Driving America’s Backbone

Last month I drove from the tip of Florida to northern California – more than 3,000 miles across the U.S., The road trip through 9 states took me 6 days, most of it traveling on the Interstate Highway System, otherwise known as “America’s backbone.”

Road Trip USA, photo by GoErinGo copySince I was driving solo, I had plenty of time to think and gape at my surroundings. What struck me the most was the fact that I could drive the entire distance without paying a single toll. Not only were all the roads free, but they were all in remarkably good shape and there was no litter to be seen. Impressive!

Driving the “Backbone”

This journey got me wondering about the Interstate Highway System, the world’s largest public works project. So I did a little internet research and this is what I’ve learned:

How big is it? The system is 46,876 miles long. This is just shy of traveling the distance around the world’s equator – twice.

When was it created? It was started in 1956 pushed through by Eisenhower and it’s not yet complete. There’s one stretch north of Philadelphia that’s still to be included.

Who paid for it? We did. Americans were taxed for the system’s construction. The total cost is estimated to be $128.9 billion.

Are all the roads free? Nearly. Some of the roads were built with state or private funding before the national system was erected. These paid turnpikes account for less than 6% of the entire system.

US Interstate Highway SystemWho patrols the roads? States are charged with maintenance and security. They also get to choose the speed limit and name the roads in their state.

Can you bike it? Mostly not. Some western states allow bikes when there’re no alternative routes.

Route 66

While I traveled the Interstate Highway System more than 90% of the way, I picked up the historical Route 66 in Tulsa, OK and drove it all the way to Barstow, CA. This section of the Interstate Highway nearly maps the historical route exactly.

Constructed in 1926, Route 66 originally took you from Chicago to Los Angeles, a total of 2,451 miles (3,945 km). It was booted from the formal interstate system in 1985 with the new highways replacing its well-worn roads.

Road Trip USA

Planning your own road trip this summer? Don’t hesitate to travel the Interstate System. It’s truly an American marvel. Just remember to look up and enjoy the wide vistas and to stop for that milkshake along the way!

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 and is filed under North America.

Join Our Mailing List

Thanks for checking out my global living and giving adventures!

Sign up for my Weekly Update to get a free Charitable Giving Guide and more surprises straight to your inbox. Join the fun!