Originally created 06/04/06

Signs point to history of interstate highways



Without the interstate highway system, the American way of life would probably grind to a halt, said Pete Poore, the director of communications for the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

President Eisenhower realized the need for an improved transportation network and pushed for the construction of a national highway system.

On June 29, 1956, Eisenhower signed a funding bill that launched what is now 160,000 miles of interstates.

"He made it happen when he became president," Mr. Poore said.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the interstate system, the state DOT held ceremonial sign unveilings around the state May 24-25, including one at the Aiken County welcome center on Interstate 20. Many interstates already have the blue "Eisenhower Interstate" signs, Mr. Poore said.

"We erected shiny new signs in nine locations around the state," he said. "We're trying to bring some awareness to the people of South Carolina how important the interstates are."

There had been previous efforts to build a national road system, but it was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that was the catalyst for interstate construction, Mr. Poore said.

It provided funding, set national standards and authorized an accelerated construction program for the system, Mr. Poore said.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.

Interstate Facts

- The proper name is the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

- Interstate routes with odd numbers run north and south, with the lowest numbers beginning in the West.

- Interstate routes with even numbers run east and west, and the lowest numbers begin in the South.

- The longest interstate route is Interstate 90, which runs 3,020.54 miles from Seattle to Boston.

- The shortest route is the 17.62 miles between Annapolis and Baltimore on Interstate 97.

- Texas has more interstate miles than any other state, with 17 routes totaling 3,233.45 miles.

- New York has the most Interstate routes - 29 - for a total of 1,674.73 interstate miles.

- Interstate 95 crosses more states than any other interstate, 16, including Georgia and South Carolina.

- Today, there are about 46,000 miles of interstate highways in the United States.

Source: Federal Highway Administration