely, Will took a humorous look at the 1987 shift, “This was not good enough for most Americans, who are always in a hurry to get to the next traffic jam, and it especially irritated the easily irritated people living in the fastness of the West, which it can be a 30-mile round trip to get a loaf of bread.” He added, “Out there, where men are men, rugged individualists all, they don’t like the feds doing much of anything other than subsidizing their electric power and grazing and water, and building the Interstate Highway System on which they soon—as soon as the House of Representatives gets with the program—can zoom as fast as their state legislatures will let them.” The National Highway System Designation act of 1995, approved on November 28, eliminated the Federal restriction.
- October 10, 2010: George Will, Part 3 of 4: In a column on August 13, 1995, George F. Will discussed the Nation’s difficulty in committing to great works. After discussing Hoover Dam, opened in 1936 and named after President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933), Will said, “And let us pause during the season of discontent with the Federal Government and all its works to consider what we have lost that the country had when it had a will for such great works.” As examples of what the Nation could do, Will cited the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb and the Apollo Project that put men on the moon (July 20, 1969). He added, “In the 1950s the first Republican President since Hoover produced the biggest public works project in the Nation’s history to that point: The Interstate Highway System had been born in the brain of young Maj. Eisenhower” in 1919 while he participated in “a convoy across the country to test equipment and demonstrate the inadequacy of the Nation’s roads.” The columnist wondered if the country still had the will to attempt “the peacetime mobilization of people for projects explicitly designed to elicit nobility through collective action.”
- October 11, 2010: George Will, Part 4 of 4: In a column celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate System (published as “Interstate Ribbons of Progress” in The Washington Post on July 9, 2006), George F. Will explained that since Hawaii gained statehood in 1959, the United States had experienced its longest period of geographic stability in history. “Since then the Nation has become, in a sense, smaller through the annihilation of distance and, to some extent difference.” He added, “An important part of the groundwork—literally, it covered a lot of ground—for today’s America was begun 50 years ago this summer. A conservative Republican president who grew up in a Kansas town where hitching posts for horses lined unpaved streets launched what was, and remains, the largest public works project in the Nation’s history—the Interstate Highway System. Its ribbons of concrete represent a single thread of continuity through the Nation’s history.”
- October 12, 2010: On Friday, January 14, 2000, officials gathered in San Diego, California, for the I-15/40th Street "Moving Toward the Future" Freeway Dedication Ceremony. The project completed I-15, the 1,433-mile highway from the Canadian border at Sweet Grass, Montana, to San Diego. The final project resulted in an eight-lane freeway with several new bridges, retaining walls, ramps, collector roads, auxiliary lanes, noise barriers, park grading, and utility relocations. Traffic from heavily used 40th Street will be funneled onto the new depressed section of freeway (which will actually open a week later). Director José Medina of the California Department of Transportation said, "We have begun to give back the neighborhoods of City Heights, Normal Heights and Kensington. We are detouring three decades of busy traffic off the neighborhood streets and back where it belongs, on an efficient freeway."
- October 13, 2010: Alaska has four Interstate routes, which are designated A1, A2, A3, and A4 and total 1,082.22 miles. However, the statute allowing designation of Interstates in Alaska exempts the routes from Interstate design standards. The routes are to be designed "in accordance with such geometric and construction standards as are adequate for current and probable future traffic demands and the needs of the locality of the highway." The same is true of routes in Puerto Rico (PRI-2, -2, and -3, totaling 249.77 miles).
- October 14, 2010: The Peter L. Guice Bridge carries I-26 across the Green River in North Carolina. Guice, who was born in 1788, was a pioneer in western North Carolina whose family land included the vital Howard Gap Road. The road ended at the river until Guice built a toll bridge in the early 1800s to carry traffic across it. Although the road was little used through much of the 20th century, engineers concluded that the best location for the I-26 Green River Bridge was the spot where Guice had built his bridge a century and a half earlier. The new bridge, 225-feet high, opened in August 1972.
- October 15, 2010: Every State has at least one three-digit Interstate loop connecting with an Interstate on both ends (e.g., I-480) or spur connecting with an Interstate on only one end (I-380) except Arizona and New Mexico.
- October 16, 2010: The Baltimore Beltway (I-695) was completed (for the first time) on July 1, 1962. The beltway was not a complete loop—more of a horseshoe with the opening on the south from U.S. 40 (Pulaski Highway) on the east to State Route 2 (Governor Ritchie Highway) on the west. The full loop was completed (for the second time) when the Maryland Transportation Authority opened the Francis Scott Key Bridge across the mouth of the Patapsco River on March 24, 1977. However, the approaches to the four-lane toll bridge had only two lanes. The Baltimore Beltway was completed (for the third time) when the final 3.6-mile four-lane divided section from the Key Bridge to North Point Boulevard opened without ceremony on November 6, 1999 (although minor work remained). For the first time, the entire Baltimore Beltway contained at least four lanes.
- October 17, 2010: The Interstate System includes 14 movable bridges with draw (bascule), swing, or lift spans. Two States have three movable bridges, the most in any State: Maryland has two companion spans across Curtis Creek on I-695 and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River on I-95 (a facility shared with Virginia and the District of Columbia). Virginia has two companion spans on I-264 over the east branch of the Elizabeth River and one on I-64 over the south branch.
- October 18, 2010: The oldest movable bridge on the Interstate System carries northbound I-5 across the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. It was built in 1916. The newest is the first span of the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, a drawbridge that was dedicated on May 18, 2006. At 6,075 feet, the new span is the longest bridge on the Interstate System with a movable span. The shortest movable bridge on the Interstate System is a 175-foot bridge carrying I-278 across the Bronx River in New York.
