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A Summer of Milestones

Posted by Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson

Historians agree that roads were one of the first human innovations that led to a “civilized” world. Communities emerged at crossroads where paths and trails intersected. In time, those routes became wider and better maintained to ensure uninterrupted commerce and travel. Centuries ago, the ancient Romans positioned stones at key points along these early roads, offering travelers navigational assistance. These stones were early mile markers – milestones, in the most literal sense of the word – to inform travelers of their progress.

Those early travelers might enjoy knowing that, even in the 21st century, people continue to rely on milestones. For example, today is the 62nd anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act – signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower – which gave the United States a national network of interstate highways. Nearly 222 million drivers depend on this road system every day, traveling more than 3 trillion miles each year. It is an incredible feat of engineering and continues to serve the American people by keeping them safe and our economy strong.

This month also marks the eighth anniversary of FHWA’s “Every Day Counts” initiative, which represents a milestone in innovation. For nearly a decade, it has inspired state and local governments to adopt cutting-edge technologies and practices – from warm-mix asphalt to drones – in their ongoing quest to save lives, shorten project delivery, improve overall quality and minimize cost to the taxpayer. Since the program’s inception, each state has used 14 or more of the 43 EDC innovations, and some states have adopted more than 30. EDC has become quite the on-ramp to innovation, and we are very proud of its successes. This year is no exception. After receiving 160 suggestions and comments for the fifth round of EDC, we identified 10 truly exceptional innovations that will help drivers, workers and taxpayers alike. From project bundling to crowdsourcing to advanced computer modeling, I encourage you to check it out at

FHWA’s academic research journal “Public Roads” will hit a major milestone when it turns 100 years old next month. This magazine has spent a century quietly enriching the scientific community on nearly every transportation topic possible, from the advent of cars to robotic bridge inspectors and nanotechnology. We look forward to shining the spotlight on one of the U.S. government's most important but least-known publications. A litany of safety improvements and innovations that have taken Americans from the horse and buggy to driverless cars have all been chronicled in this one amazing magazine for 100 years.

Milestones like these are no different than their ancient Roman counterparts: they help us see how much progress we have made, and ensure that we are heading in the right direction.  I hope you’ll join me in wishing a happy birthday to the U.S. interstate system, to EDC and to Public Roads. For everyone at the FHWA, this is a summer of milestones.

 Kansas City-area highway project was one of many milestones for the nation’s interstate system

This Kansas City-area highway project was one of many milestones for the nation’s interstate system, which was born June 29, 1956.