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2 The Vision Takes Root and Pays Off The founders of the Interstate Highway System relied on a federalâstate partnership to build a transcontinental highway system without parallel (McNichol 2003, 8). Their vision spawned a modern freeway system that would eventually crisscross the United States to connect widely dispersed population and commerce centers and support the countryâs economy and defense needs. In response to proposals from Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congress specified the system in 1944 and resolved remaining governance and funding issues in 1956. In a federalist construct that developed after decades of proposals and debate, the federal government took the lead in providing funding and general oversight of the system, while the states developed standards and constructed, operated, and maintained individual highways. This chapter describes how the foundersâ vision has been realized through the Interstate Highway Systemâs vast reach and scope, connections with other transportation modes, role in national defense, shared use by travelers and freight carriers, and superior safety performance. Although its founders expected the system to confer large social and economic benefits, they likely could not have imagined how radically it would transform the intercity trucking industry; alter communities; influence the size, shape, and location of the countryâs metropolitan areas; and become central to the economy and daily lives of virtually all Americans. However, they may have underestimated the social and economic costs that the systemâs development and operation would impose, especially by transforming urban land use, dividing neighborhoods in the heart of many of the countryâs largest cities, and increasingly contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. 27
28 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM In discussing the key ingredients in the systemâs success, including its eco- nomic and safety benefits, its social costs must also be acknowledged. THE VISION TAKES ROOT Good roads and canals will shorten distances, facilitate commercial and personal intercourse, and unite, by a still more intimate community of interests, the most remote quarters of the United States. âAlbert Gallatin, Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on Roads and Canals, 10th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 205, April 6, 1808, p. 725 Just 1 year after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington had already surveyed a westward route to Ohio and encour- aged his compatriots to build a road following this route to unite the new country (McNichol 2003, 14). Indeed, many of the countryâs founders be- lieved that transportation networks, primarily rivers and canals at that time but also roads, were important for binding the once loosely affiliated former colonies (Weingroff n.d.-a, 183â340). Future presidents and congresses, however, would struggle to realize this vision of a unifying transportation network until constitutional questions about the federal role with respect to interstate roads were resolved at the end of the 19th century, and until the commercial and popular demand for such roads emerged after the advent and embrace of the automobile early in the 20th century. Throughout the 19th century, and despite numerous proposals for federal involvement in transportation improvements, successive presidents and congresses debated whether the Constitution gave the federal govern- ment authority to build or provide funding for canals and highways. Many proposals to do so were vetoed or failed because of a lack of clarity on what the Constitution allowed (Weingroff n.d.-c, 1â75).1 A strong federal role in interstate highways was not deemed constitutional until an 1893 Supreme Court ruling invoked the Commerce Clause as the basis of federal authority to fund and construct roads (Weingroff n.d.-c, 78â79). Political consensus on this role at the national level, however, remained elusive for decades. That consensus started to emerge in the early 20th century as demand for highway transportation escalated in the years immediately before and after World War I. Trucking expanded exponentially at the outset of World War I as European powers rapidly increased their imports of U.S. supplies 1 Note that Congress continued to fund individual improvements through appropriations bills, often over the objections of presidents who viewed this as unconstitutional, but all pro- posed national programs of funding for highways failed from the time the Constitution was ratified in 1787 until 1916.