- October 19, 2010: In an article about trucking published in The New Yorker in 1988, a trucker explained why he took I-94, a long loop north then south, instead of I-90 straight across the west to Wisconsin: “Well, in a car you might go on I-90, but not in a truck. We aren’t going to visit Mt. Rushmore or the Corn Palace, for example. Then, there’s more traffic on 90 through South Dakota, and you always have to factor in stress a little.” He cited “some long pulls” through the Bighorn Mountains and weigh scales that added 30 minutes to the trip. “In the winter, this road [I-94] stays colder, too. When it’s really cold, so cold the snow cracks, you can feel the truck grab. It sounds almost like you’re riding on sand. You have better traction than you do down on I-90, where the traffic tends to squish snow into a glaze that’s not fun. Plus, there are some fierce winds in Wyoming. Beach [North Dakota] has a weigh station that’s always open, but it seems that along the rest of 94 they just leave you alone, let you get on with your job.” [Di Salvatore, Bryan, “A Reporter at Large¾Large Cars,” The New Yorker, September 12, 1988, p. 73-74].
- October 20, 2010: I-43 is located entirely in Wisconsin, running 192 miles from I-39/I-90 at Beloit near the Illinois border through Milwaukee to U.S. 41 in Green Bay. The first portion of this route to be given Interstate status was the segment from Milwaukee to Green Bay; it was added as part of the 1,500-mile expansion authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968 and approved by Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd on December 12, 1968. The route was originally numbered I-57, as an extension of the route that ended in Chicago 80 miles away. When that number proved unacceptable, officials considered I-65 for the route, with the number to be carried on existing routes from its terminus at Gary, Indiana. When Indiana officials objected, the route was renumbered I-43 in June 1974. Wisconsin used Interstate Construction (IC) funds to build this portion of I-43. The Federal Highway Administration approved an extension from I-894 in Milwaukee to I-90 in Beloit on November 24, 1987, after it had been built without IC funds to full Interstate standards.
- October 21, 2010: Picture this situation: You want to use an Interstate beltway during peak period. The radio traffic reporter informs you of long backups on the Inner Loop and advises motorists to avoid it. The question is: Which part of the beltway is the Inner Loop? The way to tell is to visualize the beltway as two circles (or loops), one inside the other, carrying traffic in opposite directions. The circle on the inside is the Inner Loop. Traffic moves clockwise on the Inner Loop. The circle on the outside is the Outer Loop, with traffic moving counter-clockwise. Another way to think of it is that the circle closest to the center city is the Inner Loop. So next time you are on an Interstate beltway, which will you be—an Innie or an Outie?
- October 22, 2010: The Interstate System includes approximately 1,500 safety rest areas. The States built the rest areas to give motorists an opportunity for a short break in long drives. Each State operates its rest areas, so operating rules vary from State-to-State.
- October 23, 2010: The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was drafted with the expectation that it authorized all the funds needed to complete the Interstate System by mid-1971. Congress gradually extended the completion date, which reached 23 years (about 1980) as of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. The following year, however, Federal Highway Administrator Norbert Tiemann predicted that the System would not be completed until 2007. The remaining 7,000 miles would be the toughest, most expensive to build—particularly the controversial urban segments. “At the current level of funding, which is $2.5 billion per year, and with the 10 percent inflation rate, it will be 2007 before we’ll finish the Interstate Highway System. Presently, we have more than $5 billion in urban construction projects tied up in litigation. Of that total, we think that as much as $2.5 billion will never be built.”
- October 24, 2010: States with the shortest segments of east-west Interstate highways with numbers ending in zero:
I-10: Alabama (66 miles)
I-20: South Carolina (151 miles)
I-40: California (155 miles)
I-70: West Virginia (14 miles)
I-80: New Jersey (68 miles)
I-90: Pennsylvania (46 miles)
- October 25, 2010: States with the shortest segments of north-south Interstate highways with numbers ending in five:
I-5: Washington (277 miles)
I-15: Arizona (29 miles)
I-25: Colorado (300 miles)
I-35: Missouri (115 miles)
I-55: Tennessee (12 miles)
I-65: Tennessee (122 miles)
I-75: Tennessee (162 miles)
I-85: Virginia (69 miles)
I-95: District of Columbia (0.11 miles)
I-45 is excluded from the list because it is located entirely in Texas (285 miles). The State with the smallest amount of I-95 mileage is New Hampshire (16 miles).
- October 26, 2010: The Lowry Hill Tunnel carries I-94 through an historic section of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The State used an underground refrigeration system to stabilize the soil supporting the Basilica of St. Mary, Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church, and other historic structures to prevent damage during construction. The tunnel opened in December 1971.
- October 27, 2010: The Fred Redmon Memorial Bridge carries I-82 over Selah Creek Canyon north of Yakima, Washington. Construction began on the twin-span bridges in 1968 and was completed in June 1971. At the time, the arches (545-feet long) were the longest concrete arch bridges in North America, and 13th longest in the world. The bridges were dedicated on November 12, 1971, during the opening ceremony for the 31-mile section of I-82 between Ellensburg and Yakima. (Redmon, a Yakima businessman, was a former chairman of the Washington State Highway Commission.)
- October 28, 2010: Fun With Numbers, Part 1 of 2: The Interstate System includes seven one- or two-digit east-west routes that end in zero (I-10, 20, 30, 40, 70, 80, and 90). Which north-south route with a one- or two-digit number ending in 5 connects the most zero-routes? Which connects the fewest zero-routes? The answers will appear in the next Interstate Fact of the Day.
- October 29, 2010: The answers to yesterday’s I-Facts Quiz: I-35 is the only north-south route with a one- or two-digit number ending in 5 that connects all seven one- or two-digit east-west routes that end in zero (I-10, 20, 30, 40, 70, 80, 90). The route that connects the fewest zero-routes is I-85, which connects only two (I-20 and 40).
- October 30, 2010: Fun With Numbers, Part 2 of 2: The Interstate System includes 10 one- or two-digit north-south routes that end in five (I-5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, and 95). Which of the seven one- or two-digit east-west routes that end in zero connects the most 5-numbered routes? Which connects the fewest 5-numbered routes? The answers will appear in the next Interstate Fact of the Day.
