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Interstate Highway System: 50th Anniversary 718

Steve Melito writes "This week, CR4: The Engineer's Place for Discussion and News, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, "a giant nationwide engineering project" that transformed a nation. In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers described the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System as "one of the Seven Wonders of the United States". In 2006, this network of roads includes 46,000 miles of highway; 55,000 bridges; 82 tunnels, and 14,000 interchanges. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), excavation for the interstate system has moved enough material to bury the State of Connecticut knee-deep in dirt. The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon. The lumber used would consume all of the trees in 500 square miles of forest. The structural steel could build 170 skyscrapers the size of the Empire State Building, and meet nearly half of the annual requirements of the American auto industry. Check back with CR4 all week as we cover the 'Roots of the Road,' 'the Politics of Passage,' 'Adventures in Civil Engineering,' and 'The Road Ahead.'" One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that the United States needed to develop.
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Interstate Highway System: 50th Anniversary

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  • by coupland ( 160334 ) * <[dchase] [at] []> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:06PM (#15606081) Journal

    >"The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon"

    Wait a minute, nobody told me six sidewalks to the moon was one of the options! I would have totally voted for the sidewalk thing...

  • Pennsylvania (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mkw87 ( 860289 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:07PM (#15606087)
    I hope they didnt count the roads in Pennsylvania, most of them (at least in NW PA) are in such bad shape, they shouldn't count as being part of a 'paved highway' system.
    • by lbmouse ( 473316 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:38PM (#15606367) Homepage
      Same thing in NE Ohio.

      In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers described the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System as "one of the Seven Wonders of the United States".

      "Why the hell do I have to get a wheel alignment every two months"... is the only thing I ever 'wonder' about when driving on the NEO highway system.
    • I think there are parts of the PA Turnpike in its original form (engineering wise anyways) that predates the Interstate system by 20 years! I have pics from my father showing construction in the 1930's of parts of US19 outside of Pittsburgh and that road, engineering-wise, is the same road.

      • Check out this disaster [] in Breezewood, PA []. They actually interrupt the interstate and make you drive through the middle of town (lined with hotels, fast food, and the like).

        And let me echo the original poster's sentiments, but add that by no means is that situation limited to just *northwest* Pennsylvania, but really anything under the governance of PennDOT.
      • I think there are parts of the PA Turnpike in its original form (engineering wise anyways) that predates the Interstate system by 20 years!

        The Pennsyvania Turnpike was built on the roadbed of a nearly completed totally new rail line between New-York and Chicago [] that was built by the New-York Central to compete directly with the Pennsylvania Railroad's direct route (the NYC detoured through Albany and Buffalo) in the 1880's. Following intense backroom negociations aboard J.P. Morgan's yatch (who, as a ma

      • by good soldier svejk ( 571730 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:43PM (#15606920)
        The same is more or less true of most of the Merritt Parkway [] in Connecticut, which first opened in 1938. Most of the on and off-ramps have been lengthened and straightened, and a couple of big highway interchanges added where new roads sprung up, but the road itself [] hasn't changed in my lifetime. Believe me, the new ramps were necessary. The old ones were all decreasing radius blind curves dumping right into traffic with no runoff room. The Exit 27 Southbound onramp (technically on the Hutchinson Parkway, but essentially demarcating the border between the two as well as between NY and CT) was literally a 90 degree spur two car lengths long with a stop sign at the highway. It hit the highway right after an overpass with no visibility so there was no way to see if cars were coming. You just stopped your car perpendicular to the road, checked that there was nobody under the bridge at that moment, punched it and crossed your fingers. Another feature which has just recently changed is the Sikorsky Bridge [] over the Housatonic River. This engineering marvel did not previously support pavement. Instead its surface was an open steel grate. I'm not kidding. Riding a motorcycle over this in the rain with a passenger was perhaps the scariest thing a human being could undertake. But to be fair, at least half of this structure was part of the Wilbur Cross Parkway, not the Merritt (the WC, the Merritt and the Hutch were all Rt. 15 and shared an exit numbering scheme). The road itself is exactly the same size and shape as when it opened. It retains its rural charm [] scores of unique and beautiful overpasses. []
      • It's all about traffic, and more specifically the max weight of that traffic. I ride my bike on a section of US 287 (a highway that goes from the mexican border at Brownsville TX to the Canadian border in Montana) and there are sections of concrete, uncracked, smooth, and very pleasant, that have dates in the 1920's stamped in the concrete, because 287 itself has been moved two blocks over and these sections now deal with nothing more than occasional car traffic. Meanwhile, the nearby Interstate has, when
  • Moonwalk (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scaba ( 183684 ) <joe.joefrancia@com> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:07PM (#15606092)
    The amount of Portland cement could build more than 80 Hoover dams, or lay six sidewalks to the moon.

