35 years before the construction of the Interstate Highway System (IHS) was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, in 1921, Congress authorized building and expanding US highways. Germany’s Reichsautobahn system, which Eisenhower admired, made him champion the IHS.
2. Reichsautobahn was the beginning of German autobahns under the Third Reich. Though opposing plans for a highway network, Nazis embraced them after coming to power and presented the project as Hitler's own idea to reduce unemployment (here he is ceremonially shoveling dirt).
3. In 1954, Eisenhower appointed General Lucius D. Clay to head a committee charged with proposing an interstate highway system plan. Clay was Eisenhower’s deputy during World War II and was known for his administration of occupied Germany after the War.
4. Clay's committee proposed a 10-year, $100 billion program, which would build 40,000 miles of divided highways linking all American cities with a population of greater than 50,000. National defense and economic growth were twin pillars of Clay’s plan for the highway system.
5. “It was evident we needed better highways. We needed them for safety, to accommodate more automobiles. We needed them for defense purposes, if that should ever be necessary. And we needed them for the economy. Not just as a public works measure, but for future growth.” - Clay
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