- October 31, 2010: The answers to yesterday’s I-Facts Quiz: I-10 connects all but one of the 10 north-south routes with a one- or two-digit number ending in five (I-5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, and 95). It misses only I-85. The route that connects the fewest 5-numbered routes is I-30, which connects only two (I-35 and 45).
- November 1, 2010: I-77 is a 604-mile route from I-26 in Columbia, South Carolina, to I-90 in Cleveland, Ohio. It also passes through North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The State with the fewest miles of I-77 is Virginia (69 miles), which completed its portion of I-77 on July 14, 1987, when the segment shared with I-81 between Wytheville and Fort Chiswell opened. I-77 was completed when South Carolina opened its final segment, part of Columbia’s Southeast Beltway, on June 15, 1995.
- November 2, 2010: Federal law (Title 23, United States Code, Section 103(e)(4)) provided for withdrawal of Interstate segments at the request of a Governor and the local governments concerned. If the withdrawn segment was not essential to a unified and connected System, the U.S. Department of Transportation could approve the withdrawal and authorize an equivalent amount of funds for alternative highway or transit projects. The longest withdrawn segment was I-895 in Rhode Island (39.6 miles), originally planned as a loop south of Providence from I-95 in the southwest corner of the State via Newport to the State line near Fall River, Massachusetts. The withdrawal was approved on May 20, 1983.
- November 3, 2010: Section 103(e)(4) of Title 23, United States Code, allowed the U.S. Department of Transportation to withdraw segments of the Interstate System at the request of a Governor and the local governments concerned and authorize an equivalent amount of funds for alternative highway or transit projects. Two States had the shortest withdrawn segments, both 0.40 miles: Pennsylvania (I-579 in Pittsburgh, withdrawn December 14, 1979) and Virginia (I-266 near the District of Columbia, withdrawn August 16, 1978).
- November 4, 2010: Singles, Part 1 of 3: Only three Interstate routes have a single digit number (I-4, 5, and 8). California is the only State with more than one single-digit Interstate route. It has two: I-5 from the Mexican border at San Diego to the Oregon State line (where it continues through Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border at Blaine) and I-8 from San Diego to the Arizona border (where it continues to I-10 at Casa Grande, Arizona). Florida has the only single-digit Interstate route confined to one State, namely I-4 from I-95 in Daytona Beach to I-275 in Tampa.
- November 5, 2010: Singles, Part 2 of 3: Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico have Interstate routes with single digit numbers, but do not use “I-” in front of them. Hawaii’s single-digit routes were built to Interstate standards and are designated H-1, H-2, and H-3. Although Interstates have been designated in Alaska and Puerto Rico, Federal law does not require them to meet Interstate standards. Alaska’s routes are designated A1, A2, A3, and A4, while Puerto Rico’s are designated PRI-1, PRI-2, and PRI-3.
- November 6, 2010: Singles, Part 3 of 3: After reading the first two parts of “Singles,” people in the Southeast may be wondering: “What about I-3?” Section 1927 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, approved on August 10, 2005, called for a report to Congress on “the steps and estimated funding necessary to construct” the proposed “3rd Infantry Division Highway” from Savannah, Georgia, to Knoxville, Tennessee, via Augusta, Georgia. The route is referred to locally as I-3, but it has not been designated a future Interstate highway. In fact, nowhere in Section 1927 does the phrase “I-3” appear. The Federal Highway Administration’s Web site on Section 1927 contains additional information on the planned study: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/section_1927/.
- November 7, 2010: Nebraska’s first Interstate project was on I-80—the 6.4 miles near Gretna, southwest of Omaha. Upon its completion in November 1959, it became the first Interstate segment to open in the State.
- November 8, 2010: I-90 has more turnpike mileage, 760.2 miles, than any route on the Interstate System, exclusive of toll bridge and tunnel mileage. Turnpikes comprise about 25 percent of I-90, which totals 3,020 miles. Of the other east-west Interstates with numbers ending in zero, I-80 includes 363.5 miles of turnpikes, while I-70 includes 53.2 turnpike miles in Kansas. I-10, I-20, I-30, and I-40 do not include turnpike mileage.
- November 9, 2010: Of the major north-south Interstates (those with one- or two-digit numbers ending in 5), I-95 has the most turnpike mileage (178 miles), exclusive of toll bridges and tunnels. I-35 is second, with 127 miles in Kansas, followed by the Alligator Alley/Everglades Parkway portion of I-75 in Florida between Naples and Miami (77 miles). The I-15 Value Pricing Project in San Diego includes 8 toll miles (a multi-year demonstration that allows single-occupant vehicles to use the existing high occupancy vehicle lanes on I-15 for a fee). The other “5s” do not include turnpike mileage (I-25, I-45, I-55, I-65, and I-85).
- November 10, 2010: The Interstate System includes 106.24 miles of toll bridges and tunnels.
- November 11, 2010: Autobahn, Part 1 of 3: As Germany built its autobahn highway network in the 1930s, many American engineers and government officials visited the country to see the amazing new roads. They came home convinced that the United States should build such a network. After visiting Germany in 1938, for example, Chairman Wilburn Cartwright (D-Ok.) of the House Committee on Roads declared the autobahns “second to none in the world today.” He added that it was “not an idle boast for us to say that we can do better anything that Germany can do well.”
- November 12, 2010: Autobahn, Part 2 of 3: Unlike most officials who toured the German highway network in the 1930s, the two men who conceived the Interstate System did not see the autobahn as a model for the United States. Chief Thomas H. MacDonald of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads and his chief aide, Herbert S. Fairbank, were impressed by the design of the autobahn. However, only wealthy or powerful Germans could afford an automobile, so the autobahn network was built well in advance of traffic demand—a violation of MacDonald’s and Fairbank’s concept that highways should pay for themselves through service to users. Moreover, the autobahn was rural, without city extensions. MacDonald and Fairbank knew that in the United States, the most serious traffic problems were in cities. As a result, they did not see the autobahn as a model for what they had in mind.
