For more than fifty years, construction of 47,000-mile Interstate Highway System functioned as the focal point of the federal surface transportation program based on a vision to connect the economies and communities of the fifty states. The approach was a federally funded cost-to-complete Interstate program administered by the states which are responsible for operating and maintaining the system. While construction of the Interstate was largely completed by 1990, the addition of new segments, capacity expansion, and major reconstruction continues.
With the enactment of ISTEA in 1991 the focus broadened to the 160,000-mile National Highway System (NHS) that includes the Interstate, other principal arterials, the Strategic Highway Network, and intermodal connectors. This system represents 4 percent of the nation’s roads but carries 40 percent of all highway traffic, 75 percent of heavy truck traffic, and 90 percent of tourist traffic. The concept of a national highway system was established as a way to focus federal resources on the nation's most important roads with the NHS as the backbone of the nation’s surface transportation system.
The Interstate Highway System was constructed to connect the states. The vision for the future must produce a well managed, maintained and operated system to effectively and efficiently connect the nation to the global economy. This vision must be clearly articulated and embraced by the state, metropolitan and local officials who are the owners and operators of the highway and transit systems and who are responsible to their constituents for meeting mobility and access needs.
The objective of this project was to provide support for the planning and execution of an event to bring together representatives from state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and other transportation and community interests to develop a vision to guide the future surface transportation program and a strategic plan to advocate that vision. A three-day retreat was held May 21-23, 2007, in Cambridge, MD, where participants worked to articulate a vision for the future surface transportation program. Background materials were developed to support the discussions, including a synthesis of recent research and policy reports, and provided to participants prior to the retreat. A summary report and research strategy report prepared to document the discussions and present a proposed vision and advocacy strategy based on those discussions were delivered to AASHTO.