    That's what they should have done instead. I'd walk to the moon.

  • by p!ssa ( 660270 ) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:08PM (#15606098)
    about enough potholes to covers the surface of Jupiter six times and enough roadwork delays to equal 13 years of your life waitng in congested traffic to get to work :/
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:08PM (#15606099)
    ...of businesses being charge for their customers using the roads. Yes, roads are a good argument for network neutrality.

    • Yes, roads are a good argument for network neutrality.

      Gaah! No they're not! Several businesses that all ship goods to their customers rely on the effectiveness of the businesses that actually operate the vehicles that carry the freight, and the sophistication/efficiency of those operations. That's why UPS, FedEx, DHL et al duke it out so thoroughly. But since those companies adjust their business practices and prices around what they tend to be recently carrying, and for whom, and to which destinations..
  • Bridges galore? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguin Programmer ( 241752 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:09PM (#15606105) Homepage
    In 2006, this network of roads includes 46,000 miles of highway; 55,000 bridges...

    Wait a minute, that would be more than one bridge per mile, on average. Is that actually correct? I don't remember there being that many bridges on any of the interstates I've driven on.
    • Re:Bridges galore? (Score:3, Informative)

      by damburger ( 981828 )
      I don't know for sure, but of the two I think the total mileage is most likely to be wrong. 46,000 miles seems kind of small.
      • Re:Bridges galore? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
        I think what they mean is that there is a total of 46,000 miles of Interstate highway, or "Limited-Access" highway, or something like that, and then there are 55,000 bridges on the entire federal highway system total (including ones not on limited-access roads).

        Perhaps the second number is referring to all the bridges that are on the designated, numbered highways (i.e., the ones commonly called "Highway" or "Route": Rt. 1, Rt. 66, etc.), even when they're not Interstates.

        Alternately, the number might just b
    • Re:Bridges galore? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Don853 ( 978535 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:13PM (#15606137)
      Almost certainly includes small roads' bridges over the interstate. They may be less than 1/mile in some areas, but it seems like in much of the northeast, especially cities, they're quite frequent.
    • Re:Bridges galore? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:15PM (#15606150)
      If they're counting any part of the road that doesn't touch the 'ground' as a bridge, that makes perfect sense. There's many bridges that cover very short distances and span little creeks or washes, especially in the great plains region I've noticed.

      Not every bridge crosses the Mississippi.

      Doubt they'd count overpasses/underpasses, that'd probably really inflate the number...
    • I would think that even if you include over/underpasses (for surface streets to cross the highways) and the multiple-level interchanges that you have in big cities, the ratio seems way off.

      The info here ( and here ( seems to bear this out... but it still sounds funny
    • Re:Bridges galore? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

      In addition to what the others have said, any bridge where the highway traffic directions are separated probably counts as two bridges, not one.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:10PM (#15606108) Homepage Journal

    And has encouraged americans to use enough gas to fill a swimming pool, each year.

    Ike also saw the wonderful mass transit capable of the european trains, but that wasn't good enough...