- November 13, 2010: Autobahn, Part 3 of 3: Herbert S. Fairbank of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads was the primary author of the two reports to Congress that initiated the Interstate era (Toll Roads and Free Roads in 1939 and Interregional Highways in 1944). Neither report used the largely rural autobahn as a model. The reports addressed location and design issues for the rural Interstate segments, but focused on the complicated urban problems that the Interstates would cure and that Germany had not considered in building the autobahn. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who did the most to launch the Interstate System, admired the rural autobahn network and did everything he could to give America a similar network of “broader ribbons across the land,” as he put it. Based on his observations in Germany, the President did not believe the Interstate System should include urban segments, but all other participants in creating the key legislation (the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 and 1956) understood they were part of the plan.
- November 14, 2010: I-81 is an 855-mile route that links six States from I-40 near Dandridge, Tennessee, to the Canadian border at Fishers Landing, New York. Each State has designated its segment of I-81 the American Legion Memorial Highway. Maryland has the shortest segment (12.08 miles), with West Virginia not far behind (26 miles). Both States completed their segments in 1966. Virginia has the longest segment (325 miles), which was completed on December 21, 1971, with the opening of a 14.4-mile stretch between Dixie Caverns and Christiansburg.
- November 15, 2010: Here are some of the rules the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration consider for new Interstate numbers: Sufficient room shall be left in assigning Interstate numbers to allow for expansion of the System and keep the numbering pattern in sequence. Routes shall be marked to give maximum continuity between major control points. Dual Interstate numbering shall be held to a minimum consistent with proper travel guidance. No new divided numbers (such as I-35W and I-35E, etc.) shall be adopted. There will be no Interstate route bearing the same number as a U.S. number route in any State.
- November 16, 2010: An Interstate Business Route is a major highway that is not part of the Interstate System and does not meet Interstate standards, but provides access from an interchange on the System to the business area of a city. Off-Interstate Business Route signs consist of a cutout shield carrying the number of the connecting Interstate route and the words BUSINESS and either LOOP or SPUR in capital letters. The shield is the same shape and dimensions as the Interstate shield, but the legend and border are white on a green background. The word INTERSTATE does not appear on the Off-Interstate Business Route sign.
- November 17, 2010: On September 17, 1963, President John F. Kennedy discussed the routing of I-24 with Governors John Dalton (Missouri), Frank Clement (Tennessee), Otto Kerner (Illinois), and Bert Combs (Kentucky), as well as Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges and Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton. After what The Nashville Tennessean called "years of haggling," the Governors had agreed on a compromise routing for I-24 and creation of a 64-mile Interstate from I-55 at Hayti, Missouri, to I-40 at Jackson, Tennessee, via Dyersburg. During the White House meeting, the President directed Whitton to study the proposal. In August 1964, Whitton agreed to a compromise routing for I-24 (I-75 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, to I-57 at Pulleys Mill, Illinois, 316 miles), but approved only a portion of the proposed new Interstate (I-155 from Hayti to Dyersburg, 26.7 miles).
- November 18, 2010: American Heritage magazine runs an annual “Overrated/Underrated” feature briefly examining the title concept in a wide range of fields. In 2002, Phil Patton, author of Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway (Simon and Schuster, 1986) and other books on American culture, identified U.S. Route 66 as the most overrated, calling it “a cinematic assemblage of clichés.” I-40 was the most underrated, a treat for travelers “seeking a highway on which they can slice across America, sampling cultures and landscapes along the way.” Describing I-40 “a Chuck Berry riff across America,” Patton pointed out the sign near the I-40 starting point in Wilmington, North Carolina, that referred to the end of I-40 across the continent: BARSTOW, CALIF. 2554 [miles]. “We forget how astonishing it is that one can get on a strip of asphalt and drive without stoplight or intersection for a distance greater than the diameter of the moon (a mere 2,160 miles).” [American Heritage, October 2002, p. 44-45].
- November 19, 2010: Maryland completed I-68 on August 2, 1991 when Governor William Donald Schaefer joined other dignitaries for a ceremony at the Rocky Gap State Park interchange east of Cumberland. Known as the National Freeway, the 80.3-mile I-68 links I-70 at Hancock, Maryland, with I-79 at Morgantown, West Virginia. I-68 includes the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center, where motorists can view a mountain cut that reveals a “syncline” (downfold of layered rock) formed 230 million years ago by the collision of the North American and African continents. The cut reveals richly colored layers of sandstones, siltstones, shale, coal, and conglomerates in red, maroon, gray, tan, black, and white. During a ceremony the same day, a plaque was unveiled in the exhibit center dedicating I-68 to the memory of Marylanders who served in the Vietnam War. Also the same day, Governor Gaston Caperton of West Virginia dedicated his State’s 31.8-mile segment of I-68 during a sign-unveiling ceremony on the exit 15 overpass near the entrance to Coopers Rock State Forest.
- November 20, 2010: Only six Interstate routes have the numerical “doubles”
I-44: I-55 in St. Louis, Missouri, to U.S. 287 in Wichita Falls, Texas.
I-55: I-10 in La Place, Louisiana, to U.S. 41 in Chicago, Illinois.
I-66: I-81 in Middletown, Virginia, to U.S. 29 in the District of Columbia.
I-77: I-26 in Columbia, South Carolina, to I-90 in Cleveland, Ohio.
I-88: I-80 near Moline, Illinois, to I-290 in Chicago
I-99: I-76 at Wolfsburg, Pennsylvania, to Bald Eagle, Pennsylvania.
Section 111 of the U.S. Department of Transportation Appropriations Act for FY 2004 (Public Law 108-199) added a seventh “double,” I-22. The new is defined by statute: “The United States Route 78 Corridor from Memphis, Tennessee, to Corridor X of the Appalachian Development Highway System near Fulton, Mississippi, and Corridor X … to near Birmingham, Alabama.” The route is being developed without Interstate Construction funds.
- November 21, 2010: The only Interstate that has the numerical “triples” is I-444 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Web site, “I–444 in Tulsa is an unsigned interstate. It runs concurrent with U.S. 75 on the southern and eastern segments of Tulsa’s Inner Dispersal Loop, commonly known as the “IDL.”
