Interstate highways unite us

As embarrassingly ineffective as some of America’s systems have proven to be — public education, for example, and airport security — our interstate highway system is a wonder to behold.

Having observed no fewer than a dozen different interstate highways in nine different states in the past three months, I’m wowed by this 55-year-old system of “wide, gently curved roads that form the backbone of commerce and invite travelers to cross the country in search of adventure,” according to map maker Rand McNally.

Name almost any two major cities in the United States, and you’ll find a system of interstate highways connecting them.

The standards for the interstate are 12-foot-wide lanes, 10-foot-wide paved right shoulders, 4-foot-wide paved left shoulders and curves to accommodate speeds of 50-70 mph. I have found they are not always this way, especially in Dallas, Texas and though the mountains between Atlanta and Nashville, but for the most part, they are dependably consistent.

The system began with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who drew three north-south lines and three east-west lines across a U.S. map and asked the Bureau of Public Roads to build it, according to Rand McNally in my trusty U.S. atlas to which I referred hundreds of times while navigating recently from the passenger-side seat of our motor home. President Dwight D. Eisenhower funded the vision with the signing of the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956.

Did you know … ?

  • Even-numbered interstate highways (such as 90 and 94) are east-west routes.
  • Odd-numbered interstates (such as 35 and 39) are north-south.
  • Three-digit signs beginning with an even number route through or around a city.
  • Three-digit signs beginning with an odd number indicate a spur into a city.

The interstate highway system are an effective example of your federal tax dollars at work. No one person could build such a system by himself; together, we’ve created a network to bring us goods and speed our travel. There may be no “I” in team, but thanks to us teaming together, we have a great interstate system.

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