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Question 4

    You could make a case for (B), Thomas Jefferson, since it was under his administration that the first federally funded interstate highway was conceived. This was the Cumberland Road, more commonly known as the National Road. The idea was that this route would link the civilized east with the western territories, starting at Cumberland, Maryland and aiming west through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri.

    But to call the early National Road a "highway" is something of a stretch. It was an "improved" dirt road running through thick and daunting wilderness. It was hard to build too. The original plan was approved in 1806, but the project proceeded in fits and starts. It went on for 44 years when in 1850 it was finally abandoned in Vandalia, Illinoisstill about 100 miles short of its goal of St. Louis. Think of that: 44 years worth of orange barrels!

    By that time the collective wisdom was that it just wasn't worth putting so much time, money, and effort into a road. Roads, after all, were inefficient and old-fashioned. The future was in canals and railroads.    

    It wasn't until about a century later that the country summoned its collective will and resources to create a viable interstate highway system. Dwight D. Eisenhower led that push so that correct answer is (C). That's why the interstates are scattered with "Eisenhower Interstate" signs.

    There's a story here too. In 1919 a 3-mile long convoy of military cars, trucks, and motorcycles made its way from Washington D.C. to San Francisco; it was the army’s first transcontinental trip by motor vehicle. Travel was not easy. For one, the vehicles kept breaking down, but even without mechanical delays, the roads were so bad that progress was torturously slow. It took the army caravan 62 days to go coast to coast, averaging about 5 miles per hour. One of the participants on that journey was a young lieutenant named Dwight David Eisenhower. Lt. Eisenhower came off the journey convinced that America needed better highways.

    His chance came 35 years later in the 1950s when, as president, he championed the cause of an interstate highway system that would link the country through a web of four-lane limited-access highways. In 1956, Congress approved the legislation and President Eisenhower signed a bill authorizing $25 billion to create the interstate highway system and committing the country to its completion by 1972. (It took longer than that and cost a lot more too.)

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