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  • Ren Gudino

The FIRST Interstate Highway(s): All Three of Them

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

The United States highway system is one of the largest and most complex road networks in the world, covering over 160,000 miles, and it all started with the construction of the first interstate highway. However, the question of which state built the first interstate highway is not a straightforward one.





Missouri, Kansas, and Pennsylvania all claim to have built the first interstate highway, but the discrepancy lies in defining what constitutes an interstate highway. Missouri claims to have built the first interstate highway in 1916, a road running from St. Louis to Kansas City. This was the first road built with state and federal funds, and it was designed to be a high-speed route for automobiles. However, this road was not officially designated as an "interstate" highway until the 1950s, when the Federal-Aid Highway Act was passed.





Kansas claims to have built the first actual "interstate" highway in 1911. This was a 21-mile stretch of road that connected Wichita to Newton. However, this road was not built with state or federal funds and was not designed for high-speed travel. It did not meet the modern standards of what is considered an interstate highway.


Finally, Pennsylvania claims to have built the first true interstate highway in 1940. This highway was built with federal funds and was designed to connect Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. It was a high-speed route for automobiles and was built to modern standards. This highway met all the criteria of what is considered an interstate highway and was officially designated as such.





Despite the discrepancy, all three states played an important role in the development of the modern interstate highway system. They were pioneers in the use of state and federal funds for road building, and their efforts laid the foundation for the massive infrastructure projects that would follow in the decades to come.




The construction of the first interstate highway was a significant milestone in the history of transportation infrastructure in the United States. It paved the way for developing a vast network of highways and interstates connecting cities and towns across the country. The interstate highway system has been a crucial component of the country's economic growth and has facilitated the movement of goods and people across the nation.


While there is no clear answer to the question of which state built the first interstate highway in the United States, it is clear that all three states played a significant role in the development of the modern highway system. Their contributions should not be overlooked, and they should be remembered as pioneers in the field of transportation infrastructure. It is important to recognize the historical significance of the first interstate highway and the impact it has had on the country's development.

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