- November 22, 2010: The Interstate System is often referred to as a network of “superhighways.” That term originally referred to an ideal roadway that encompassed all types of traffic—pedestrians, bicyclists, horses/wagons, interurban lines, trolleys, and automobiles—in separate lanes, usually with vegetation in the dividing space. Such a configuration was most likely to occur in a metropolitan area with enough population to justify the expense of construction. Over time, the term came to apply to highways designed for express use by automobiles, trucks, and other motor vehicles.
- November 23, 2010: Mississippi’s I-110 in Harrison County is the State’s
shortest Interstate and only Interstate spur (an Interstate
connected to another Interstate on only one end). The
4.3-mile spur links I-10 and U.S. 90 in Biloxi east of Keesler Air
Force Base. It also was the last Interstate completed in
Mississippi. Construction was completed in February 1988 at a total
cost of $62 million.
- November 24, 2010: Herbert S. Fairbank, a top official of the U.S. Bureau of Public
Roads, helped conceive the Interstate System as primary author of
the key reports to Congress, Toll Roads and Free Roads
(1939) and Interregional Highways (1944). In the
September 1946 issue of The Highway Magazine, he
wrote: “It should be the aim of all future road
building, by whatever authority and financial provision it may be
accomplished, to progress steadily toward the eventual creation of
an appropriate balance between the needs of efficient and
economical highway transportation and the condition of every part
of the entire road and street system serving those needs.”
- November 25, 2010: I-395 in Northern Virginia is called the Henry G. Shirley Memorial
Highway. It is named after the former head of the State
Highway Department of Virginia (1922-1941), who helped plan the
highway, but died on July 16, 1941, before its completion.
Shirley had previously headed Maryland’s highway agency
(1912-1918). While in that post, he was the first president
of the American Association of State Highway Officials (1914-1916),
the organization that is now named the American Association of
State Highway and Transportation Officials.
- November 26, 2010: Hawaii’s H-3, 16 miles long on the island of Oahu from H-1
near Pearl Harbor to the entrance to Kaneohe Marine Corps Air
Station, opened on December 12, 1997. Groundbreaking had
taken place on November 2, 1987, so construction at a cost of about
$1.3 billion took about 10 years. Completion of H-3 also
ended construction of the three Interstates in Hawaii that were
eligible for Interstate Construction funds—H-1, 27 miles long
between Fort Ruger and Barbers Point Naval Station, and the 8-mile
H-2 joining Pearl Harbor to Wheeler Air Force Base.
- November 27, 2010: Section 16 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of
1968 authorized the Secretary of Transportation to approve
Interstate status for routes that meet Interstate standards and
would be a logical addition or connection to the System, but were
built without Interstate Construction funding. The new
designation authority was codified as Section 139 of Title 23,
United States Code, but in 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for
the 21st Century shifted the provision as amended to
Section 103(c)(4)(A). The first two segments designated
under Section 139 were approved on the same date, December 24, 1968
(effective December 13): a 4.35-mile segment of I-240 in
Oklahoma City, OK, from I-44 to I-35, and a 12.9-mile segment of
I-27 from I-40 in Amarillo, TX, to Exit 110 at U.S. 87 north of
Canyon, TX. Each was an existing road built to Interstate
standards that served as an extension of routes designated on
December 13 under the 1,500-mile Interstate extension authorized by
Section 14 of the 1968 Act.
- November 28, 2010:
On September 21, 1958, Iowa opened its first Interstate
highway: a short section of I-35/I-80 in the Des Moines
area. The State’s final Interstate project, part of
I-380 from Iowa City to Waterloo, was finished on September 12,
1985. The Iowa Department of Transportation lists the
completion dates for its other Interstate routes as:
I-29 – August 31, 1973
I-35 – November 14, 1975
I-74 – November 26, 1974
I-80 – December 15, 1972
I-129 – November 22, 1976
I-235 – October 30, 1968
I-280 – October 25, 1973
I-480 – November 21, 1966
I-680 – April 21, 1979
- November 29, 2010: I-8 is a 348-mile route between I-10 at Case Grande, Arizona, and
I-5 in San Diego, California. West of Yuma, I-8 runs through
a desert that has been the bane of travelers for centuries. A
series of single-lane plank roads was built in the early
20th century to allow motorists to cross the fine
sand. However, a maintenance employee was required to ensure
sand did not cover the planks. Eventually, a surfaced road
was built and included in U.S. 80, the predecessor of I-8.
Maintenance crews of the California Department of Transportation
continue their vigilance against the effects of sandstorms.
Arizona has also had to take precautions against
“dusters” on its stretch of I-8.
- November 30, 2010: South Dakota completed its four Interstates (I-29, I-90, I-190,
I-229) in 1983. The South Dakota Department of Transportation
states: “We are proud that the State’s average
completed cost of $737,000 per Interstate mile is one of the lowest
in the Nation.” Although the Interstate System
comprises only 8.6 percent of South Dakota’s highway miles,
it carries about 40 percent of all vehicle miles traveled on State
highways. I-90, which was completed in 1976, contained the
most expensive section of Interstate in the State, the crossing of
the mile-wide Missouri River at Chamberlain. The State
reduced the cost by building a causeway into the river for 3,000
feet, leaving the bridge to span only 2,000 feet. The
crossing cost $6.9 million.
- December 1, 2010: Although every Interstate has a number, some also have names.
The States are free to name Interstates without Federal
approval. For example, many of Pennsylvania’s
Interstates have names, such as:
I-79: Raymond P. Shafer Highway
I-80: Z. V. Confair Memorial Highway
I-81: American Legion Memorial Highway
I-83: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Memorial Highway
I-99: Bud Shuster Highway
I-279: Raymond E. Wilt Memorial Highway
I-476: Veterans Memorial Highway
I-576: Medal of Honor Highway
- December 2, 2010: New Hampshire completed its Interstate System in 1988 with the
opening of the Franconia Notch segment of I-93 and completion of
I-393 in Concord. The 10-mile I-93 Franconia Notch Parkway
opened on June 2, 1988. Controversy related to traffic
vibrations that might damage the rock landmark known as the
"Old Man of the Mountain" resulted in a compromise
parkway design that required a statutory exception to Interstate
standards (Section 158 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of
1973). The finished highway includes sections of Interstate
highway, a four-lane parkway, a three-lane parkway, and a two-lane
parkway. (Due to natural forces, the “Old Man of the
Mountain” crumbled to the ground on May 3, 2003.)