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 29 to a level that overloaded the capabilities of American railroads (Williamson 2012). Introduction of the Ford Model T one decade earlier had made the automobile affordable to the growing American middle class, and by the 1920s, millions of motor vehicles were plying the countryâs growing, but still anachronistic, network of public roads. Land-based transportation in the early decades of the 20th century was characterized by a congested road system, designed and configured for local uses, and punctuated by discontinuities. To alleviate these shortcom- ings, states such as Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania built and later improved limited-access tolled turnpikes between major cities (Seely 1987). Some of these early tolled highways implemented important new design features, such as the use of bridges to provide grade separation of roads at intersections, that would later be incorporated into the Interstate Highway System. Unlike the tolled turnpikes of the 18th and 19th centuries that suf- fered public disenchantment and bankruptcy of their operators,2 the state- operated turnpikes succeeded during this era of burgeoning passenger and freight transportation demand, prompting growing interest in tolling as a highway funding mechanism. President Franklin Roosevelt, who had earlier promoted building and using roads as governor of New York, was enamored with the concept of a system of tolled transcontinental superhighways. Throughout his first two terms as president, he pondered maps demonstrating various routes, but was reticent about implementing his grand vision because it would not immediately affect Depression-era unemployment and would have been questioned by many in Congress who opposed a federally run highway construction program. The outbreak of World War II created new priorities for the president and Congress, temporarily delaying plans to develop an interstate highway system. When the end of the war was in sight, interest in developing a high- quality system of interstate highways resurfaced. However, many experts, including his own technical advisors, remained skeptical of Rooseveltâs earlier notion of a tolled system (Weingroff n.d.-a, 183â340). Thomas McDonald, the long-serving head of the federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), opposed the idea because of the challenges of obtaining rights-of- way, a compelling need to help states fund safety improvements on existing roads, and the priority of alleviating the local congestion problems arising in the countryâs rapidly suburbanizing cities. McDonald also questioned whether there would be sufficient demand for long-distance trips by highway, as BPRâs analysis indicated that toll strategies would not work for large portions of a national system crossing lightly populated rural 2 âBy 1830, more than 8,000 miles of roads had been built or converted to turnpikes under state charters of incorporationâ (Williamson 2012, 3).
30 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM areas and were better suited for limited circumstances such as high-demand, urban segments (Weingroff n.d.-a, 299â307). In 1943, Rooseveltâs National Interregional Highway Committee rec- ommended constructing a 40,000-mile Interstate Highway System, which was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944. The designated system was to be based on enhanced design standards developed by the states with 50 percent federal funding. While the 1944 act generated scant mileage, in part because the states in the waning years of World War II had few resources to devote to constructing new highways, it reinforced a prec- edent set years earlier by the Federal Road Act of 1916 by delegating deci- sion making about roads to the states while retaining federal authority to restrict federal aid to a subset of state highways having interstate functions (Weingroff n.d.-b).3 With the idea of a tolled interstate highway network gaining no traction, the Interregional Highway Committee proposed a na- tional system of âfreeâ highways that, together with the assurance of suffi- cient state control, would form the basis for compromises within Congress. Those compromises, forged under the leadership of President Eisenhower, led to passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (Weingroff n.d.-c). The legislation required that the Interstate Highway System connect, by routes as direct as practicable, the principal metropolitan areas,4 cities, and industrial centers; serve national defense; and connect all suitable border points with routes of continental importance. The 1956 actâs passage hinged on the system being funded on a âpay-as-you-goâ basis, with revenues obtained from highway user fees, primarily in the form of federal fuel taxes and various truck fees and taxes. The revenues would be placed in a Highway Trust Fund (HTF) with a guarantee that the funds would be dedicated to federal-aid highway projects, including specific funding solely for the development of the Interstate System. With revenues from the HTF, the federal government would reimburse states for 90 percent of the cost of construction. While the act limited the system to 41,000 miles, it authorized the inclusion of some existing toll highways that would not be eligible for HTF funding. Important for ensuring system connectivity, the program assured states that they would ultimately be provided the federal aid needed to complete a planned route, known as âcost-to-completeâ assurance. That federal funding would be capped, however, based on an estimate of the cost to complete, which entailed segment-by-segment projections of investment 3 âPost roadsâ are mentioned in the Constitution as under federal authority, but by the 20th century, the roads on which post offices were located were not necessarily major thoroughfares or interstate in character. 4 âThis National System of Interstate Highways, although it embraces only 1.2 percent of total road mileage, joins 42 state capital cities and 90 percent of all cities over 50,000 popula- tionâ (Eisenhower 1955, 2).
