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1956-2006: The Interstate System Turns 50!

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Missouri Celebrates the Interstate System

I-70 Ground BreakingThere is no question that the creation of the interstate highway system has been the most significant development in the history of transportation in the United States. The more than 40,000 miles in the system have been significant factors to our economic well-being, to the mobility of the American population and to the way communities have located and grown across the land.  Missouri’s 1,100-plus miles of Interstates 70, 44, 55, 64, 29 and 35 are key components of the national system providing critical Middle-America links to the national system. 

Missouri can stake several claims to having the nation’s first interstate highway. On Aug. 2, 1956, Missouri became the first state to award a contract with the new interstate construction funds, inking a deal for work on U.S. Route 66 – now Interstate 44 – in Laclede County.  Also that day, Missouri awarded a contract for work on U.S. 40 – now I-70, the Mark Twain Expressway – in St. Charles County.  Cameron & Joyce Inc. of Keokuk, Iowa began construction on Aug. 13, another first for the Show-Me State. 

Here are some other Missouri interstate facts you might find interesting: 

  • We currently have 17 routes that carry the interstate designation and account for 1,180 miles of the 32,318 miles included in Missouri’s total highway system. 
  • Even though the interstate system accounts for less than four percent of Missouri’s total highway system, it carries 38 percent of the state’s total traffic volume.  Therefore, it is easy to see that the interstate system is a vital part of the overall transportation network in Missouri.
  • Out of these 1,178 miles of interstate routes, 944 miles contain some lanes that were originally constructed prior to 1973.  That means that 80 percent of Missouri’s interstate system contains some lanes that are more than 25 years old, with some dating to the original 1956 construction date.  

Some of the most significant interstates in Missouri include:

  • I-70 – This interstate reaches across Missouri from the Illinois state line to the Kansas state line.  It is the nation’s fifth largest east-west corridor, passing through 10 states from Maryland to Utah.
  • I-29 and I-35 – Both interstates are congressionally designated high priority corridors that handle traffic in northern Missouri.
  • I-44 – This interstate stretches across the south central part of Missouri and is a major corridor traveling from the Midwest to the west coast.
  • I-55 – This interstate runs from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Missouri also has numerous interstates located in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas that serve a vital role in the daily transportation needs of Missourians and the traveling public.




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