Interstate highway at 50
America’s interstate highway system, “the most important public works project in United States history” according to Columbia University history professor Kenneth P. Jackson, celebrated its 50th anniversary in June. As outlined in the most recent issue of our sister publication, Pro Trucker, the system was launched in 1956 when President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and Congress established the Highway Trust Fund. At the time, just 120,000 tractor-trailers operated on U.S. highways, compared with the 2 million that ply the interstates today.
Today, trucking hauls nearly 70 percent of all freight moved across the United States. More than 80 percent of U.S. communities depend solely on trucking for delivery of their goods and products because of the interstate highway system.
There’s no question that the interstate highway system has had a tremendous impact on many aspects of life in America, influencing everything from the development of suburbs to the way we take family vacations, but no sector has been shaped more by the interstate system than the trucking industry. Interstate highways make it easier, faster and cheaper to transport goods around the nation, which benefits not only the trucking industry, but the country as well.
What do the next 50 years hold for the interstate highway system? While the building-boom days of the 1950s and 1960s are no doubt over, experts say the trucking industry can look forward to dedicated truck lanes and truck-only highways, as well as the development of “smart” roads employing high-tech sensors to guide drivers and relieve traffic congestion.
More facts interstate highway system facts:
• It totals 46,837 miles.
• I-90 is the longest highway in the system, stretching 3,091 miles from Seattle to Boston. The shortest, I-110 in El Paso, TX, is less than a mile.
• Among states, Texas (3,233) has the most interstate miles, Delaware (41) the fewest.
• The highest point is I-80 where it passes through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel in Colorado: 11,158 feet. The lowest point is El Centro, CA: 52 feet below sea level.
• The interstate system includes 56,512 bridges, 14,750 interchanges and 82 tunnels.
• I-95 passes through 26 urbanized areas (i.e., areas with populations over 50,000), more than any other highway.
• Utah (36 percent) has the highest proportion of its statewide traffic on the interstate highway system. Washington, DC (12 percent) has the lowest.