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 31 requirements. The first cost-to-complete agreement (known as the Interstate Cost Estimate, or ICE) was generated in 1958 at $37.6 billion and subse- quently approved by Congress (Weingroff n.d.-d). Under the agreement, ICEs would need to be updated with each authorization cycle. ADVENT AND EVOLUTION OF THE INTERSTATE SYSTEM With passage of the 1956 act, the states embarked on the worldâs largest construction project, an undertaking that would quickly produce observ- able consequences by shaping household travel patterns, transforming the long-haul trucking sector, and contributing to the decentralization of met- ropolitan areas. To help constrain total spending, the 1956 act had limited the total mileage that could be built with federal aid (FHWA 2017a). Subse- quent reauthorizations added increments of mileage to the original system. For example, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 included approval for a total of 43,000 miles for use of Interstate Construction (IC) funding (FHWA 2017a, n.d.-a). One of the hallmarks of the Interstate Highway System is its uniformity across states. The 1956 act required that the system be built using common geometric and construction standards, as well as other features such as consistent signage. The specific standards were developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and adopted by the BPR and its successor agency, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The standards included the following requirements: â¢ Full control of access to the facilities, â¢ Minimum spacing between full-control access interchanges of 1 mile in urban and 3 miles in rural areas, â¢ Design speeds of 50 to 70 miles per hour (depending on type of terrain), â¢ A minimum of two travel lanes in each direction, â¢ 12-foot lane widths, â¢ 10-foot right paved shoulders, â¢ 4-foot left paved shoulders, â¢ 16-foot vertical clearance for structures (originally set to meet military deployment needs), and â¢ Common signage. Research activities, such as the American Association of State Highway Officials Road Test, also played a key role in providing the basic durability requirements for Interstate pavements, including their 20-year design life, as well as for the impact of highway traffic on the durability of bridges (Hallin et al. 2007; Highway Research Board 1962).
32 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM With these basic system standards and a funding mechanism in place, construction of the system began almost immediately after passage of the 1956 act, leading to a revolution in road-building technology and activity. Within a few years of the awarding of the first contracts to build the system in late 1956, states would end up moving more than 10 times the volume of earth required to build the Panama Canal, and they would pour enough concrete to build a wall 9-feet thick and 50-feet high and long enough to encircle the world (Arave 2003). By the 10th anniversary of the systemâs authorization, the states had opened more than 22,000 miles to traffic and had an additional 6,400 miles under constructionârepresenting more than half the planned system (FHWA 1985, 163). By 1966, mileage had been built and was under construction in every state in the continental United States, but with many gaps between segments. Those gaps would be reduced within a few years, but would take some time to close completely; indeed, one of the major transcontinental routes in the system, I-80, was not finished until 1986 (McNichol 2003, 119). This first half of the Interstate Highway System could be built so quickly because much of it passed through open rural areas (McNichol 2003, 116â117, 126â133). It also incorporated some highways that had been built years earlier. For example, a portion of Grand Central Parkway in Queens, New York, was opened to traffic in 1936 and later was incorpo- rated into the Interstate System as part of I-278. The Pennsylvania Turnpike between Irwin (southeast of Pittsburgh) and Carlisle (west of Harrisburg) opened in 1940 and was later designated as I-76 and I-70. The bulk of the second half of the Interstate System, which would traverse the most difficult terrain and cross urban areas, would take another 30 years to complete (McNichol 2003, 112). In fact, the original plan was recently completed, as the last discontinuity, a segment of I-95 on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, was finalized in 2018 (Sofield 2018). As the construction phase of the Interstate Highway System passed its zenith in the 1970sâand some early segments were beginning to show their age and wear from the stress of heavy useâCongress modified key aspects of the original Interstate program. The 1976 Federal-Aid Highway Act pro- vided, for the first time, funding for the â3Rsââresurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation.5 Reconstruction would become an eligible expense in 1981, creating the â4Rs.â6 While all Interstate maintenance had previously 5 3R projects usually involve pavement improvements intended to preserve and extend the service life of existing highways and improve safety. Restoration and rehabilitation work includes such repairs as strengthening of roadway bases, shoulder work, or drainage work so that additional treatments, such as resurfacing, can be done. They typically involve maintain- ing the existing three-dimensional alignment. 6 Reconstruction is defined as applying to roadways that are rebuilt primarily along existing alignment.
