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Interstate Frequently Asked Questions

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Bush signed Public Law changing the official name of the Interstate System to honor the President who did so much to bring it about. Section of ISTEA directed the Secretary of Transportation to determine an appropriate system or emblem to be placed on Interstate highway signs to commemorate the former President's vision.

The FHWA, which accepted the two independent decisions, altered the color on the preferred design and made some other minor improvements. The sign was described in a report submitted to Congress on January 14, The sign was unveiled in the Mike Mansfield Room of the U. Congress on July 29, The State transportation departments may use regular Federal-aid highway funds, which are made available to the States on a formula basis, to install Eisenhower Interstate System signs.

However, each State determines whether to install them. As a result, motorists will see the signs in some States, but not in others.

Was President Eisenhower really surprised to discover that the Interstate System included urban freeways? The urban freeways were an important element of the Interstate System from its unveiling in the report to Congress: Toll Roads and Free Roads.

During congressional hearings in and , Mayors and municipal associations testified in favor of the Interstate System because of the benefits the cities expected to receive from urban highway segments. In fact, the U. This publication—known as the Yellow Book because of the color of its cover—was distributed to the Members of Congress as well as State highway agencies and city governments.

However, President Eisenhower was not aware of the urban highway segments. In the summer of , rumor has it that he discovered the existence of urban highway segments when he passed construction of the Capital Beltway while being driven to the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Whichever way he found out, President Eisenhower asked his friend and adviser, retired General John Bragdon, to conduct a broad review of the Interstate program.

Other urban Interstates should be eliminated. Mueller and Tallamy objected. The President responded that he now knew that the city officials and Members of Congress understood the urban highway segments were part of the program, even if they were contrary to his views. By then, he had heard of, but not seen, the Yellow Book Mueller handed him a copy and had been told that it was one of the prime reasons Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of Although the concept was against his wishes, he felt his hands were tied.

The urban Interstates would remain part of the program. If I want to suggest another Interstate, how should I go about it? Suggestions for building or designating another Interstate should be submitted to the State transportation department.

The Federal Highway Administrator may act only on requests submitted by a State transportation department or departments in the case of multi-State routes. The route must be built to Interstate standards, be a logical addition or connection, and coordinated with affected jurisdictions. If the route is not yet complete, the State may request designation as a future part of the Interstate System. No special Interstate funding is available to build the route to Interstate standards, but the State may use regular Federal-aid highway funds, made available each year by statutory formula, for the route on a priority basis within funding limits.

From a motorist's standpoint, there is no difference between Interstate highways funded under the Act , as amended, and Interstates funded in some other way. How can I get more lanes on my Interstate? Because the Interstates are owned by the States and operated by the State transportation departments, anyone concerned about operation of an Interstate highway should contact State transportation officials.

They are in the best position to discuss proposals to upgrade Interstate highways. They also can explain the project development process, which includes compliance with environmental requirements such as the National Environment Policy Act , public involvement, and identification of funding through the statewide transportation planning process or metropolitan transportation planning process.

How can we get an interchange built to improve access to the Interstate System? The Interstate System has full access control. This means only interchanges designed for safe, efficient operation provide access.

Although States own the Interstate highways, the Federal Highway Administration FHWA has retained authority to approve any change in access, including new or modified interchanges. The FHWA may approve the access point for the interchange if it complies with the policy on "Additional Interchanges to the Interstate System" published in the Federal Register on February 11, http: If the access point is approved, the State transportation department is responsible for following the normal project development stages assessment of environmental impacts, detailed design, and, if needed, acquisition of right-of-way before construction can begin.

There's a big pothole on my Interstate-who could I contact? Contact the State transportation department and let its maintenance officials know of the problem. How can the States charge tolls on Interstates I paid taxes to build? The Interstate System is free of tolls for the most part, but tolls are collected on some segments.

Most major toll roads were planned or built before the Congress authorized significant amounts of Federal funding for the Interstate highway program.

These segments were built by toll authorities created by State or local legislation to issue bonds as a way of financing construction. Toll revenue is used to retire bonds and cover operating and maintenance expenses. One of the controversial issues Congress considered before passing this legislation was what to do with the turnpikes that had been built or planned in Interstate corridors without Federal funding. In an extensive congressional debate, members considered purchasing the bonds to allow removal of the tolls, but this option would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars without creating any new Interstate mileage.

Another option was considered—constructing toll-free Interstate highways in these corridors—but it would have diverted funds needed for new highways in areas not served by Interstate-type facilities. It also would have jeopardized the legitimate right of the toll authorities to pay their bondholders.

Therefore, Congress decided to include some toll facilities in the Interstate System to ensure connectivity. Federal law has changed over the years to allow turnpikes on the Interstate System under other circumstances. In all, the 46,mile Interstate System includes approximately 2, miles of turnpikes.

Although the Federal Government provided funds to help build the Interstate System, States own and operate the roads. The States may, if they wish, name any highway under their jurisdiction. Each State has its own mechanism for doing so.

In some cases, the State legislature must take the initiative in passing a law to name the route. In other cases, the State transportation department is responsible.

