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Highway History


What's the Big Deal?

Cartoon of face with dialogue bubble filled with question marks and a section of interstate.

You like your computer, don’t you?  It’s fun, you can play games on it, watch Web casts, search for information about your favorite singer, order stuff, instant message your friends, and a lot more—even read articles about the Interstate System.  (Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone you read this article.)

Well, your computer didn’t just appear in your bedroom by magic!

Let’s go backwards in time to see how it got there:

  • You’re sitting at the computer reading “What’s the Big Deal?”
  • You took the computer out of the box and your mom wanted to help you set it up, but you said, “I know how to do it, mommmmm!”
  • You and your mom drove to the superstore and you told her you knew which one you wanted even though she preferred a different model that was on sale.
  • Your computer emerged from a big truck that backed up to the loading dock of the superstore and was taken out to the salesroom.
  • The big truck left the port in Los Angeles, took I-10 east, and drove on a collection of Interstate highways to the superstore.

See?  Without the Interstate System, you’d be sitting at your desk with a connect-the-dots book!

Actually, everything in your room and everything in your house was on the Interstate System at some point on its way to your door.  It may have been on a ship, a railroad, or a barge; but at some point it was put on a truck and driven in your direction.  That includes your clothes, your toothbrush, your bed, your food, your furniture, and, come to think of it, the house itself—or at least the stuff it’s made out of.  Even that connect-the-dots book was on the Interstate System at some point.

The Interstate System helps businesses make money.  It helps the police catch the bad guys.  It helps the military protect us.  It helps you get around. 

And one other thing: the Interstate System is the Greatest Public Works Project in History!  (Notice how we capitalize the first letter of each word to show you we meant It?)  Nothing even comes close.  Go ahead—try to top it.  The Pyramids of Egypt?  No way.  They took hundreds of years to build to keep robbers from defiling the tombs of the pharaohs, but robbers broke in anyway.  The Great Wall of China?  Hmmm, took hundreds of years to build to keep foreigners out, but they managed to get in.  We think not.  Hoover Dam?  Panama Canal?  St. Lawrence Seaway?  Great projects, but get real, no comparison!  The Interstate program was bigger than all those, rolled into one. 

In short, it’s the Greatest Public Works Project in History!

So it’s a pretty big deal.

Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000