Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (credit: Dwight Eisenhower Library)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (credit: Dwight Eisenhower Library)

President Dwight Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 into law 60 years ago on June 29th had a profound change and impact on American life.  This act established the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (aka the Interstate Highway System), one of largest public works programs in U.S. history and an integral part of U.S. economy and culture. The act created 41,000 miles of highways and is credited for improving the transportation of goods and services, and giving birth to the commuter. The new roads allowed Americans to live farther away from the cities and provided easy access to commute from the suburbs to work.

public_roads_1The Federal-aid highway program began with the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, and many miles of highways and rural roads were built under this funding program through the 1930s. As the need for major interstate highways increased, a master plan for highway development was created in 1939 under President Franklin Roosevelt and was finally fulfilled with the passage of the 1956 Act, signed by President Eisenhower. The Act also created the Highway Trust Fund, which funds Federal-aid highway projects in partnership with state highway agencies.

The first construction project begun under the Act was for work on U.S. 40 (now the I-70 Mark Twain Expressway) in Missouri. Currently there are just under 47,000 miles of Interstate highways in the U.S., and new routes are developed by states to this day.

To celebrate this momentous day in transportation history, please enjoy the historical resources GPO provides:

  • The text of the 1956 bill, from the United States Statutes at Large, available via govinfo
  • 50th anniversary hearings before the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure,  June 27, 2006, available via govinfo
  • America’s Highways: 1776-1976, a book published by the Federal Highway Administration in 1976, documenting the history of the highway system, available via GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
  • Highway History, a website managed by the Federal Highway Administration, with informative articles and other historical resources, including a 50th anniversary commemorative webpage
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library’s Interstate Highway System collection, containing digitized documents from the Eisenhower presidential papers relating to the passage of the Act
  • Highway hearings, a promotional video created by Dow Chemical in an attempt to increase popular support for the Act

750-005-00164-7The Federal Highway Administration publishes a bimonthly magazine titled, “Public Roads Magazine.” It contains many articles relating to highway research, engineering, safety on the highways, surfacing, and other subjects in this field. Reading Public Roads is the easiest way to keep up-to-date on developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology. Learn more and subscribe, or read online.

We hope you will enjoy these interesting resources that capture the essence of this historic and influential event in U.S. history.


In addition to clicking on the links in the article above to find the publications, you may find these publications from the following:

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

 Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Blogger contributor Jennifer Lindley is a Technical Services Librarian in GPO’s Library Services & Content Management office.

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