This concern is based on safety and operational considerations. For example, if an Interstate highway is named after an important person, the FHWA would be opposed to placing a statue of the person on the roadside where it could have deadly consequences if struck by a vehicle.

Similarly, a sign providing information on the individual, military unit, or historic event should be placed in a location, such as a safety rest area, where it will not create safety or operational difficulties.

Once a highway is officially named, resolution of the sign placement and location issue is a matter to be cooperatively determined between the State transportation department and the FHWA. Congress also can name Interstate highways by including the designation in the statutory language of a Federal law, such as the multi-year reauthorization bills for the Federal-aid highway program or the annual appropriations acts for the U.

Anyone interesting in naming an Interstate highway should ask the State transportation department about the steps that would have to be followed in that State.

Is it true that one out of five miles is straight so airplanes can land on the Interstates? This is a myth that is so widespread that it is difficult to dispel. Usually, the myth says the requirement came from President Dwight D. Eisenhower or the Federal-Aid Highway Act of However, no legislation, regulation, or policy has ever imposed such a requirement. Airplanes do sometimes land on Interstates in an emergency, but the highways are not designed for that purpose. Is it true that every so often there has to be a curve in a section of Interstate, to help keep drivers from falling asleep?

The reasons including taking advantage of the terrain along the route; avoiding obstacles or cultural development in the path; and, accommodating environmentally sensitive areas or mitigating impacts on them. Excessive curvature or poor combinations of curvature limit capacity, cause economic losses due to increased travel time and operating costs, and detract from a pleasing appearance. Alignments should be as direct as practical; and consistent with the topography, developed properties, and community values.

A flowing line that conforms generally to the natural contours of the land is preferable to an alignment with long tangents slashing through the terrain. Construction scars can be kept to a minimum and natural slopes and growth can be preserved. The alignment of a proposed highway should be determined by a detailed study of the area through which the road passes. The finished highway, road, or street should be an economical, pleasant, and safe facility on which to travel.

Can I set up a business in safety rest areas or welcome centers selling food or other products to motorists? The commercial prohibition in Section dates to when Congress was considering the legislation that launched the Interstate Highway Program.

The Members considered following the model of the toll turnpikes that provided commercial facilities in service areas for motorists who would otherwise have to leave the facility and pay a toll to continue their journey.

Congress rejected this model by enacting the Section prohibition on commercialization. The intent was to avoid State approved or supported monopolies for traveler services, such as those provided on toll roads. During the debate, Representative Charles A.

Vanik D-OH explained what Congress had in mind: The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of modified the commercial restriction by permitting vending machines in rest and recreation areas constructed or located on the Interstate right-of-way.

Safety rest areas are intended to serve motorists by allowing them to take a short break, use the rest rooms, shake off drowsiness, and then move on. The absence of commercial services except for vending machines means motorists can stop without any pressure to make purchases. For food, gasoline, lodging, and other commercial services, motorists can leave the highway and return to it without a toll charge.

A Legacy for Users , approved August 10, , provides that the Secretary of Transportation shall establish an Interstate oasis program for designating facilities off the Interstate right-of-way that offer products and services to the public, hour access to restrooms, and parking for automobiles and heavy trucks, and meet other standards to be determined. Thus, as in the past, Congress has chosen an alternative for accommodating Interstate motorists that does not involve commercial services within the Interstate right-of-way again, with vending machines as the exception.

Litter along the highways has been a problem for years, long before the Interstate System came into existence. States enact laws imposing fines for littering, but can enforce the law only if a police officer sees an act of littering. Litter is part of each State's road maintenance responsibility, with funding for litter control coming from State sources. One approach to litter pick-up is the Adopt-A-Highway concept.

It began in Texas in as a way of meeting a public need by tapping the tremendous public spiritedness of citizens. Each State and each community can adapt the concept to its own unique situation. In general, when a group or individual agrees to clear litter periodically from a stretch of road, the State transportation department or county or city provides training to ensure litter is collected safely, along with trash bags, a sign displaying the name of the organization that adopted the highways, reflective vests, and other equipment.

Anyone concerned about roadside litter along the Interstates is encouraged to contact the State transportation department to discuss the Adopt-A-Highway program or other methods the State may use to collect litter. Johnson, did not abolish billboards, or even abolish all billboards along certain highways, such as the Interstate System.

Rather, as amended over the years, it requires the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that the State transportation departments maintain "effective control of the erection and maintenance" of signs, displays, or devices, including outdoor advertising signs that are visible from the highway, beyond feet of the Interstate right-of-way outside urban areas, and erected with the purpose of their message being read from the highway.

Signs not subject to meeting those criteria are limited to directional and official signs; signs advertising products for sale on the property on which they are located; signs lawfully in existence before enactment of the HBA; and, those advertising the distribution by nonprofit organizations of free coffee to individuals traveling on the Interstates.

The HBA also allows State and local officials to impose more stringent controls on billboards than those mandated by Federal law. The result varies from State to State and even from community to community, with some States essentially banning billboards while others allow them to the maximum extent permitted under the HBA. Can I pick the beautiful wildflowers along the Interstate?

