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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Interstate Highway System

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, courtesy Library of Congress.

On June 29, 1956, the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Between 1954 and 1956, there were several failed attempts to pass a national highway bill through the Congress. The main controversy over the highway construction was the apportionment of the funding between the Federal Government and the states. Undaunted, the President renewed his call for a "modern, interstate highway system" in his 1956 State of the Union Address. Within a few months, after considerable debate and amendment in the Congress, The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 emerged from the House-Senate conference committee. In the act, the interstate system was expanded to 41,000 miles, and to construct the network, $25 billion was authorized for fiscal years 1957 through 1969. During his recovery from a minor illness, Eisenhower signed the bill into law at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the 29th of June. Because of the 1956 law, and the subsequent Highway Act of 1958, the pattern of community development in America was fundamentally altered and was henceforth based on the automobile.
Anyone born after 1960 probably has no recollection of the country without the vast system of highways that criss-crosses the United States. Not only did it make it easier to get from one part of the country to another, the system also brought forth the rise in motels and fast food restaurants!

We have several books in our collection that discuss the country's eating habits before and after the interstate highway system--it's a fascinating lesson in social history!

Fieri, Guy. Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives: An All-American Road Trip--with Recipes! [647.9573 FIE]

The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food: Before the National Highway System, before Chain Restaurants, and before Frozen Food, when the Nation's Food was Seasonal, Regional, and Traditional: From the Lost WPA Files. [394.12 FOO]

Stern, Jane and Michael. Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 600 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice-cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More. [647.9573 STE]

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