    • by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <kuruption@kurupti o n . net> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:27PM (#15606283) Homepage
      Mass transit only works in areas with a high concentration of people. In the 1960s, heck even today, there are lots of people who live outside of these areas making mass transportation highly ineffecient and costly. In Europe, on the other hand, a larger percentage of people live in urban areas and are better served by public transportation. However, the people who live in the rural parts of Europe still rely on gasoline powered cars.

      Actually, despite what the "wonderful" slashdot editor says, not only did Ike see the Autobahn, but also saw it as an easy way to move troops and supplies around the country. For instance, there were standards to make sure every curve of the expressway system could handle an automobile at 85MPH (talking about a 1960s Jeep, not a 2006 Ferrari Enzo).. so it would not flip over. It also made sure there were large enough gaps between bridges and other structures to allow large aircraft to land within 10 miles of any point on the highway.

  • by Hrodvitnir ( 101283 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:11PM (#15606114)
    And to celebrate, every inch is getting a facelift! Now, everyone please merge over into the right lane and slow to half speed. Be careful of the bright orange barrels; they have to last until the work starts in 6-8 months.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:11PM (#15606120) Journal
    55,000 bridges on 46,000 miles of highway? More than 1 bridge per mile? Sounds like we should've done a better job of surveying the route before starting to build freeways.

  • by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#15606129) Homepage
    People are always so harsh on the government's ability to do things, and are quick to promote private industry as the better alternative, but this is one of the major public sector success stories.

    I think in cases like this, private industry just would not have the resources and coordination to pull it off. Nor the motivation.

    But in any case, NOBODY, public or private, wants to do mega-projects anymore. Complacency is the word of the day.
    • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:57PM (#15606528) Homepage Journal
      I have to disagree completely. We pay so much for highways and roadways in taxes and fees that we don't directly notice, but we don't know what options might have become available to use had we not had so many subsidies offering "cheap" roadways.

      I've lately become enamored with private planes and flying. One of my neighbors (actually, he lives about 2 miles from me) has 2 private runways in his backyard. He lands his 4 passenger and 6 passenger prop planes on his lawn. Safely. For years.

      Most of his flying is to other private runways such as his, that dot almost every area and region in the U.S. How do we know we wouldn't all be flying inexpensive planes rather than cars? Maybe the highways have made it easy to rip us off with gas taxes and excessive tolls because they were built. They were built before the real boom in inexpensive airplanes began (I can purchase a reasonable Cessna in great shape for less than US$20K).

      While the fuel cost is likely higher, we really don't have a competitive marketplace yet because it was stillborn for so many years while the auto industry pandered to Congress to build more roadways at taxpayers expense rather than let the free market of billions of consumer decisions create what we really want and need.

      I'm not putting any faith in the highways, either. My best friend is the son of the largest highway contractor in a big western state, and he's told me how much collusion and theft occurs every day in that industry. Thank government? Not for this mess.
      • by 10Brett-T ( 11197 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:42PM (#15606909) Homepage
        How do we know we wouldn't all be flying inexpensive planes rather than cars?
        Because those of us who make passable drivers just might not cut the mustard as pilots. For example, I'm colorblind. Do you really want me trying to pick out a backyard grass runway from 10,000 feet at 175 mph?
      • by zoomba ( 227393 ) <mfc131&gmail,com> on Monday June 26, 2006 @02:36PM (#15607347) Homepage
        1. How many people forget to fill up their gas tank? Imagine running empty a few thousand feet up.
        2. How many people can't handle light traffic on a Sunday, or for no reas run off the road into a telephone pole? How would these people do flying?
        3. How many impatient assholes are out there that cut you off in traffic so they can get to the red light ahead 5 seconds faster? What would these guys do while waiting in a holding pattern to land, or waiting to take off?

