America Was Born 60 Years Ago

Missouri was the first state to get approved federal funding for building an interstate, built out of Route 66. Photo Credit: Missouri Department of Transportation

A few days ago in 1956, construction began on what became the starting point of modern America: the Interstate Highway System.

The initial proposal to Congress for the ribbons of pavement that would web this whole country together came first in 1939, but actual construction began on August 13th, 1956. It was just a few months after Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act. Construction started first in Missouri then Kansas, and spread from there developing existing highways into our interstates.


This is the genesis of our crushing blandness, chain food spots, gigantic box stores, and wilting main streets. And it’s also the start of our ability to engage so much more local color and character, easily moving from towns to cities and from one side of the country to the other. The interstates opened up what was for so long closed and regional.

The good and the bad, the modern America, is completely tied to our Interstates, bleary eyed through the night. Happy birthday.

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Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.