US Interstate Highway System as a subway map



To see the high resolution infographic to see the most readable version.

Transit-style cards are something of a “rite of passage” for any novice information designer.

People tend to be obsessed with them, and for good reason. What maps lack attention to fine detail, they make up for in their ease of use, organization, and ability to reduce complex geography to simple, elegant shapes. They show the big picture in an easy-to-follow way, even for seemingly unrelated topics like the extensive road network of the Roman Empire.

Today’s infographic fits into this theme, coming from the designer Cameron Booth. Showcasing the interstate highway system in the United States, it takes advantage of the map style of public transportation.

Note: The design shown is about five years ago, but here is an updated 2017 version in poster form.

The interstate motorway network

You may know the highway system simply as the “Interstate,” but it actually has a much longer and official title: the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Freeways. This is because he was defended by President Eisenhower in the 1950s during his first term, after seeing the logistical efficiency of the new Reichsautobahn in Germany.

Here are some facts about the Interstate Highway System that you may not know:

  • Part of the rationale for building the system was to have a way to evacuate citizens from major cities during nuclear attacks.
  • The system has been designed so that in the event of an evacuation, traffic can be directed to move in all lanes in one direction.
  • In today’s dollars, the cost of construction was approximately $ 526 billion.
  • Campaigners were frustrated with the construction and shut down freeways in New York, Baltimore, Washington DC and New Orleans. As a result, some urban roads have become “roads to nowhere”.
  • In a kilometer of highway, there are about 3 million tons of concrete. In comparison, there are 6.6 million tonnes of concrete in the Hoover Dam.
  • Approximately 374,000 vehicles travel on I-405 in Los Angeles each day – no wonder this is the city with the most traffic in the world.

Today, there are now approximately 47,856 miles (77,017 km) of highway in the system, approximately 6,000 miles (9,700 km) more than originally anticipated. Meanwhile, the Interstate Highway System accounts for a quarter of all vehicle kilometers in the country.


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