1956 National Defense Highways Act

Federal Highway

Photo courtesy of Vijay Chennupati

This bill, also known as the Federal-Aid Highway act of 1956, was signed on June 29th, 1956, by President Dwight Eisenhower. The purpose of the bill was to create 40,000+ mile interstate highways throughout the nation. Eisenhower was inspired due to his participation of the U.S. Army’s first Transcontinental Motor Convoy in 1919. The voyage from Washington D.C. to Pennsylvania took about two months, and that is when he knew that there needed to be a more efficient system. In 1954, he created the Highway Trust Fund to begin saving for the new highway system. The “defense” portion of the bill was related to the idea of the US military having access to highways for faster defense, in the event of a foreign ground invasion. This helped reduce unsafe roads, ensure quicker and more convenient routes to certain destinations, and a way to help alleviate/eliminate traffic. This process of highway construction took about ten years with a budget of $25 billion for construction. The Federal government was responsible for 90% of the funds, while the remaining 10% was handled by the states. The majority of funds were raised by taxes on fuel, automobiles, and tolls along the highway.

 

For further reading:

http://www.history.com/topics/interstate-highway-system

Glossary, UD: Historical development of Cities - Housing

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