Happy birthday, US Interstates. Now what?


The highway system traversing the United States quietly hit a milestone last month with the 55th anniversary of the Federal Aid Highway Act. In 1956 President Eisenhower had a vision for our nation’s infrastructure; he knew that building an interstate highway system was vital, and expressed that “Together, the united forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear—United States. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.”

Holding true to his vision, Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956. Not too many people even knew that the anniversary was coming, and most didn’t notice when it passed. But the significance can’t be ignored; especially since the vast majority of people living and working in our country rely on the interstate highway system each day.

Eisenhower’s vision for the United States exceeded the needs and demands of the 20th century. The interstate highway system provided the connectivity that was necessary to keep up with the growth of the time and laid the foundation for future progress. Connecting people with goods and services, creating jobs, and spurring economic growth were key factors in creating and maintaining the interstate highway system, and those same factors hold true today.

So where are we in 2011, and how can we exceed the needs and demands of the 21st century? Are we committed to making the necessary investments that will strengthen the transportation system—the very backbone of US economic growth, development and connectivity?

With revenues down but demand on the upswing, state DOTs and local transportation planning entities must explore new ways of doing business, discovering ways to be more efficient and effective. Not only does the current budgetary climate require efficiencies, but society demands it. In this time of 24 hour news cycles and instantaneous information, road users will expect a transportation system that matches the same level of efficiency they see in other aspects of their life. Can transportation planners find ways to create a system that considers safety, reliability, economic development all while adjusting to the daily fluctuating demand?

My next few blog entries will look at the impacts an efficient and effective transportation system can have on society, the environment and the economy.


About Author

Melissa Savage

Sr Industry Consultant, State and Local Government

Melissa Savage is a subject matter expert with SAS Institute, Inc. focusing on transportation issues facing state and local governments. Prior to her position with SAS Institute, Inc. Ms. Savage was a Program Director at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in the Energy, Environment & Transportation program. During her 13 years with NCSL, Ms. Savage authored several publications on transportation issues, testified before state legislative committees and represented NCSL and the interests of state legislatures before national transportation organizations and working groups on a variety of topics. Before working at NCSL, Melissa worked in the Office of Legislative Legal Services at the Colorado General Assembly. She received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.

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