        That right there is why flight as the preferred private travel means would never work. Oh and how many people have the room on their property for a runway?
    • In Boston, in the 50s, buildings were taken by emmient domain for $1 (?) to creat the central artery. It tore apart neighborhoods and caused alot of financial woes.

      Today, Boston has "The Big Dig" which puts the central artery underground and is probably the last piece of the interstate system to be completed. It's amazing how much the government has done to accomodate status quo in contrast to the 50s.

      It's much harder for the anyone to do a large project today. Environmental concerns, cost & existing
  • Whooptie doo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Electric Eye ( 5518 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#15606130)
    All this "achievment".... and traffic is as bad as ever and getting worse every single day. What a grand dream our highway system has turned into.
    • Re:Whooptie doo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 )
      The highway system as a whole is still a major accomplishment. It's just that select areas suffer problems.

      Drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, you run into traffic once along the way (Denver).
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#15606131)
    "See Russia, we can out-fight, and out-produce you, and we both have nukes, so even if its close to a draw, we'll win."

    Thanks Ike, for giving the US the upper hand in the Cold War. He's also the one whose parting words were something like "Beware the military-industrial complex." A wise man, why can't we get Presidents like this anymore?
    • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:29PM (#15606298) Homepage Journal
      "why can't we get Presidents like this anymore?"

      Because anyone with huevos enough to buck the status quo or speak unpopular truths gets the Rove treatment.

      So we'll be getting agreeable dunces from now on.

      Dunces with strings to make them dance.
      • Yeah, a real truth-sayer like Rove, lifetime political consultant most famous for being the given the task of justifying an attack on Iraq. The Ike comparisons are spot-on!

        Anyway, giving a speech after you've quit the job doesn't strike me as the bravest action one can imagine. If Ike really had huevos, he should have done something when he still had the power to do so, rather than escalate the cold war. If Bush gives a speech in 2009 about the importance of a strict separation between executive and jud

  • by Issue9mm ( 97360 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:16PM (#15606165)
    For all the copycatting Eisenhower did to establish our highway system, they sure did get a lot of things wrong. Looking at today's Autobahn is a wonderous thing comparatively.

    An interesting factor in difference between our highway and Germany's autobahn is the 'curviness' of the road. The Germans wanted their highway to curve with the natural landscape, and be created with a minimal of environmental destruction, which we thought was stupid. As a result, we built straighter roads, blasting through mountains and paving over forests where necessary. The result of course, was highway hypnosis, which contributes to the higher death toll and accident count on U.S. highways.

    • by DG ( 989 ) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:00PM (#15606560) Homepage Journal
      I've driven the Autobahn, and I've done tens of thousands of km driving on the US Interstate highway system (running a SCCA race team means a lot of long-haul driving going from event to event)

      The only thing the Autobahn has going for it are the occasional unlimited speed sections, most of which seemed absent on my drives from Stuttgart->Nurburg and Stuttgart->Munich - there were speed limits on most of the distance (either 120 km/h or 140 km/h)

      Incidentally, posted speed limits notwithstanding,average car traffic speed on Interstates in the Midwest is between 120-140 km/h.

      So what has the US system got on the Autobahn?

      1) Interstates are numbered odd numbers North/South and even numbers East/West. Main routes have 2 digits, and connectors and bypasses have 3 digits, where the last two digits are the ID of the MSR that it connects to. This makes it very easy to tell (in most cases) which Interstate you need to be on, even if you don't know local geography that well. If you are West of Detroit, and you want to go to Toledo (south of Detroit) and you are on I-96 approaching the the I-275 interchange, you can tell that:

            a) you are travelling E/W
            b) 275 runs N/S
            c) 275 links up with 75, also N/S
            d) So taking 275 to 75 is moving you in the right direction.

      2) There is only one allowed intersection between any two Interstates. The intersection of I-69 and I-94 is unique. That is NOT the case with Autobahns, which can loop back on each other and cross in multiple places. This very nearly got me lost on the way to Stuttgart from the Nurburgring, and the only reason I caught it was that the sun was in the wrong place after the interchange....