- December 3, 2010: Things on Highways #1: Interstate
highways are designed for safe, efficient movement of motor
vehicles. However, motor vehicles are not always the only
things found on the Interstates. “And you thought you
had a bad commute yesterday. Motorists on Interstate 495 near
Westborough [Massachusetts] at around 1 p.m. faced a daunting
addition to the normal gantlet of obstacles on the busy
roadway: an oncoming buffalo. The large beast wandered
in the direction of traffic in the northbound lane after escaping
the trailer that had been transporting it, turning the
well-traveled highway into a road where the buffalo roamed, however
briefly.” [Jack Encarnacao, “Errant Bison
Buffaloes Motorists on I-495,” The Boston Globe,
September 9, 2004].
- December 4, 2010: Things on Highways #2: “Interstate 40, the main
east-west highway in Oklahoma, was closed for several hours
Thursday when about 800 baby pigs spilled onto the road after the
truck transporting them overturned . . . The freeway was closed in
both directions as state troopers, firefighters and ambulance
workers doubled as farm hands in a bid to prevent the pigs from
running wild in the suburbs, police said.”
[“Nation in Brief,” The Washington Post,
September 20, 2003].
- December 5, 2010: Things on Highways #3: “A tractor-trailer carrying 24
million honeybees from Massachusetts to Florida overturned early
yesterday morning on the Gov. Thomas E. Dewey Thruway [I-87] near
Tarrytown, N.Y., blocking traffic all day as emergency workers
tried in vain to quiet the angry bees.” [Jo Thomas,
“A Toppled Load of Bees Swarms Thruway Traffic,” The
New York Times, August 5, 1994].
- December 6, 2010: Things on Highways #4: “Roughage road ahead: A
stretch of Interstate 65 was closed for nearly 10 hours after a
tractor-trailer spilled 20 tons of lettuce, which had to be picked
up head by head. ‘You can’t really use a shovel
or bucket,’ [a] state police dispatcher …
said.” [“Nation in Brief,” The
Washington Post, November 2, 1995].
- December 7, 2010: Things on Highways #5: “It wasn’t to clear
Interstate 80 of snow that the snowplow was summoned to southwest
Wyoming last week… It seems that a semi-truck
hauling… chili rear-ended another truck. According to
the Wyoming Highway patrol, the momentum caused the chili cans to
smash through the front of the trailer, break open and coat the
pavement with beans and meat.” [“The Big
Chili,” The Baltimore Sun, April 30, 2002].
- December 8, 2010: The 12-mile, $12.2 million Monument Valley Freeway on I-25 in
Colorado Springs, Colorado, was dedicated on July 1, 1960.
Sections of the freeway had been opened as they were
completed. The freeway, which took five years to build,
contained 38 bridges and required excavation of 4.8 million cubic
yards of earth and installation of 47,867 lineal feet of pipe and
56,836 lineal feet of conduit for electric wiring. In the
dedication brochure, Chief Engineer Mark U. Watrous of the Colorado
Department of Highways said that the Monument Valley Freeway
“was designed to provide the utmost in safety, convenience
and usefulness” in accordance with Interstate design
- December 9, 2010: Between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, I-10 is carried on an elevated
structure across the Atchafalaya River Basin. The 36.9-mile
“Swamp Expressway” from Lafayette to Grosse Tete was
dedicated on March 12, 1973. To protect the environment,
concrete roadway segments were precast and floated by barge and
floated to the site, where large cranes placed the segments on
their support columns. Some other Interstate completion dates
I-20 on June 1, 1977
I-10 on May 5, 1978
I-55 on May 25, 1979
I-49 on May 1, 1996
- December 10, 2010: The Blue Water Bridge opened in 1938 between Port Huron, Michigan,
and Port Edwards, Ontario in Canada. On Saturday, July 12,
1997, Michigan and Canadian officials snipped the ribbon to
dedicate the $79 million Second Blue Water Bridge, which connected
I-69 and I-94 with Sarnia, Ontario. Pedestrians enjoyed the
new bridge on July 12 and 13, but it opened to motor vehicles on
July 14. After the opening, the first bridge was closed for
rehabilitation, with all traffic using the new span. Since
the reopening of the first bridge in 1999, the two bridges have
been used as one-way spans.
- December 11, 2010: On April 15, 1997, the State of Utah sponsored a ground-break
ceremony for the reconstruction of I-15 outside of Salt Lake
City. The project involved replacing 17 miles of
Interstate¾including every bridge, ramp, and
viaduct¾and constructing a light-rail system in the
median. Although the rebuilt highway will be in service for
many years, one goal was to complete work in time for the Winter
Olympics in February 2002. Using innovative contracting
methods, the Utah Department of Transportation completed “The
21st Century Freeway” with a ceremony on May 14,
2001—on schedule and within the $1.59 billion budget.
As for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the revitalized transportation
artery was recognized as a big success in keeping people moving
during the two-week event.
- December 12, 2010: I-95 in Philadelphia was shut down on March 13, 1996, by a tire
fire that caused heat damage to three spans. In cooperation
with the FHWA, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
awarded an incentive-disincentive contract to reopen the facility
by July 9 (the contractor would receive an incentive payment for
early completion, a disincentive if the project is delayed).
The section reopened on June 12, a month ahead of schedule.
The contractor received an incentive check of $532,000.
- December 13, 2010: West Virginia’s first and last Interstate projects were parts
of I-64, beginning with a $131,900 bridge that opened in 1957 and
concluding with a $21 million bridge and connector road in 1988.
