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About U.S. Highways

The United States highway system had its beginnings in 1916 when congress responded to the need for roads suitable for the modern automobile with the Federal Aid for Highways Act. A numbering system was introduced with even numbered routes running east-west and odd numbered routes running north-south. The final list of routes was agreed upon on November 11, 1926 with numbers ranging from 1 to 830. The routes were arranged so that, generally the numbers get higher going from north to south, and from east to west.

After World War II, factories turned from producing tanks to automobiles and a new surge of traffic took to the roads at faster speeds and with heavier loads than ever. In response the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways was passed June 29, 1956. The new interstate system was to a large degree a replacement of the former highway system with controlled access, divided highways designed for the new demands.

Beside their historic significance, the U.S. Highways are still an important access to many parts of the country, especially in the west where the interstates are more widely spaced. They pass through large areas of rugged terrain and sparsely inhabited areas where many scenic treasures and plain old open space can be found.