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Linking the Power of the Past to the Promise of the Future

An AASHTO Clearinghouse of Interstate Events and Information

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge across the Cooper River on I-26 in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Rob Thompson, SCDOT.


The year 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the federal law that brought America its unparalleled Interstate Highway System. This 46,508-mile web of superhighways has transformed our nation and our economy. It is a symbol of freedom and a tribute to human ingenuity—although some of the changes it has brought our nation have been controversial.

On this website, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which represents the state departments of transportation in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, will introduce you to the history of the Interstate Highway System, plans to "Celebrate the Interstate!" both nationally and in individual states, and some of the policy questions the nation faces as we look to the next 50 years in U.S. transportation. Welcome!

Looking to the Future

As we move from a celebration of the history of the past 50 years of the Interstate Highway System, we will be sharing presentations, papers, and links on what the future of the system may be. Many of the most prominent and distinguished members of the highway community have participated in the process of this look forward and we want you to be a part of it, too.

The Bobby Hopper Tunnel on I-540 in Washington County, Arkansas. Photo by ADOT.

Policy Forum

On June 29, 2006 AASHTO and the Transportation Construction Coalition held a joint Policy Forum in Washington, DC, "Fifty Years and Looking Forward," to celebrate the past 50 years of the Interstate Highway System and to see what the next fifty years might bring.

Policy Forum Recap by Janet Kavinoky for the AASHTO Journal, June 30, 2006.

NCHRP Technical Memoranda

As part of the "Fifty Years and Looking Forward" policy forum, the following Technical Memoranda, produced by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) were presented in draft form.

The Interstate and National Highway System – A Brief History and Lessons Learned (PDF)
On June 29, 1956 when, with little fanfare, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 from his hospital bed, neither he nor anyone else in the country could have appreciated the scale and scope of the forces that were set in motion.

The Economic Impact of the Interstate Highway System (PDF and Accompanying Tables)
The economic impacts of the Interstate Highway System have been assessed through many previous studies, of which the most important and/or representative are highlighted in this white paper. The economic impact literature supports a strong conclusion that the development of the Interstate Highway System has had significant positive impacts on the nation's economic performance since 1956.

Policy Issues and Scenarios (PDF)
The fundamental task is to identify a future Interstate System concept that responds to relevant national transportation issues and performance objectives as they may evolve over the next 50 years.

Demographic, Economic and Travel Demand Projections (PDF)
The U.S. population is growing faster than many other developed countries and is expected to increase nearly 50 percent to 435 million by 2055.

I-26 in Madison County, North Carolina. Photo by NCDOT.


The Now and Future Interstate System by Mary Peters for Better Roads Magazine, May 2006.
A former head of the Federal Highway Administration reviews the systems – past, present, and future.

Visions of America's Transportation Future by Scott Horsley for National Public Radio, June 29, 2006.
The nation's biggest public works project, the Interstate Highway System, was launched 50 years ago in an era of cheap gas, big tail fins, and boundless confidence. Now planners are asking what the next 50 years will bring – and there are signs the system will grow to be bigger, faster, and even more efficient.

An Interview with Gene McCormick: The Future of the Interstate podcast from McGraw-Hill Construction.
Addressing topics such as the future of the gas tax and the issue of "earmarked" projects, Gene McCormick, chairman of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, talks about the future of the Interstate Highway System.

The Future of the Interstate System by Senator Jim Jeffords for ARTBA Transportation Builder Magazine. (PDF)
The problems President Eisenhower faced five decades ago are as real today as they were back then. While the era of Interstate construction is over, much work remains. As the country continues to grow and develop, we must continue to modernize and improve our highways.

What Comes After the Interstate? by Robert Dunphy for Urban Land, March 2006.
As the United States approaches the 50th anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, it is both daunting to anticipate the broad national consensus that brought it about, and troubling to imagine meeting the nation's transportation needs for the next 50 years without such a common vision. The development of the Interstate Highway System and the widespread availability of motor vehicles shaped urban development in the last half of the 20th century.