      3) On/off ramps onto Interstates are labelled with the name of the nearest major city AND the direction of travel - so you might see "I-70 West - Topeka" and "I-70 East - Kansas City". Autobahns are labelled with the name of SOME city in that direction, but I never discovered the pattern; and with the city density in Germany, trying to find the city on the map (in one of two directions) while rapidly approching the exit, without the aid of a dedicated navigatrix, can be daunting.

      4) Exits are numbered with the current mile marker value, and the mile marker value itself is the distance along the Interstate within that state. Working out time, distance, and fuel problems in your head become VERY simple. If I am at mile marker 20, and I need to take exit 140, and I am travelling at 60 MPH, then I have 2 hours of travel before my exit. Note that this wasn't always true - Florida and Georgia held out on sequential exit numbering for a long time - but as far as I know, everything is mile marked now.

      5) I refute the claim to "highway hypnosis" being a problem; having done multiple all-night driving stints trying to make it to events on time, the general straightness of the Interstate makes the road network safer (especially in bad weather) gives you much better sightlines, and saves fuel, especially with big rigs. The few exceptions to this rule can really stand your hair on end imagine coming around a corner at 70 MPH with 14,000 lbs of car hauler to find that traffic has stopped dead... yikes!

      Seriously, the US Interstate system is a wonder of design and is transportation networking done nearly perfectly. It takes almost all the best features of the Autobahn and then improves on them.


      • by rnelsonee ( 98732 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:29PM (#15606804)
        For the sake of completeness, even though you probably already know this, 3-digit 'interstates' have another pattern - if the first digit is even, it connects to its namesake twice - meaning it's an alternate route or a beltway (695 is Baltimore's beltway, and the 895 tunnel can be used if the 95 tunnel is backed up), whereas an odd-number means it connects once so it's a spur - usually to a popular destination (using Baltimore as an example again, 395 goes right into downtown, and 195 takes you to BWI airport).
      • There is only one allowed intersection between any two Interstates.

        There are many, many examples that contradict this. I-76, I-270, and I-25 all intersect at one point north of Denver. The three have been "separated" a bit in the last couple years, but for the better part of a century, each exit gave you two to three options.

        Exits are numbered with the current mile marker value...but as far as I know, everything is mile marked now.

        New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts...

        And besides, the Autobahn has a few e
  • by swpod ( 963634 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#15606174) Homepage Journal
    Something I've wondered about is what will happen when, sometime in the not-too-distant future, we no longer need roads for transportation because we've invented some kind of autonomous flying vehicle. What are we going to do with all that real estate? At least where I live, the roadway is too narrow to be used for additional home construction, so does all this land simply become a vast system of pedestrian malls? Or can somebody think of a better use for it? Of course the realpolitik of the situation is that the various government landowners will try to maximize the revenue to be had from selling this freed-up land, so what kind of monstrosity are they going to foist upon us?
    • by OhPlz ( 168413 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:35PM (#15606339)
      Boston's Big Dig moved a major above ground route underground. They're supposedly converting the old route into parks. Of course there's some fighting over the land since it was debatably stolen to make the elevated highway and the previous owners want it back. I personally think that by the time they have it all sorted out, they'll need the space for roads again to increase capacity, since no one is going to want to pay for Big Dig 2.

      Getting off track a bit.. I think it's outrageous that we're spending billions to make bigger and bigger roads. The highway system isn't scalable to the point we need it to be. They just finished expanding the highway I commute on from 2 lanes to 3 (in each direction). It helped, but it's going to draw more people to live in those communities now when they wouldn't have considered living there before because of the traffic. So then what? Four lanes? Five? Underground tunnels?

