Almost all drivers in the United States have used the interstate system at one time or another, as it is an incredibly expansive system with over 46,000 miles of roadway. It has also been around for decades, having been started back in 1956. That was the year that the Federal Highway Act was passed, and the interstate system as it is known today was given birth.
With the end of the Second World War, the United States had the economic power to support such a project, but it was not just money alone that drove it forward. The road network was technically referred to at the time as the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. While this name may seem strange today, one must remember that the United States had just been at war in Germany and was currently involved in the swelling Cold War with the Soviet Union. The road system was looked at as an easy way to move troops and supplies across the country, if need be, and therefore would be helpful in defending that country.
In fact, is has been theorized that President Eisenhower, who had been in the war in Germany and seen the way that the autobahn helped move people and equipment quickly, wanted a similar system in the United States. It’s also worth noting that, long before he was the president, Eisenhower had been involved in the War Department’s Transcontinental Motor Convoy, which drove across the United States in 1919. It is possible that this trip was not a positive experience, as it took two months, and so he wanted a better system.
While the interstate never had to be used for defense, it did have a huge impact on the culture in America. Cars were becoming more and more popular at the time, and the interstate made it very easy to buy a car and move to the suburbs, rather than continuing to live in the city. People flooded out of the cities and many new communities were expanded or created. Movement out of the cities created a demand for both more housing and more automobiles, which is part of the reason that the economy was so strong. That strong economy helped to provide the money that people needed to take advantage of this new way of living.
The influx of people into the suburbs has shaped the United States all the way until the current decade. At this point, people are dependent on cars, and many people could not hold down their jobs without them. In fact, it has been determined that a mere five percent of American families do not have automobiles. Cars are as much a part of people’s daily lives as anything else that they own, and they will continue to be that way as long as the infrastructure stays the way that it is right now. The interstate system has connected the country so that people are free to live wherever they choose regardless of where they are employed.