Eisenhower’s National Interstate and Defense Highway

Eisenhower’s development of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways created an infrastructure for military transportation and economic growth that ultimately led to a major innovation in American history.

Trouble in San Francisco

The Board of Supervisors of the city and county of San Francisco held a meeting to discuss the proposed Western Freeway (I-80) through the Sunset District. The board adopted a resolution opposing construction of all freeways in the San Francisco Master Plan, including the remainder of the Embarcadero Freeway and the Junipero Serra and the Park-Presidio Freeway.

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy

In the summer of 1919, a young Lieutenant Colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in the first Army transcontinental motor convoy. The expedition consisted of eighty-one motorized Army vehicles that crossed the United States from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, a venture covering a distance of 3,251 miles in 62 days. The expedition was manned by 24 officers and 258 enlisted men. The convoy was to test the mobility of the military during wartime conditions.

Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956

Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 into law. With an original authorization of 51 billion dollars for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System, proposed to be completed over a 10-year period.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Becomes President

Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race as a Republican. He won by a landslide, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson.

Hitler's Autobahn

Just days after the 1933 Nazi takeover, Adolf Hitler enthusiastically embraced an ambitious autobahn construction project and appointed Fritz Todt, the Inspector General of German Road Construction, to lead the project. By 1936, 130,000 workers were directly employed in construction, as well as an additional 270,000 in the supply chain for construction equipment, steel, concrete, signage, maintenance equipment, etc.

Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944

The highway bill was among the first pieces of legislation Roosevelt submitted to Congress in January 1944. The Senate Committee on Roads amended the Roosevelt bill substantially. It reduced total federal funding for highways to $450 million a year from $650 million a year; required a 50 percent funding match from states, instead of the proposed 40 percent; and set funding for urban roads and secondary/feeder roads at $125 million a year each.

The Highway Safety Act of 1966

In 1966, passage of the Highway Safety Act authorized the federal government to set and regulate standards for motor vehicles and highways, a mechanism necessary for effective prevention. The Highway Safety Act resulted in the national adoption of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Start of Construction

Cameron Joyce and Company of Keokuk, Iowa, won the contract with a bid of $1,866,015, and began construction on August 13. The Missouri State Highway was to be the first project on which "actual construction" was begun under the 1956 Act. The Missouri River bridge, the State's largest divided four-lane bridge to that date, would be completed with ceremonies on August 16, 1958.

Nation Highway Needs Report

The first National Highway Needs Report, submitted on January 31, 1968, questioned expansion of the Interstate System. The report stated that the Federal Government should help the States build an intermediate, supplementary system of about 66,000 miles.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968

This Act authorized a 1,500-mile extension of the Interstate System, bringing the statutory length to 42,500 miles. On December 13, 1968, Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd announced the routes added under the extension. He explained that Congress authorized the extension "to fill missing critical links which have developed since the system was first laid out in 1946."

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