Essay: Eisenhower Creation of Interstate Highway System

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Eisenhower Creation of Interstate Highway System

Dwight Eisenhower was the United States of America's 34th president. He ranks as one of the best presidents in the country's history due to many development projects that he initiated and complete during his era. One of the biggest and most remarkable projects of his times is the "National system of interstate and defense highways." According to Eisenhower, the interstate highway system would help overcome the problems of traffic jams, unsafe and inefficient roads (Interstate Highway History (n.d). Eisenhower further argued that the interstate highway would facilitate a quick evacuation of the cities in case of an atomic bomb. The idea of the interstate highway dates back when President Eisenhower was a General in the army. He was impressed by the road system in Germany and vowed to bring the idea to the United States of America.

This was not so until he became the president and passed a bill in 1944 that allowed the construction of the interstate highways. The law to construct the highways permitted the construction of the 41,000-mile network of roads connecting various states and cities in the nation. The interstate highway project was to be financed through increased taxation on gasoline. The cost of gasoline rose from 2-3 cents per gallon. The increase in tax went to the highway trust fund. Through this means, the federal government under President Eisenhower financed 90% of the highway construction. The interstate highways had overpass and underpass instead of the old intersections. The roads were designed specifically for high speed driving and intended to provide connection and an easy means of transport. The highways would facilitate a more efficient transportation from one state to another or even coast-to-coast

The national interstate highway was an enormous project that brought the attention of everyone in the country from the year 1956. According to the National Archives (2001), the challenges of the growing number of automobile operators were not met until June 1956 when President Eisenhower signed the federal aid highway act. Planning and designing of the interstate highway began long back in 1938. History relating to the construction of the road shows that, the federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938, together with the then Bureau of Public roads assessed the feasibility of constructing a toll road of three east west and three north-south superhighways. The two boards did not come into an agreement to the 1941 when President Franklin D, Roosevelt a national Interregional Highway committee.

The committee proposed a system of 33,900-mile road and additional 5000 miles auxiliary roads in the urban centers. ( U.S. department of transportation: Federal highway administration, 2013). Until 1956, no amendments and proposals had been put into action. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 under the leadership of President Eisenhower solved the big question of how to fund the highway project. The Act also made amendments extend the proposed length to 41,000 miles.

Through the 1956 Act, a special trust fund was developed where the project was supposed to be self-sustaining. This trust fund was to collect revenues from motor vehicle users and the federal gas. This self-sustaining method could help avoid federal budget deficit. To ensure a simultaneous completion and standardization in all states, it required BPR later FHWA to prepare general cost estimates for each state and ensure apportionment of funds. To ensure quality standards in all states, the American Association of State Highways and Transportation officials (AASHOT), development standards and design for all the roads in the project.

President Eisenhower's dedication to constructing the interstate highway system came from his personal experience at the end of 1919 World War 1. After the war, a truck convoy was set to test a number of army vehicles and military equipments. The purpose of the convoy was also to determine the simplicity of moving the army from Washington DC to Sun Francisco. This convoy made a long lasting impression to the then lieutenant colonel Dwight Eisenhower on the condition of the roads. In 1952, in his bid to win the presidential election, Eisenhower prioritized the conditions of the roads and his quest to make a remarkable impression. In 1954, President Eisenhower brought up the interstate highway system to legislation.

According to him, a more comprehensive and quality network of roads was necessary to reduce the high number of road deaths and injuries. He explained that a comprehensive road network would cut down delays in various sectors of the economy. The road network would also meet the demand brought by catastrophic disasters and national defense (Pfeiffer, 2006). Although there had been long plans to construct the road network, much of the construction effort is accredited to President Eisenhower. President Eisenhower acted as a catalyst and a significant influence for the construction of the interstate highway system. Construction of the road network was positively received by many Americans.

The project showed greater signs of economic changes in the nation that could be beneficial to all. However, it did not take long before the unpleasant outcomes of the road building began to show. The proposed size of the roads was bigger than expectation of many people. It required demolition of many buildings and old infrastructures in the cities to pave the way for new roads (Pfeiffer, 2006). This led to the displacement of many people and damage to properties, separation of societies and decay of many cities that the roads passed through.

The road construction led to the rising of many activists who were opposing the pain inflicted by the project. Such fights against the project arose in Sun Francisco in the year 1959, and the construction of a double-decker road had to be stopped. Various activists in other cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C were able to stop the demolition of their properties and displacement. Although a lot of criticism faced the construction of the road network, the road network was constructed in many rural areas, towns and cities according to the plan. The initial plan in the construction of the roads was to meet predicted traffic jam in the year 1975.

The plans latter changed to meet a 20-year design that could meet the expectation of economic and social revolution. President Eisenhower had a vision of the importance of an elaborate road network. The interstate road network could not only be beneficial in terms of national defense but rather a great step towards economic change. The main agenda behind this road network was also to create employment for many unemployed citizens during high reign. Employment creation resulted from government expenditure in the road construction at the initial stage and maintenance. Wendel and Jean 1996 indicate that, the interstate highway produces approximately $14 billion in cost producer reduction per annum.

Economic benefits peak in 1970s when $38 billion in cost reduction because of the highways was observed. The construction of the interstate highways by President Eisenhower was essential to the national interest due to the many benefits currently observed. National security has been improved tremendously due to an elaborate system. The road system has saved lives of many people in times of emergencies and disasters. In economic terms, over a 40-year period, estimates show that gross producer cost reductions have increased to over $1 trillion. Studies show that, from the interstate road construction, speed and expansion access have increased and, freight expenses have reduced significantly.

The road network in rural areas has increased the value of land. This accelerates the pace of development in these areas. The domestic market for goods and services has expanded due to the easy transportation of goods from manufactures for consumers. Labor and capital mobility have increased and led to the availability of cheap labor to producers nationally. Interstate roads have reduced congestion with multiple strategies and maximization of efficiency. The road network plays a vital role in the American economy and social aspects of society. An elaborate road system has transformed the image of America through uniting the states into one unified nation. The system of highways uniting the states has also improved communication and cut down travel time from one state to another.

The uniting of the states through an elaborate system of roads is a symbol of unity and reduces the differences in both resource allocation and aspects of life. The roads unite all people and eliminate the differences that existed in the past due to separation. It is now possible for people to share their cultures and backgrounds and work towards achieving a common goal of national cohesion and prosperity (Wendel & Jean, 1996). While the main purpose of the interstate highway system was to defend the country, today the road network has speeded up the pace of national development and commerce both internally and internationally. It is now possible for trucks to move fast and transport various goods ranging from fresh products, mails to durable goods. The road network has helped to reduce congestion in the urban areas as people can easily travel in and out of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Eisenhower Creation of Interstate Highway System.  (2013, July 29).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from

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"Eisenhower Creation of Interstate Highway System."  29 July 2013.  Web.  25 May 2019. <>.

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"Eisenhower Creation of Interstate Highway System."  July 29, 2013.  Accessed May 25, 2019.