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Highway History


The Essential Interstate - Ten Things You Should Know About the Interstate System

We know you’re busy, so we have thought about everything we would like to tell you about the Interstate System and then boiled this huge glob of information down to the following ten Essentials:

Cartoon is the digit 10 with a thought bubble that reads, 'Facts.'
  1. President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the Interstate System when he signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 on June 29, 1956.  That was 50 years ago, so we are celebrating the Interstate System’s Golden Anniversary. 

  2. The official name of the Interstate System is the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.  It also is called the Eisenhower Interstate System for short.

  3. Although President Eisenhower knew the Interstates would be essential to national defense, he supported the Interstate System mainly because of its civilian benefits—including mobility, economy strength, and safety.

  4. The Interstate System, which is the safest highway network in the country, has saved thousands of lives and tens of thousands of injuries.

  5. Although the Federal Government provided 90 percent of the funds, the Interstate System was built by the States, which own and operate it.

  6. East-west Interstates are assigned even numbers with the transcontinental or major routes assigned numbers ending in zero.  The north-south routes have odd numbers, with the main routes carrying numbers ending in five.

  7. The Interstate System sustains our economy, enhances our international competitiveness, and is integral to the American Way of Life.

  8. Everything in your house traveled on the Interstate System at some point in its journey into your life.

  9. The Interstate System is an example of what can happen when America makes a commitment to a transformational goal, and sticks to it whether the Republicans or Democrats are in control. 

  10. The Interstate System has its critics and supporters, but all agree that President Eisenhower was right when he said the Interstate System would “change the face of America.”

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