- December 14, 2010: Two States claim the first Interstate after President Dwight D.
Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June
29. Kansas claims the first Interstate project completed
under the Act (two lanes of I-70 west of Topeka, completed November
14, having begun before June 29). Missouri claims the first
contract (I-44 in Laclede County, August 2) and first to go to
construction (I-70 in St. Charles County, August 13).
Whichever was first, both States completed their Interstate System
with the opening of a single road—I-670, a 2.8-mile shortcut
from I-70 in Kansas City, Kansas, to I-70 in Kansas City, Missouri,
that opened on January 18, 1990.
- December 15, 2010: From Jim Drago’s “Amazing But True” in Going
Places, March/April 1988: “In the mid-1960s,
[California’s] District 8 engineers studied a number of
engineering options for a new highway (Interstate 40) to replace
the fabled Route 66. Among those options was a proposal to
detonate 22 nuclear devices to clear a path through the rugged
Bristol Mountains, 70 miles east of Barstow for the new
Interstate.” The idea was considered as part of
President John F. Kennedy’s Project Plowshare to study
peacetime uses for atomic energy. “The Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union in August 1963, banned
atmospheric tests of nuclear warheads. The nuclear option,
however, lingered until early 1965 when the department decided to
pursue conventional construction.” The section of I-40
was completed in 1973.
- December 16, 2010: I-17 and I-19 are located entirely in Arizona. I-17 connects
I-10 in Phoenix and I-40 in Flagstaff (completed in 1978).
I-19 is a 63-mile route from the Mexican border at Nogales to I-10
in Tucson (completed in 1979).
- December 17, 2010: Urban theorist Lewis Mumford, a critic of America’s love
affair with the automobile, said of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of
1956: “When the American people, through their
Congress, voted a little while ago … for a
twenty-six-billion-dollar highway program, the most charitable
thing to assume about this action is that they hadn’t the
faintest notion of what they were doing.” [“The
Highway and the City,” Architectural Record, April
- December 18, 2010: Archeology #1: Section 120 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956
authorized the State highway departments to use Federal-aid highway
funds for archeological and paleontological salvage in compliance
with An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities (June 8,
1906) or State laws. Because so much of the Interstate System was
built on new location, its construction has resulted in many
important finds. For examples, see the next three Interstate
Facts of the Day.
- December 19, 2010: Archeology #2: Construction of I-10 in Tallahassee, Florida,
led to the discovery of San Damian de Escambi, an early
17th century Franciscan Spanish mission that had been
destroyed during an invasion by English and Creek forces in
1704. The site was saved from destruction for use as a State
- December 20, 2010: Archeology #3: The long-sought site of Fort
Orange¾founded along the Hudson River by Dutch traders in
the 1620s at the site of the future Albany, New York¾was
found during excavation for a planned ramp on I-87/I-787. The
fort had protected settlers and fostered the beaver pelt trade with
Native Americans. The site had been a prehistoric Indian site
as proven by flint flakes and pottery fragments of the type made
before contact with Europeans.
- December 21, 2010: Archeology 4: The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (The Big Dig)
involving I-90 and I-93 in Boston has been known for many things,
including engineering innovation and continuing controversy, but
less well known is that it has been a boon to archeologists.
Beginning in 1987, the project has sponsored digs that have
unearthed hundreds of relics of life in earlier eras, including:
tobacco pipe stems; bowls made in Holland; a mug bearing the image
of Queen Anne (dating the find to the early 1700s); a wharf and
wood plank floor that had been covered in 1804 when the area was
converted to a manufacturing district; a midden (trash pile) on
Spectacle Island with shells and other refuse from Native Americans
dating from 600 A.D. to the 1620s; and, a colonial privy or
- December 22, 2010: Author Phil Patton said, “The Interstates and freeways were
the roads of the future; their construction turned all other roads
into byways of the past, objects of nostalgia.”
[Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway,
Simon and Schuster, 1986, p. 14].
- December 23, 2010: In 1958, Texas completed a $1.2 million four-level interchange of
U.S. 80 (I-30) and U.S. 81 (I-35W) in Fort Worth. In the
1970s, State and local officials began planning reconstruction of
the interchange and the widening of elevated I-30 over Lancaster
Avenue. After years of controversy and court challenges,
officials agreed to relocate a four-mile section of I-30 south to
parallel Vickery Boulevard to reunite the historic structures along
Lancaster Avenue with the rest of downtown. The project
involved building the new interchange over the existing interchange
(nicknamed the “Mixmaster”) and busy railroad crossings
while traffic continued on both. The relocated I-30 opened in
2000. The new $173 million interchange opened on May 12,
2003. Mayor Kenneth Barr acknowledged that the city owed
“a great debt of gratitude” to the activist group
I-CARE, which had opposed the original plan, and to the Texas
Department of Transportation. “Not only will the
interchange function better, it simply looks better. The
trees, landscaping, the sensitivity to the surrounding areas all
make it a far superior interchange.
- December 24, 2010: The Quad Cities area of Rock Island/Moline, Illinois, and
Davenport/Bettendorf, Iowa, has long presented motorists with a
puzzle: “Why does westbound I-80, which seems to continue
straight ahead, suddenly become I-280 while I-80 turns north at the
I-74/I-80/I-280 interchange and loops around the area to the
north? And why is I-74 routed west onto I-280 through the
same interchange, only to be routed north again through another
interchange into Moline?” The routings were influenced
by the priority of construction of the three Mississippi River
crossings in the area. To maintain continuity of travel, I-80
was routed along the first of the bridges planned for construction
(the crossing at Le Claire, Illinois). The second crossing,
at Rock River to the west of the area, was assigned to
I-280—the route motorists on I-80 see directly ahead of them
as they turn north through the interchange. The Bettendorf
crossing north of Moline, the third to be built, was assigned to
- December 25, 2010: Virginia built 16 Interstate routes under the program launched by
the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The six-mile I-95
Emporia bypass was the first Interstate section completed
(September 8, 1959). The last section completed was I-295
from SR 36 in Hopewell to I-95 south of Petersburg (June 25, 1992).