      What we need is effective mass transport, at least in populated areas of the US like eastern MA. I don't want to be stuck on the highway everyday but there is no real alternative. I'd rather take rail if it were available, at least I could read or use a laptop or do something partially productive. That would also cut down on our dependency on oil, road rage, traffic fatalities, stress, insurance premiums, so on and so forth. Use the land the highways take up and build a decent rail system.
  • Both WWI and WWII (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Old Grey Beard ( 869804 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:21PM (#15606219) Journal
    Eisenhower was a Lt. Colonel in WWI. Shortly after that war he participated in an Army experiment: moving a motorized convoy across the U.S, East to West. It took something like 68 days, with innumerable breakdowns and washouts. In his report, Ike mentioned there were some roads that had been well-built but not maintained, and had thus deteriorated badly.

    After the Normandy invasion Ike's troops were again slogging, this time through French hedgerows. Finally when he got to Germany and could use the Autobahn, well, you know the rest of the story...

  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:23PM (#15606236) Homepage
    The problem with highways is that there are entirely too many exits and entrances. Most of the traffic we experience is due to merging errors and crashes caused by merging.

    If you look at a map of any place with urban sprawl, like Atlanta, highways are the first cancerous veins that spread the disease of McMansions and thirty mile commutes. If there were far less highway entrances and exits, and someone besides complete idiots in the zoning office, the inconvenience of driving five miles to the nearest highway exit would cause more people to buy homes closer to town. Cities would then be more efficent and better served by mass transit systems. With less cars, and fewer and shorter car commutes, we'd also lessen our dependence on foreign oil. People would be forced to do more with less, so instead of having entire floors that go unused (yet still air conditioned), more efficient townhomes and apartments would be used instead.

    Proper city planning will determine which civilization survives the 21st century the best. It's too bad America is doing so poorly.
    • When driving through look for the bypass (generally prefixed by a number, making it a three-digit highway number, for example, 894 for I-94). The bypass will take you around or through a city with a minimal number of offramps.

      Alternatively cities like Chicago have express lanes that switch direction depending on time of day (in to town in the morning, out of town in the afternoon) that are basically the innermost lane(s) but barricaded off, and have no exits.

      I can't speak for atlanta ... but up north we
  • by Avatar8 ( 748465 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:27PM (#15606284)
    "If you lined up all the dead bodies of the people who have died on the Interstate system over the past 50 years, it would circle the Earth twice."

    One major thing that Ike failed to bring over from the German system: driver's education.

    The U.S. education, licensing and renewal of drivers is a joke. Personally, I don't want anyone who didn't make 95% on their test on the road, but here we have most of the drivers who made 70% and it shows, every day. To further agitate the issue, law enforcement and insurance companies have too much forgiveness: four tickets/year allowed (in TX), defensive driving courses (what a joke).

    I wouldn't drive to work every day if I had an alternative. Personally, I'd rather go back to horses.

    • Not so.

      The driving tests today are filled with political garbage. There's virtually nothing on them about actually driving an automobile, whilst the vast majority of the test is filled with questions regarding the dollar-amounts of the penalties for DWI, the maximum number of weeks you have to change your registration after you move, the (startlingly high) number of points you get on your license if you cut off an ice cream truck (no joke! this was on my test), etc.....

      The first time I took the test was a
  • Too Bad.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:29PM (#15606299)
    One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that United States needed to develop. Just too bad it is STILL one of the things that the United States needs to develop. The Autobahn is a meticulessly well maintained super-highway with engineered drive surfaces, well gradiated turns, and minimal obstructions of view to drivers. The surface itself is designed to remove water from contact with tires, which greatly enhanses performance in wet weather. With almost no "small hills" to obstruct/obscure the view in front of the driver, situations do not exist for a slowdown that is over a blind hill to cause an accident since drivers always have more then enough warning of traffic slowdowns, accidents, or broken-down vehicles in their lane to either change lanes, slow down, or otherwise avoid the problem. This is also the reason why parts of the Autobahn system have no speed limits, only strict rules for which lane to be in and rules to let vehicles traveling faster then you to pass you... We STILL don't have ANYTHING NEAR LIKE THAT.
  • by dalewj ( 187278 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:32PM (#15606320) Homepage
    Interesting Triva. Why is there an interstate highway in Hawaii when it goes to no other state?
    Because all military bases, when the project was created, had to be linked to the interstate system. It was one of the selling points to the public... we can move troops and equipment in case of need to other parts of the US. So the intertate highway system in Hawaii connects the militray bases.