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 33 been the responsibility of states, a consensus had developed that it was in the national interest to provide federal funding for preservation7 as distinct from basic maintenance activities, such as snow removal and pothole repair, which would remain the exclusive responsibility of states. Successive changes in law would further modify the Interstate program by phasing out the dedicated highway construction program and by mak- ing the Interstates a subset of a much larger set of highways eligible for federal aid. In the face of uneven completion of the system among states, Congress modified the federal-aid funding formula by providing each state a minimum of 0.5 percent of the total Interstate construction apportion- ments. If not needed for new Interstate construction, states could use the funds for Interstate 4R work, as well as for work on other highways eligible for federal aid. With passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Congress declared that the Interstate construction funds provided during that authorization period would be the final ones to complete the system. In 1995, Congress designated the National Highway System (NHS), a 160,000-mile system that included the Interstates (Bennett 1996). The NHS is intended to include all highways with interstate trans- portation functions, even if they do not meet the specific design standards of the Interstate Highway System. With the advent of the NHS, the Interstate Highway System became one of several categories of roadways eligible for federal assistance, which also include the other 174,000 miles of non-Interstates in the NHS8 and an additional 800,000 miles of intrastate and interstate routes of lowers category (see Figure 2-1), for a total of around 1 million miles. In legis- lation passed in 2012, Congress consolidated funding for NHS projects under a newly established National Highway Performance Program (FHWA 2016d). Of federal highway aid funding committed to projects in 2014, about 30 percent went to projects on the Interstate System.9 Today, the Interstate Highway System, as shown in Figure 2-2, consists of more than 49,000 miles, including multiple transcontinental routes, 7 âPreservation consists of work that is planned and performed to improve or sustain the condition of the transportation facility in a state of good repair. Preservation activities generally do not add capacity or structural value, but do restore the overall condition of the transportation facilityâ (FHWA 2016c). 8 In 2012, Congress expanded the NHS by designating an additional 60,000 miles through Sec- tion 1104 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (FHWA n.d.-b). 9 Federal highway legislation offers states considerable flexibility in how they spend federal aid (it is not allocated by highway class). In fiscal year 2014, state obligation of federal aid to the Interstate Highway System totaled about $11.2 billion (31 percent) out of about $35.4 billion in federal highway aid provided to the states (see FHWA 2016e, Table FA-4C). Because about 15.5 percent of the federal gas tax is dedicated to transit, the share of total federal fuel taxes allocated to the Interstates would be less than one-third of total federal aid for surface transportation derived from fuel taxes.
34 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM segments in all 50 states, and connections to all major urban areas of the continental United States. All told, the systemâs construction, which was in 1955 expected to take 12 years to complete with an investment of about $27 billion ($252 billion in 2018 dollars) for 40,000 miles, would take more than 40 years to reach near-completion and a total state and federal investment of $114 billion ($209 billion in 2018 dollars) for the 42,795 miles originally planned (Rose 2003; Weingroff n.d.-d; Weiss 2008).10 Fig- 10 The final cost of the construction of the Interstate was estimated in 1991 as $114.3 bil- lion (FHWA 2017a). The inflation-adjustment index published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis was used to compare costs from 1955 and 1991 (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis n.d.). FIGURE 2-1 Extent of the Interstate Highway System in comparison to the rest of the road network as of 2017. NOTE: Mileage based on FHWA. VMT = vehicle-miles traveled. SOURCES: FHWA 2017b; n.d.-c, Table 3; n.d.-d.
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 35 ure 2-3 illustrates how Interstate centerline- and lane-mileage have changed since 1990, when the system was considered largely complete. A BOON TO PASSENGER AND FREIGHT TRANSPORTATION At a Glance â¢ The Interstate Highway System accounts for about one-quarter of all miles traveled by light-duty vehicles and 40 percent of all miles traveled by trucks.11 â¢ The system has accounted for significant travel savings for in- terstate and long-distance travel for both passenger vehicles and freight, in some cases reducing travel time by half compared with travel times before its construction. â¢ The Interstates not only serve as the backbone of the countryâs highway system but also connect to its marine ports, railroad terminals, and commercial airports. 11 This figure includes single-unit and combination trucks; it does not include pickup trucks. FIGURE 2-2 Route map of Interstate Highway System, 2017. CANADA MEXICO PACIFIC OCEAN ATLANTIC OCEAN CA NV OR WA ID MT WY SD ND UT CO OK TX DE MD RI MA NJ CT ME VT NH PA NY KS AZ NM LA SC NC FL KY VA WV OH MO IA AR TN MS AL GA MI NE WI IL IN MN HAWAII ALASKA PUERTO RICO