The longest Interstate in Virginia is I-81 through the Shenandoah
Valley (324 miles). A 3.9-mile section of I-81 in the
vicinity of Pulaski was the first to open (November 1, 1959).
The final section, shared with I-74 in southwest Virginia, was
completed on July 14, 1987, completing both routes in the
State. Virginia’s shortest Interstate is I-381 in
Bristol (1.67 miles); it opened on November 20, 1961. [Thanks
to: Scott Kozel at http://www.roadstothefuture.com/
and Charles Slack, “The End of the Pavement,”
Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 19, 1996].
- December 26, 2010: Chicago can be called the Interstate Crossroad because more
long-distance Interstates pass through the city than any
other—I-55, I-57, I-88, I-90 and I-94. Four cities are
tied for second with four—Indianapolis, Baltimore, Cleveland,
Dallas-Fort Worth, and New York.
- December 27, 2010: The final segment of the 13 Interstates built in Michigan under the
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, as amended, was a portion of I-69
southwest of Lansing between I-96 and Charlotte. It opened on
October 22, 1992.
- December 28, 2010: Founders #1: Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tenn.), Chairman of
the Subcommittee on Roads in 1955-56, is one of the chief authors
of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. He was born on a
hard-rock farm in Granville but his family moved to Carthage where
he attended a one-room country school in Possum Hollow. After
graduating from high school, he began teaching in the same school
while earning a degree from Middle Tennessee Teachers
College. He enrolled in law classes at the Nashville YMCA to
secure the legal background he felt he needed to pursue a political
career. For three years, he drove 104 miles from Carthage to
Nashville, three nights a week, for his classes. During the
Interstate debates, Gore wasn’t sure about the need for
control of access. Francis C. “Frank” Turner, the
U.S. Bureau of Public Roads’ liaison to the subcommittee,
intervened. “He invited me to see a new Federal highway
about a hundred miles from Washington. Anyway, it was heavily
traveled and I saw no big trouble as we went down. But we
came back at night and every little piece on each side of the new
road there was a honky tonk, or a service station. In three
years there had been so many wrecks that it had been nicknamed
‘suicide alley.’ This drove home to me the
absolute necessity of the cloverleaf [for access].”
[Quoted by the Associated Press in June 1996.]
- December 29, 2010: Founders #2: Representative T. Hale Boggs (D-La.) of the
House Ways and Means Committee crafted the Highway Revenue Act of
1956, which became Title II of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956
and created the Highway Trust Fund. He had served in the
House of Representatives from 1941 to 1943 before joining the U.S.
Navy for World War II. After the war, he was reelected to the
House in 1946. In addition to serving on the Ways and Means
Committee, he would rise to House Majority Leader in January 1971,
the position he held on October 16, 1972, when a plane in which he
was a passenger went down in Alaska, killing all aboard.
Boggs would retain a strong interest in the Highway Trust Fund,
emphasizing the “trust” when efforts to
“raid” the fund took place. He also was involved
in resolving the Interstate controversies in New Orleans.
Following his death, his wife Lindy won the special election to
represent his district and served until retiring after the 1990
session. One of their daughters is the well-known broadcaster
Cokie Roberts, while their son Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., is a partner
and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Patton Boggs, LLP, a
legal and public affairs firm. Their daughter, the late
Barbara Boggs Sigmund, pursued a political career and was elected
to serve two terms as Mayor of Princeton, New Jersey; but
“Mayor Barbara” passed away on October 10, 1990, after
a long battle with cancer.
- December 30, 2010: Founders #3: Of the three main authors of the Federal-Aid
Highway Act of 1956, Representative George H. Fallon (D-Md.) is the
least known today. And yet his bill, incorporating funding
compromises and the Highway Revenue Act developed by Representative
Hale Boggs, broke the logjam in the House of Representatives that
allowed passage of the legislation in 1956. After the
lifelong resident of Baltimore graduated from Johns Hopkins
University, he worked in the family business, the Fallon Sign
Company, until election to the House in 1944. Throughout his
House tenure, he devoted his time to the cause of better highways
as a member of the Committee on Public Works, rising to the
position of Chairman of the Subcommittee on Roads. Despite
his role in drafting the 1956 Act and the many later bills that
fulfilled the commitment to the Interstate System until he lost a
reelection bid in 1970, Fallon disliked driving, especially freeway
driving. He commuted to Washington by rail. Shortly
after enactment of the 1956 Act, Fallon said, "Nothing in my
career as a member of the House of Representatives has given me the
satisfaction that I have experienced from playing my part in the
creation and forwarding of this truly great legislation. Not
only will every person in the United States benefit from it, but
the favorable impact on our economy already is felt." He
is memorialized in Baltimore by the George H. Fallon Federal Office
Building in the city’s downtown Charles Center.
- December 31, 2010: I-235 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is only 2.8 miles long, but it
connects three major Interstate routes (I-44 on the north and the
joint I-35/I-40 section on the south). Its opening on April
22, 1989, completed the State’s Interstate System. The
route is named the Centennial Expressway to commemorate the 100th
anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Rush on April 22, 1889.
- February 29, 2012: When the Kansas Turnpike was completed in 1956 to the Oklahoma
border as part of future I-35, Oklahoma had not yet built its
turnpike extension. The Kansas Turnpike ended at the State
line on the edge of Oklahoma farmer Amos Switzer’s oat
field. Despite dozens of warning signs in Kansas before the
State line, motorists, including Wyoming Governor Millard Simpson,
hurtled off the turnpike at top speed and landed among
Switzer’s oats. Oklahoma, unable to raise funds for its
planned turnpike, built the I-35 link with funds from the
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The State opened its
toll-free connection to the State line—a four-mile link to
U.S. 177 with only two lanes at first—on April 22, 1958, with
Switzer as the honored guest for the opening ceremony. The
roadway was the first segment of the Interstate to open in Oklahoma
under the 1956 Act, as well as the first Interstate connection
across a State line.