    It also has. just barely, but has the 2 mile straight length that was demanded in each highway every so often for landing endangered aircraft.

    Also from the discovery or history channel learned that lots of it was designed from the German Autobahn system and how the intersections don't stop traffic.
  • Too bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hudsonhawk ( 148194 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:37PM (#15606363)
    One of the things that's interesting about why Eisenhower pushed for the highway system was that he saw the Autobahn system in Germany during the occupation post-WWII and knew that that was one of the things that United States needed to develop.

    Too bad he didn't notice their train system while he was over there too. Our lack of a national public transportation system is wasteful and embarassing.
  • Let's Do It Again (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:50PM (#15606472) Homepage Journal
    I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as I don't expect the Congress could ever again pass such a massive project.

    Remember, the Interstate Highway System was a response to the problems of moving military assets across the US during WWII. It's great for visiting grandma, but it's really a national security asset.

    So our current national security risk is our dependence on foreign sources of energy. I'd love to see a project on this scale to rebuild the national grid, make it easy to get wind power from the Dakotas or Solar power from New Mexico to Boston or LA. Our current grid can't do this and it's a big deal to make one that can. Tie in end-user-generated solar and build out broadband to everybody at the same time and you'd do a real benefit to the country.

    When that's done we can get started with upgrading the Interstates for Personal Rapid Transit.

    I look forward to reading the part of the series on the politics of passage.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#15606482) Homepage Journal
    This is also when America's country/western musicians mourn the death of music focused entirely on horses, women, and beer, and celebrate the birth of an art form focused entirely on highways, women, and beer.
  • by Palal ( 836081 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:52PM (#15606490) Homepage
    While all of the glory is nice and neat, let's look at the drawbacks: 1. For all the money spent on the interstate system, we could've built up our public transportation infrastructure, which needed a makeover, and have enough money to invest in cities, which also needed a makeover. 2. Sprawl and Suburbia: Now we are faced with sprawl and suburbia. While some may find this a good thing, I personally prefer the European lifestyle in large built-up cities. Suburbia is not self-sustaining. A public transportation system is not feasible in surubria. Do you know of a suburb that is not next to a city? If so, it's not called a suburb, but a rural area. 3. Strip Malls: they existed in very limited quantities before the interstate system. 4. Bad Maintenance: While we built the highways we don't know how to maintain them... pieces are going to crumble bit by bit until we have a makeover or until everything's gone 5. America is a gas-guzzling addict: Even Bush said so. The first step to fighting this adiction is admitting it. Before the interstate, we relied less on cars and more on public transit. Of course, it was harder to get around too. 6. Ever try breathing in L.A.? Yeah... you know what I'm talking about. 7. Trucking Industry - transporting things by train and using trucks for the last n miles is far more efficient, and using electric trains is even more efficient. 8. American teens are now forced into cars at the age of 16, which not only promotes bad lifestyle habits, but also continues the sprawl and suburbia. 9. Declining health/obesity: I admit, I'm not thin as a string. I tried both walking and driving to work for 6 months at a time... after 6 months of walking/public transit (which increased my commute by about 20 mins) I found amazing results - not only had I lost weight but also started feeling better, less stressed ("Ah another train will be along in 7 minutes, no big deal, no need to rush") and I also got some work done on the train/subway. Talk about benefits Of course some may find these things as benefits, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or however the saying goes). Now for the benefits: 1. Easier to get around the country. 2. Drivers are independent from public transit's schedules (of course this is a chicken and egg question: if there were more passengers, the service would be more frequent). 3. Americans can enjoy their suburban dream (although I don't think suburbia is a dream.... even considering the fact that crime rate in suburbia per 100K people is higher than it is in the city; also, in the city you know where most of the crime's happening and you can avoid those areas if you so desire). 4. Cars are not a luxury anymore, but rather a necessity. 5. American teens can break out of their shell when they turn 16. 6. ...... In the end, it's all about what kind of lifestyle you want to lead and whether or not you're a typical suburbanite or the new urban type.
    • I personally prefer the European lifestyle in large built-up cities.