Many departments of transportation have begun planting wildflowers not only for their beauty but to save costs on mowing grass and trimming other plant growths. Enjoy the increasing roadside wildflowers, but leave them for the pleasure of others. It is especially dangerous to stop on a highway shoulder to pick or photograph these flowers.

It is also illegal in most States. By the time you arrive at your destination, the wildflowers will likely have wilted anyway. You will have lost their beauty, and we will have lost another seed source. There is only one condition where you may dig up native wildflowers, grasses, ferns, etc. Highway construction projects are planned many years ahead. If you know of a native plant remnant that should be salvaged and moved to a safe location before construction begins, contact your State transportation department to ask permission.

Can my science class or community organization plant trees or flowers on Interstate rights-of-way near our city? Yes, but you must contact your State transportation department to locate an appropriate spot and learn how to plant safely. Many States require a plan and a permit for volunteer plantings in rest areas, city entry sites, or other locations. Remember that trees are fixed objects and can be deadly if struck by a vehicle moving at high speed, so trees must be planted in areas where they will not cause safety problems.

Call and learn more. A freeway has full control of access to provide for high levels of safety and efficiency in the movement of large volumes of traffic at high speeds.

Freeways have grade separations at all railroads and public crossroads, with interchanges at selected crossroads for access.

Traffic can enter on via the interchanges. The toll turnpikes that have been incorporated into the Interstate System are freeways. They must have full control of access to prevent motorists from using the facility without paying the toll. What is vertical clearance and why did the Department of Defense DOD object to the minimum vertical clearance for the Interstate System in the s?

It is typically at least 1 foot higher than the legal vehicle height, plus an allowance for future resurfacing that could raise the top of the pavement.

Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways , the primary justification for the network was its civilian benefits, such as economic opportunity, safety, relief of congestion, and evacuation of cities.

However, the emphasis on civilian needs was consistent with the position of the Department of War now Defense, of course dating to the early s—if we build a road network adequate for civilian needs, it will serve defense needs as well, with some additions to connect with bases or military plants.

It would not be possible to justify such an expenditure solely on the basis of military needs. This figure wasn't pulled out of thin air. The DOD had previously indicated, in and , that a foot vertical clearance was adequate for most military vehicles. However, after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite in October , the DOD determined that a foot vertical clearance was needed for some larger equipment, such as the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile, that could not be transported by rail.

On January 27, , the BPR issued instructions to its field offices changing the minimum standard to 16 feet for Interstate highways in rural areas.

The first construction project affected by the change was in Michigan, where highway officials using hydraulic jacks lifted the Clear Lake Road overpass on I near Lansing from a clearance of feet, 6-inches to feet, 3-inches.

On the priority network, the States were encouraged to implement, as rapidly as practical, those modifications necessary to obtain a foot clearance. Off the priority network, the foot clearance would be implemented only in conjunction with other construction work.

The DOD remains concerned about vertical clearance. Today, the minimum vertical clearance standards apply to all rural Interstates not just a priority network and a single Interstate through each urban area. All exceptions to this requirement, whether for new construction or a reconstruction project that does not provide for the foot minimum vertical clearance, would be coordinated with the DOD.

The FHWA stressed that this agreement applied to the full roadway width, including shoulders for the through lanes, as well as ramps and collector-distributor roadways in Interstate-to-Interstate interchanges. The vertical clearance policy has been incorporated into Policy on Design Standards — Interstate System.

It contained a financing mechanism for the Interstate System based on the concept that all revenue from highway user taxes would be set aside for highway purposes. At the suggestion of Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey during testimony a few days later, Representative Boggs modified the bill to provide the linkage by creating a Highway Trust Fund modeled on the Social Security Trust Fund. Although congressional action would modify the Highway Revenue Act of in some ways, it would remain part of the bill the House of Representatives and Senate approved on June 26, In short, the President had to sign only one bill, not two, to create the program that gave the country the Interstate System.

How long is the Interstate System? Who built the Interstate System? What did it cost? Why did the Federal Government pay 90 percent of the cost? Why did it cost so much more than expected? What was the first Interstate? When did the program end? Are the Interstates really safer? Who numbered the Interstates? Why doesn't the Interstate System have an I?

Why don't you correct inconsistencies in numbering? There's a big pothole on my Interstate—who could I contact? This Week on the Web Mr C says August 11, at 3: Will be very helpful during revision, project discussion, group studies etc. What if we learned about our students differently? You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account.

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Steps for using the method in class: Use speed learning in cases where each student has something unique to share, it could be workshopping their project ideas or sharing a news article they were asked to being in. Students arrange themselves so that each person is sitting across from one other person. Place a visible countdown timer so that students are able to manage their time well. Use a graphic organizer to focus the listener and facilitate active participation.

Example from History of Anything project Have the students switch times depending on the desired outcome of the activity. In my experience, less than three is not enough, more than 5 and the students start to tire of the activity. Provide time for the students to process the questions they heard and the feedback they received.

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