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Highway History

 

Interstate Highway System - Quotables

“Its title is obscure, but its impact is not:  [The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956] created the Interstate Highway System, which touched virtually every aspect of American life in the past 50 years.”
  Louis Jacobson,
Roll Call
May 3, 2005



“[The Interstate System] was heralded as the greatest public works project ever.  That it was.  And it did, as promised, lead to an America that is more mobile, less plagued by regional differences, and vastly wealthier than before.”
  Justin Fox
Fortune
January 26, 2004



“As long as the Interstate is the highway supporting our society, economy, and national security, it will forever need to be the beneficiary of our attention and investment.  The ribbon cuttings will never end!”
  Dan McNichol
The Roads That Built America:  The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System, 2003



“The U.S. Interstate System is unique. There is nothing like it in the world.”
  Dan McNichol
The Roads That Built America:  The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System, 2003



“The Interstate Highway System wound a key and then released a perpetual motion machine.”
  Janet F. Davidson and Michael S. Sweeney
On the Move:  Transportation and the American Story, 2003 Smithsonian Institution & National Geographic Society



“The world’s largest public works project has . . . reshaped the American landscape and way of life.”
  U.S. News & World Reports
July 7, 2003



“It’s a journey with no end; Americans crave mobility, and wheels will always need roads.”
  George Constable and Bob Somerville
A Century of Innovation:  20 Engineering Achievements That Transformed Our Lives, 2003



“The world’s largest public-works project has left us with 47,000 miles of remarkably uniform roads that have reshaped the American landscape and way of life.”
  David LaGesse
U.S. News & World Reports
June 30/July 7, 2003 



“Fed by the prosperity of the last decade, the 46,567-mile network of limited-access roads that make up the Interstate System is a linear economy-on-wheels, a distinct and self-sustaining 51st state, in a sense, that generates life and commerce . . .”
  Peter T. Kilborn
The New York Times
July 14, 2001



“Though the interstate highways began to crisscross America in the late sixties, it was the seventies before they became the great roadways that they are now.”
  Larry McMurtry
Roads, 2000



“President Eisenhower … gave the nation its biggest construction project, the huge interstate-highway program that changed the shape of American society and made possible the expansion of the suburban middle class.”
  James M. Perry
The Wall Street Journal
October 27, 1995



“Not surprisingly, the most frequently selected influence on the metropolis in the past 50 years was the interstate highway system.”
  Dr. Robert Fishman for Fannie Mae Foundation
Top 10 Influences From Past 50 Years … of American Cities
October 21, 1999



“In the Interstate Highway System we have done nothing less than express our vision of ourselves ….  Ultimately, the Interstate have become a physical expression of the part of the American character that desires to resolve our destiny in this seemingly limitless land.”
  Tom Lewis
Divided Highways, 1997



“[The Interstate System] will never be finished because America will never be finished.”
  Francis C. “Frank” Turner,
former Federal Highway Administrator (1969-1972)
Richmond Times-Dispatch
August 19, 1996



“The Interstate Highway Act literally 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 . . . ”
  President Bill Clinton
February 8, 1996



“Robert Ady, president of PHH Fantus Consulting in Chicago, [said] ‘Interstate access is always in the top three factors considered when executives make location decisions, and frequently it’s No. 1.’”
  The Wall Street Journal
February 28, 1996



“‘I can tell by the number of trucks on I-75 how the economy is doing,’ says Stephen Schrantz, executive vice president of . . . a large Cincinnati-based lender.”
  The Wall Street Journal
January 31, 1996



“Out there [in the West], 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 . . .”
  George F. Will
June 25, 1995



“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
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
Fall 1995



“President Eisenhower . . . gave the nation its biggest construction project, the huge Interstate-highway program that changed the shape of American society and made possible the expansion of the suburban middle class.”
  The Wall Street Journal
October 27, 1995



“Think of the '50s, and what comes to mind?  To those of us old enough to recall the decade, it is the Interstate Highway System.  Ike pushing golf balls around the White House lawn, Bobby sox and saddle shoes.  A front page controversy over Going Steady.  And not much else.”
  Stephen Birmingham
Washington Post Book World
May 23, 1993



“The freeways that crisscross this 500-square mile city [Los Angeles] are masterpieces of engineering and vital symbols of this life-style [of personal mobility and individual freedom].  They enable millions of southern Californians to commute an average of more than 50 miles a day without ever surrendering their individuality.”
  Lou Cannon
The Washington Post
May 10, 1992



“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.”
  Senator Steve Symms, 1991



“Dwight D. Eisenhower changed America forever with the creation of the interstate highway program.”
  Joel Garreau, Edge City, 1991



“Congestion and repairs aside, the Interstates have knit us together in subtle and unanticipated ways.  Just as the railroad first introduced us to the country a century ago, so the Interstates have opened it up to everyone.  Their very popularity has confirmed our love of the road, which is really a love of exploration.  We are still pioneers, seeking new horizons from the driver's seat.”
  Nick Taylor
Travel Holiday
August 1990



“Along with the GI Bill, which educated and housed Eisenhower's fellow veterans, the Interstate System has proved to be by far the most important economic-development strategy of the federal government.”
  David S. Broder
The Washington Post
October 10, 1990



“The Interstate program was the last New Deal Program and the first space program, combining the economic and social ambitions of the former with the technological and organizational virtuosity, the sense of national prestige and achievement, of the latter.”
  Phil Patton
Open Road:  A Celebration of the American Highway, 1986



“To understand America, you must understand highways.  In this past half century, these masochistic marvels have—along with telephones, television and jet planes—reshaped American culture.”
  Robert Samuelson
The Washington Post
June 25, 1986



“A good bit of history goes by the board in Ike’s quantum leap from the ruts of the Lincoln Highway to the fast lanes of [the] autobahns.”
  John G. Mitchell
Audubon Magazine
November 1986



“[The] archeologists of some future age will study [the freeway] . . . to understand who we were.”
  David Brodsly
L. A. Freeway:  An Appreciative Essay, 1981



“The Interstate System is the most grandiose and indelible signature that Americans have ever scratched across the face of their land.”
  "The 100 Events That Shaped America" Bicentennial Issue Life, 1976



“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.”
  Robert Paul Jordan
National Geographic
February 1968



“During the few short years of its existence, the word ‘Interstate’ has become a part of the language of the American motorist . . . More than any other phenomenon of our time, the Interstate Highway System has irrevocably altered the way America must see itself.  When Interstate comes, can anything once familiar ever be the same?”
  David Nordan
Atlanta Constitution

April 9, 1967



“More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America with straightaways, cloverleaf turns, bridges, and elongated parkways.  Its impact on the American economy—the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up—was beyond calculation.”
  Dwight D. Eisenhower Mandate for Change 1953-1956 (1963)



“[Our Interstate highways] make of America one gigantic assembly line for production . . . ”
  Ellis Armstrong Commissioner, Bureau of Public Roads, 1962



“This new highway program will affect our entire economic and social structure.  The appearance of the new arteries and their adjacent areas will leave a permanent imprint on our communities and people.  They will constitute the framework within which we must live.”
  Robert Moses
Harper's Magazine
December 1956



“Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods.  The ceaseless flow of information throughout the Republic is matched by individual and commercial movement over a vast system of interconnected highways crisscrossing the country and joining at our national borders with friendly neighbors to the north and south.

Together, the united forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear—United States.  Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.”
  President Dwight D. Eisenhower
February 22, 1955


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Updated: 11/18/2015
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000