1956 Interstate Highways Begun

Juneau Alaska

On June 29th, 1956 President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Act. The bill authorized the spending of $25 Billion over ten years to build 41,000 miles of highways across the United States. The interstate highways changed the face of the United States..

Highways in the United States had developed in a haphazard way with the states and local authorities responsible for most of the construction. As a result most of the roads in the country were two land affairs and traversing the country by road was a challenge. A number of toll roads had been built that connected specific cities. President Eisenhower had experienced the state of the US highways early in his army career when he participated in the Army’s first Transcontinental Motor Convoy in 1919. It took over two months to cross the US. Eisenhower had experienced the Autobahn in Germany and was convinced that the US needed something similar and thus he became an enthusiastic supporter of the idea.

The act that was passed the National Interstate and Defense Act included the word defense since Eisenhower sold the plan partially as a need for national defense. The interstates were suppose to connect up Air Force bases throughout the US. The act allowed for taxes on motor fuels to be used to construct the highways. The Federal government provided 90% of the funds while states paid for 10%.