This year marks the 60th anniversary of President Dwight D Eisenhower’s signing into law of the Federal Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Michigan’s top transportation official, Michigan DOT director Kirk T Steudle, has now been named to join a committee that will study the future of the USA’s Interstate Highway System (IHS).
The IHS is a key component of the USA’s transportation system. While it makes up only 1.2% roadway line-miles of the country’s public road system, it handles nearly 25% of the total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) annually, and almost 40% of the total truck traffic.
The IHS has hardly changed since its inception 60 years ago, however, it is now showing its age. The Future Interstate Study is being performed in accordance with Section 6021 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, which calls for the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to conduct, ‘a study on the actions needed to upgrade and restore the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways to its role as a premier system that meets the growing and shifting demands of the 21st century’.
The TRB is one of seven program units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which has named Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) director Kirk T Steudle to join the study’s committee. At MDOT, Steudle has jurisdiction over 9,668 route miles (15,560km) or 32,043 lane miles (51,570km) of Interstate, US and State highways. He has served as a past chairman of the TRB’s executive committee and is the 2015 recipient of the TRB’s W N Carey Jr Distinguished Service Award.
Steudle joins the 14-member committee of experts that will develop a report over the course of the 30-month project. During the first 20 months of study, the committee will meet regularly to hear from key groups. Members have backgrounds in transportation policy and planning in both urban and rural contexts, travel demand, highway construction and operations, traffic safety, modeling, environmental and community impact mitigation, economic development, supply chains and goods movement, funding, equity and access to economic opportunity, multimodal transportation, and advanced vehicle technologies. Steudle is the only director of a state department of transportation on the committee.
“Our study will address what actions are necessary to upgrade and restore the nation’s interstate highway system,” explained Neil Pedersen, executive director of the TRB. “The committee will consult with national experts, operators and users of the interstate system, and private sector stakeholders, as it addresses its task, and recommends ways to ensure we have a premier system that meets the growing and shifting demands of the 21st century. We appreciate director Steudle bringing his expertise and insights to this important study.”
Steudle commented, “It will be a pleasure to serve with this talented group of people to help shape the future of the interstate system. With our state’s strong background in the automotive industry, we also can bring to the table the future of autonomous vehicles and its impact on our nation’s highways, among other things.”