Progress of the Road Program

September 2, 1960

Report Outline
Development of interstate Highways
Financing of National Road Program
Administration of the Road Program

Development of interstate Highways

When the national System of Interstate and Defense Highways was launched four years ago, motorists were promised that by 1972 they would be able to drive anywhere on a 41,000-mile network of superhighways free of traffic lights and stop signs. Today, the undertaking-which President Eisenhower once called “the greatest public works program in history” is up against financial difficulties. It is also plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Rep. John A. Blatnik (D Minn,), chairman of the House Public Works Special Subcommittee on the Federal Aid Highway Program, has predicted that hearings to be resumed late this year on fraud charges will open the program to criticism that will make past fault-finding seem “like a tea party.” Blatnik has called review of federal highway legislation a “major ‘must’ project” for the next Congress.

The Department of Commerce is now revising estimates of the cost of building the interstate road system. Even if the 1958 estimate of a $40 billion total is found still valid, Congress will have to arrange at least $10 billion of additional financing to finish the program on schedule. It may be aided in that task by Commerce Department findings, to be submitted shortly, on the direct and indirect benefits that various groups may expect to receive from the new highways. The findings are intended to serve as a guide to equitable distribution of the tax burden imposed by the federal share of the total cost. They are apt to be an influential factor in determining whether or not highway users will be called on to pay an increased federal gasoline tax to help finance the roads.

Federal AID For Highway Construction, 1916–56

Federal interest in interstate highways was evidenced as early as 1806, when Congress voted funds to construct the famous Cumberland Road, leading from Cumberland, Md., to the Ohio River and beyond. When Ohio came into the Union in 1803, Indiana in 1816, Illinois in 1818, and Missouri in 1821, Congress provided that 5 per cent of funds accruing to the federal treasury from sales of public lands in each of those states should be applied to building of roads within or leading to the state.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Highways and Roads
Apr. 19, 2019  Aging Infrastructure
Sep. 11, 2017  Infrastructure
Jun. 06, 2016  Infrastructure
May 04, 2012  Distracted Driving
Sep. 28, 2007  Aging Infrastructure Updated
Oct. 06, 2000  Drunken Driving
Mar. 12, 1999  Truck Safety
Jul. 14, 1995  Highway Safety
Oct. 09, 1981  Interstate Highway System at Twenty-Five
May 05, 1965  Highway Design and Beautification
Sep. 02, 1960  Progress of the Road Program
Mar. 06, 1957  Billboards and Roadside Controls
Dec. 13, 1954  New Highways
Jul. 25, 1939  Prevention of Highway Accidents
May 13, 1935  Elimination of Highway Grade Crossings
Dec. 24, 1932  Federal Highway Aid and the Depression
Apr. 30, 1931  Billboards and Roadside Improvement
Feb. 14, 1929  Toll Bridges and Toll Roads
Jul. 11, 1927  Ten Years of Federal Aid in Road Building
Motor Traffic and Roads