36 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM Motorists flocked to the Interstate highways as soon as they were opened to traffic, and that popularity has by no means waned. By 1967, Interstate routes already carried 12 percent of the countryâs vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) (FHWA 1967, 2017d). The Interstate Highway System today repre- sents little more than 1 percent of public road linear miles and 2.5 percent of lane-miles, accounting for about one-quarter of all VMT (21 percent of all light-duty vehicles traffic and 40 percent of all truck traffic12) (FHWA 2017e, Table VM-1).13 More than half of the miles traveled by combina- tion trucksâused mostly for freight carriageâoccur on the system (FHWA 2017e, Table VM-1). A clear reason for the popularity of Interstate Highway System is that it has been instrumental in reducing travel time for both personal travel and the movement of freight. To illustrate, driving time from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, from Memphis to Atlanta, or from Boston to Miami was reduced by almost half compared with the pre-Interstate era (see Table 2-1). According to the American Travel Survey, which was last updated in 1995, nearly one-quarter of long-distance trips by highway (mostly by In- terstate highway) were made for business-related purposes, but three-quar- ters were made for nonbusiness (including commuting) and recreational 12 Single-unit and combination trucks. 13 Most travel in light-duty vehicles is personal in nature (see AASHTO 2013, Table 21; FHWA 2016a, Table VM-2; 2016b, Table VM-4). FIGURE 2-3 Interstate mileage, 1990â2017. SOURCES: FHWA 2017g, Table FI-220; 2017h, Table HM-60. Lane-miles Interstate MilesLane Miles (thousands)Miles (thousands) 1990 198,085 45074 198 45 1991 199,329 45279 199 45 1992 200,733 45467 201 45 1993 201,322 45508 201 46 1994 202,098 45583 202 46 1995 203,293 45744 203 46 1996 204,753 46037 205 46 1997 205,422 46064 205 46 1998 206,237 46084 206 46 1999 207,491 46317 207 46 2000 208,499 46427 208 46 2001 209,141 46472 209 46 2002 209,677 46483 210 46 2003 209,975 46508 210 47 2004 210,815 46572 211 47 2005 211,550 46608 212 47 2006 212,324 46630 212 47 2007 212,782 46672 213 47 2008 213,588 46751 214 47 2009 214,086 46720 214 47 2010 215,903 46900 216 47 2011 216,549 46960 217 47 2012 218,862 47432 219 47 2013 219,798 47575 220 48 2014 221,229 47662 221 48 2015 222,989 48053 223 48 2016 224,218 48192 224 48 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 1990 2000 2010 2020 M ile s ( Th ou sa nd s) Year Interstate lane-miles Interstate centerline miles
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 37 purposes (TRB 2016). These figures demonstrate the broader impact of the Interstate System beyond its commercial usage. Travel-time savings to the countryâs freight sector have also been large, contributing to marked growth in long-haul truck traffic. For example, trucks moved about 17 percent of ton-miles in the mid-1950s (Weingroff, n.d.-c); by 1980, this share had almost doubled to 30 percent, and by 2015 it had reached almost 40 percent (BTS 2017). Figure 2-4 displays the In- terstate System in red lines whose thickness is proportional to the average volume of daily truck traffic. The Interstate highways also play a vital role in connecting other freight modes. Figure 2-5 shows a map of the highway corridors (in red) that the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) has identified as part of the National Highway Freight Network. Routes on this national network are viewed as deserving of strategically directed federal resources and policies to improve the performance of the countryâs overall freight system. Most TABLE 2-1 Example Comparisons of Driving Distance and Time in 1955 on Non-Interstate Routes and in 2018 on Interstate Routes Driving Distance (miles) Driving Time (hours:minutes) Approximate Reduction in Driving Time (%)City Pair 1955a 2018b 1955a 2018b Los Angeles to Washington, DC 2,940 2,660 72:00 39:00 (partially tolled) 46 Boston to Miami 1,655 1,492 44:20 22:45 (partially tolled) 49 Salt Lake City to Chicago 1,484 1,399 32:50 20:20 (partially tolled) 38 Denver to Saint Louis 899 850 19:00 12:15 (partially tolled) 36 Boston to New York City to Washington, DC 450 442 12:40 7:40 (partially tolled) 39 San Francisco to Los Angeles 405 383 10:05 6:25 36 Memphis to Atlanta 403 385 10:35 5:45 46 aCalculated from data from 1955 United States Mileage Chart. American Automobile Association. bData from Google maps.
38 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM of the highways identified are Interstate routes, which are instrumental in serving the countryâs marine ports and commercial airports, as well as con- necting major freight rail hubs. BROADER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES At a Glance â¢ Analyses of the economic returns to Interstate and other highway investments in the United States have found high net social rates of return. â¢ Urban Interstates and other freeways contributed to suburbaniza- tion and the depopulation of many major U.S. cities. â¢ When the Interstates were being planned, many state and local officials believed the urban portions would reduce congestion and help save declining central business districts, which was not always the case. Today, some metropolitan areas are considering mitigations, such as covering urban Interstate segments or placing them in tunnels to reunite divided communities. FIGURE 2-4 Average daily long-haul truck traffic on the Interstate Highway Sys- tem, 2015. NOTE: Long-haul freight trucks typically serve locations at least 50 miles apart, excluding trucks that are used in movements by multiple modes and for mail. SOURCE: FHWA 2017.
