The beginning of massive change in the United States began on June 29, 1956. This was when President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. This act mandated the construction of a new 41,000 mile highway system crisscrossing the entire country. According to Eisenhower, this new system eliminated the existing patchwork of poor roads that “got in the way of speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” He believed that the proposed expressway system was “essential to the national interest.”
Dirt Paths are Nice But Cars Need Roads
In 1908, Henry Ford started to ship the first Model Ts. The Model T was a dependable, affordable car and just about every American wanted one. He would continue to build Ts until 1927, when nearly 15 million of them. Driving a car had become a part of ordinary life.
But there was an issue, most of the roads in the country were dirt and this inhibited long drives. Plus, outside cities and towns there were almost no gas stations, street signs, garages and rest stops. There was no question that a growing nation needed good roads and infrastructure for easy traveling.
Some Argued Against Them
Most cities and larger towns didn’t need roads. They had mass transit, elevated trains, subways and streetcars. Urban dwellers just didn’t see the urgency. General Dwight D. Eisenhower saw it differently. During WWII, he had seen the German Autobahnen crisscross over Germany. After he became president in 1953, Eisenhower was determined to build the same. In June of 1956, the Federal-Aid Highway Act was passed. The Act authorized the construction of a 41,000 mile network of interstate highways that would span the nation. Under the terms of the law, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost of expressway construction with money coming from increased gasoline taxes.
The Highway Revolt
We spoke to Hiley Mazda of Hurst, a local Mazda dealer in Hurst, TX, and asked if anyone remembered those days. One of the senior salesman said he was a child but remembered when the Interstate Highway Act was first passed. It was very exciting. Soon, however, many realized that the highway construction was making a mess of settled areas in their path. The construction displaced people from their homes and sliced communities in half. Soon, people began to fight back. For example, in 1959 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors stopped the construction of a double-decker freeway along the waterfront. Around the country other towns halted construction.
But It Got Built
Despite some areas that objected to the disruption, the national highway system was built as planned. It took almost a decade but America now had a wonderful new transportation network that allowed the country to grow and prosper.
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.