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The concept of an Interstate system as we know it was first described in a 1939 report to Congress called Toll Roads and Free Roads. The ideas expressed in the "free roads" portion of the report evolved through further study and experience before approval of the authorized designation of a "National System of Interstate Highways," the legislation did not authorize an initiating program to build it.The report rejected the toll superhighway network Congress had suggested; revenue from tolls on most segments would not support the bonds issued for their construction. After taking office in January 1953, President Eisenhower made revitalizing the Nation's highways one of the goals of his first term.In all, Federal-aid legislation authorized a total of 9 billion to pay the Federal share of the cost of Interstate construction.(Interstate Construction funds were authorized through Fiscal Year 1996.) To Top Why does the Federal Government pay 90 percent of the cost?The States will own the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. The final estimate of the cost of the Interstate System was issued in 1991.It estimated that the total cost would be 8.9 billion, with a Federal share of 4.3 billion.Therefore, the plan the President submitted to Congress called for establishment of a Federal Highway Corporation to issue bonds to pay for the Interstate System up-front, with the Federal excise tax on gasoline and lubricating oil (which then went to the general Treasury without a linkage to highways) was dedicated to bond retirement.

The one exception is the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge (I-95/495) over the Potomac River in the Washington area. When the first span of the replacement bridge, now under construction, is opened, the old bridge will be removed.Later, during his World War II stint as Commander of the Allied Forces, his admiration for Germany's well-engineered Autobahn highway network reinforced his belief that the United States needed first-class roads.As a result, Eisenhower formed internal committees to study the idea, enlisted the Nation's Governors to offer suggestions, and met with Members of Congress to promote the proposal.However, the report added that the country needed a toll-free express highway network. As an army Lieutenant Colonel in 1919, Eisenhower had accompanied a military convoy across the United States and saw the poor condition of our Nation's roads. Fairbank, Chief of the agency's Division of Information, prepared the report.

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When the program took shape in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, it differed in some ways from the President's proposal, particularly with regard to the source of funding for the program, but Congress retained the Federal-State matching share of 90-10 as a reflection of the Interstate Construction Program's importance to national goals.