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 39 More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America with straightaways, clover- leaf turns, bridges, and elongated parkways. Its impact on the American economyâthe jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open upâwas beyond calculation. âDwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 1963 (FHWA n.d.-e) President Eisenhowerâs assessment of the Interstate Highway Systemâs far- reaching impact appears to have been justified. In the more than 50 years since he offered the assessment, the system has become even more inte- grated into the U.S. economy and lives of Americans. With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that the original Interstate System had important catalyzing impactsâgoing beyond where traffic demand was foreseeable to influencing future economic development and its location. As a result, the United States has managed to overcome the disadvantage of the long distances that separate many regions of the country. This benefit not only has enabled the country to employ its rich array of human and natural resources to compete in global markets, but also it has helped integrate national, multistate, regional, and local economies as they have capitalized on the systemâs connections, travel speed, and capacity advantages. FIGURE 2-5 Multimodal freight network. SOURCE: U.S. DOT 2016.
40 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM Regions previously not well connected to the national economy have become more closely linked by the Interstate System for both the move- ment of goods and personal travel. The system has shaped the economics of residential, commercial, and industrial locations throughout the nation. It has expanded businessâs access to labor markets and allowed people to commute farther to their workplaces, which in turn has opened up more land around cities for housing and commercial development. Improved ac- cess has allowed businesses to restructure their operations and locations to increase efficiency. For instance, the faster trucking service made possible by the Interstate System has allowed firms to rely on fewer and larger produc- tion and distribution centers to reach markets and reduce inventories (Louis Berger International 1995, 15â16). These impacts can be difficult to quantify. However, analyses of the economic returns to highway investment in the United States, in general, have found a high social rate of return. That return was highest during the postâWorld War II expansion of the countryâs overall highway network (Nadiri and Mamuneas 1996).14 During the 1950s and 1960s, when much of the Interstate System was constructed, economic returns on highway investments have been estimated as averaging 50 to 60 percent. Moreover, analyses indicate that almost every sector of the economy experienced sig- nificant economic gains as a result of highway investments (Mudge 2018, 19â20). The trucking industry, whose fortunes are tied most closely to high-quality highways, is estimated to have reaped especially large pro- ductivity benefits from federal investments in Interstate highways. Between 1950 and 1973, when the Interstate System took shape, these returns to the trucking industry alone were so large that they could justify one-third to one-half of the federal-aid investment over this 23-year period (Keeler and Ying 1988).15 It is generally understood that urban Interstates and other freeways contributed to suburbanization and the depopulation of many major U.S. cities, which accelerated after World War II in concert with an expanding middle class and the fast-growing personal motor vehicle fleet.16 Although many other factors were at work, the Interstate System facilitated greater dependence on the automobile for commuting to work and other household and social activities. Interstate âbeltwaysâ were built on the outskirts of 14 See also Mudgeâs (2018) recent interpretation of these results. Note that one would expect the correlation between overall interstate highway investment and economic returns to decline after a network has been built and in place. At that point, the economic contribution of the network is based on its performance and connectivity and the way it continues to affect the geography of economic activity, as described in the previous paragraph. 15 Note that the authors of this report intentionally ended their period of analysis in 1973 in order to exclude the effects of transportation deregulation. 16 This section is drawn from a literature review and literature cited in TRB (1998).
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 41 many cities for the purpose of redirecting longer-distance, interstate traffic around urban areas and congested central business districts (CBDs), but these highways quickly became heavily used for local traffic. The 1970s and 1980s saw a building boom of commercial and residential development along these highways, such that by the 1990s, the majority of office space in many metropolitan areas, such as Boston, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, and St. Louis was located outside the traditional CBD (FDIC 1997; FRED n.d.). By this time, Interstates alone carried 26 percent of daily VMT within ur- banized areas, and the most common commute was no longer from suburb to CBD but from suburb to suburb (Pisarski 2006). These changes in the economic development patterns of metropolitan areas reflected the time and cost savings provided by highways and helped metropolitan areas became vital centers of economic activity. However, the effects of urban Interstates were not entirely beneficial for center cities and their neighborhoods. The postwar mass movement of people and employers to the suburbs led to the loss of center city population, a declining housing stock, and impoverished urban neighborhoods (TRB 1998). Even before planning began to bring Interstates routes into cities, officials at all levels were calling for urban renewal programs to clear âblightedâ areas and to introduce urban expressways to reduce congestion and save declining CBDs (Mohl 2004, 678). The federal government thus provided funding through the Interstate and urban renewal programs to implement plans for direct freeway access to central cities. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 changed the funding formula for highway construction from the 50/50 percent share of federal and state funds previously authorized under the Federal Highway Act of 1916 to a 90/10 percent ratio for Interstate projects. Coupled with state preemption of local transportation planners and city officials in locating Interstate routes, this funding change gave state highway agencies greater capacity and incentive to build urban Interstates, often without consulting or coordinating with affect cities (Taylor 2000). Until the 1970s, when stronger federal provisions requiring more con- sultative highway planning took effect, cities without the ability to alter state highway plans often experienced the loss of their neighborhoods to ac- commodate the new urban freeways, often before residents had the oppor- tunity or wherewithal to resist (AMPO n.d.). Many of the routes harmed low-income, often minority, neighborhoods. In downtown Miami, for ex- ample, a 30-square-block interchange displaced more than 10,000 mostly African American residents and fragmented the once-thriving Overtown district next to the CBD (Mohl 2004, 688). In New Orleans, Interstate 10 was built âstraight through a poor black neighborhoodâ (McNichol 2003, 155). The governor of Michigan blamed the destructive 1967 Detroit riots primarily on the siting of urban Interstates through minority neighborhoods (McNichol 2003, 155). Similar impacts in other cities led civic associations,
42 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM civil rights leaders, and historic preservationists to begin pushing back in what became known as the âFreeway Revoltâ in a dozen or more cities during the 1960s and 1970s. The damage done to the social fabric and economic vitality of many cities by urban freeways that split and isolated neighborhoods persists to this day, leading some states and metropolitan areas to plan and take miti- gative actions to reunite communities. The Embarcadero in San Francisco, the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, and the I-95 Pennâs Landing project in Philadelphia17 are examples of projects intended to replace, place below grade, or cap Interstate highways for the benefit of local communities while maintaining the highwaysâ functionality. ROLE IN NATIONAL DEFENSE The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) transports much of its heavy equip- ment and supplies by freight rail for long distances domestically. However, the Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) also is critical to DoDâs logistics, including emergency mobilization plans and peacetime movements of heavy armor, fuel, munitions, parts, and food. The network, shown in Figure 2-6, was developed by DoD in collaboration with FHWA and state DOTs. It includes the entire 49,000-mile Interstate Highway System and another 15,000 miles of other major highways (FHWA 2017c). It also in- cludes another 2,000 miles of lesser state and local roads that link military installations and marine ports to major highways. DoDâs 2012 Strategic Seaports Study concluded that most existing STRAHNET highways con- necting strategic seaports are adequate to support todayâs and foreseeable DoD deployments (DoD 2012). SAFETY BENEFITS At a Glance â¢ The Interstate highways are the safest roads in the country per vehicle-mile traveled. â¢ Reconstruction presents opportunities to enhance the safety per- formance of the Interstates through the use of modern highway designs with known safety benefits, including advanced electronic technologies once proven to confer such benefits. 17 I-95 in Philadelphiaâ$225 million total investment to cap a section of Interstate 95 (Delaware River Waterfront 2017).
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 43 The Interstate Highway System was designed to provide not only efficient but also safe transportation. Full access controlâone of the key features of Interstate highwaysâis perhaps the most significant design feature effective in lowering crash rates (AASHTO 2011). Many other features contribute, including some found on other high-quality freeways, such as clear zones on roadsides; wide lanes and shoulders; straighter geometries with super- elevated curves; and an emphasis on good lighting and drainage, familiar and legible signage, and the maintenance of pavement markings. Per mile traveled, the Interstate System is the safest highway network in the United States. Compared with other road types, Interstate fatality rates are the lowest on both rural and urban routes. In 2016, the United States experienced 37,740 traffic fatalities, 5,054 (about 13 percent) of which occurred on the Interstates (FHWA 2017f, Table FI-220)âthis de- spite their relatively high travel speeds and 25 percent share of VMT. Given the 805 billion miles traveled on the Interstates in 2016 (FHWA 2017e, Table VM-1), this fatality figure represents a rate of 6.3 deaths per billion miles of travel. In contrast, the fatality rate on all other public roads in that same year was 13.2 deaths per billion VMT.18 It has been estimated 18 Calculated from data from FHWA (2017e, Table VM-1; 2017-f, Table FI-220). FIGURE 2-6 The Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET). SOURCE: Map shared by Busler 2017, 13. 1Together, we deliver. HND - STRAHNET
44 NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM that since 1967 when the Interstate System was little more than a decade old, more than a quarter-million additional deaths would have been expe- rienced had all the miles traveled on the Interstates been traveled on other roads with their higher rates of fatal crashes.19 Nevertheless, more than 5,000 deaths per year is a serious public safety concern, and the Interstates continue to be the focus of efforts to increase their safety performance. Ensuring the safety of work zones is a particular consideration, and one that may become even more challenging as the sys- tem undergoes more repair and reconstruction work and as traffic volumes increase. Interstate entrance and exit ramps can be especially hazardous where they merge with surface streets having considerable pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Indeed, about 14 percent of fatalities on urban Interstates involve pedestrians and bicyclists, often in the vicinity of these entrance and exit ramps.20 SUMMARY This chapter has described how the original vision for the Interstate High- way System was realized through the systemâs vast reach and scope, connec- tions with other modes, shared use by travelers and freight carriers, support for national defense logistics, and high safety performance. Key points are summarized below. The Interstate Highway System was originally funded on a âpay-as- you-goâ basis, with revenues obtained from highway user fees, primarily in the form of federal fuel taxes and various truck fees and taxes. The revenues were to be placed in a Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to be used exclusively for federal-aid projects; of those total funds, the 1956 Act carved out specific funding dedicated to Interstate highway planning and construction. The Interstate System was designed for uniformity across states. The 1956 act that created the system required that it be built using common geometric and other design standards, as well as uniformity of other fea- tures such as signage. The legislation also required that the Interstate System connect the countryâs principal metropolitan areas and industrial centers; serve national defense; and provide all suitable border points with routes of continental importance. As the construction phase of the Interstate System passed its peak in the 1970s and 1980s and some early segments were deteriorating from heavy use, Congress modified key aspects of the original Interstate program by 19 Traffic fatality calculations and rates were provided by the Insurance Institute for High- way Safety. 20 Analysis provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety based on data from U.S. DOTâs Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
THE VISION TAKES ROOT AND PAYS OFF 45 allowing the use of federal-aid funds for purposes other than new construc- tion, including resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of existing segments. Congress also made HTF funds available for spending on other highways and public transit. In 2014, about 30 percent of total federal highway aid from the HTF was allocated to the Interstate System. The Interstate System accounts for about one-quarter of all miles trav- eled by light-duty vehicles and 40 percent of all miles traveled by trucks. The Interstates have a vital role in serving the countryâs marine ports and commercial airports, while also having connections with major freight rail terminals. The Interstate System has had a mixed record of impact on the countryâs metropolitan areas. The system has been vital to connecting metropolitan areas and as commuting and commercial traffic corridors, spurring business and residential development. However, it is now widely believed that urban Interstates and other urban freeways also contributed to suburbanization and the depopulation of many major cities. When the urban Interstates were being planned, many officials believed they would reduce congestion and help save central business districts. Some metropolitan areas are now trying to remedy the adverse effects of freeways, some that have divided and isolated communities, through means such as covering or capping segments. Interstate highways are the safest roads in the country per vehicle-mile traveled. Many factors contribute to the systemâs safety, including wide lanes and shoulders and straighter geometries with superelevated curves. An especially important feature is the systemâs full access control. As the system undergoes repair and reconstruction, ensuring the safety of work zones will be a challenge. Reconstruction also presents opportunities to enhance the safety of the Interstates through the use of modern design standards and other features that confer known safety benefits. REFERENCES Abbreviations AASHTO American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials AMPO Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations BTS Bureau of Transportation Statistics DoD U.S. Department of Defense FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FHWA Federal Highway Administration FRED Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis TRB Transportation Research Board U.S. DOT U.S. Department of Transportation AASHTO. 2011. A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 6th ed. AASHTO, Washington, D.C.
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