      And some of us don't. Choice is a wonderful thing, eh? Personally, I'm working my ass off to retire early so I can get the BLEEP out of the city. The noise, the smells, the crime, the riff raff (both kinds: those with no money and those with too much)... you can keep it.

      All the other issues are fixable given the political will. Yeah, yeah... I know.

    • I personally prefer the European lifestyle in large built-up cities.

      Good for you. Have fun living on top of your neighbors, with constant noise, overcrowding, everything asphalted / concreted over, and paying $2000 / month for a 400 sq. foot apartment. Don't assume that everyone wants to live the way you do just because it your opinion it's "better."

    • I am a big fan of the _idea_ of public transit.. I spent a few weeks in Munich and it was wonderful..but munich has, iirc, 9 u-bahn and 27 s-bahn lines for a metro area of about 1 million people. Isn't Marienplatz or Munich Hauptbanhof 4-5 levels deep ? I have no idea how a population of 1m people can support such an incredible public train system (but I sure enjoyed it while I was there!).

      When we went to Berlin (via car - we toured Germany via car and I also had a quick stop to drive 6 laps of the Nords
    • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @04:18PM (#15608209)
      4. Cars are not a luxury anymore, but rather a necessity.

      That's a *benefit*?! Yes, driving is fun. As I said before, *having* to drive sucks royally for a variety of reasons.

      5. American teens can break out of their shell when they turn 16.

      Even if they weren't able to drive, they'd still break out of their shells. If fewer people drove, more people would live in denser conditions, where it's possible to walk or bicycle to places worth going to. Being able to drive is a sign of coming of age. It does not in itself make you come of age...


  • Tank movers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HaloZero ( 610207 ) <> on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:55PM (#15606507) Homepage
    Although some historians claim that Eisenhower's motivations were military in nature, the nation's civilian population reaped the rewards

    True, but the military aspect played a huge part in the funding for the interstate highway system. The interstates provide a tried-and-true platform for moving tanks and other heavy war material a very long distance, with minimal fuel and minimum time. A column of tanks can move across the whole of our nation in about three days time. That's significant when you consider an enemy force not wanting 2,000 M1s staring at them.
    • Re:Tank movers (Score:4, Informative)

      by biobogonics ( 513416 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:22PM (#15606745)
      True, but the military aspect played a huge part in the funding for the interstate highway system. The interstates provide a tried-and-true platform for moving tanks and other heavy war material a very long distance, with minimal fuel and minimum time.

      One of the specs for the interstate highway system was that it had to be wide enough to handle tanks. This came in handy during the '67 Detroit riots.
  • by dzfoo ( 772245 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:11PM (#15606645)
    >> The lumber used would consume all of the trees in 500 square miles of forest.

    What do they mean "would"? If that's the amount of wood used, then 500 square miles of forest was most definitely consumed, no?

  • Tank Welfare (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:35PM (#15606857) Homepage Journal
    Eisenhower saw how German tanks overran Europe, as he was in charge of America's work helping roll them back in defeat. The Interstate Highway system was designed to pave roads for American tanks to reach every part of the country. It served as a vast government subsidy for car makers to compete with the railroads that settled the continent.

    My favorite Interstate website is Interstate-Guide [], with pictures, history, plans and lots of other transit geek info. As long as the people have paid for this vast system, we should get the most out of it.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll