Rollin Down the Highway

Ah it’s summer time again and with it hundreds of thousands of families hitting the road in the Family Truckster.  Many will probably use GPS units, but some will head out with the old stand-by, a folded Interstate map.  If you are like me, you were taught that Kansas’ native son Dwight Eisenhower helped to create the system, of which a primary purpose was to improve the mobility of troops in times of war.  Apparently the other thing I learned (that it is law that once every five miles the road must be straight so planes could land) was actually an urban legend.

Interstates are often the most visible geospatial feature on the maps that we construct, and in fact it is tough for me to imagine a road map without the tell-tale red white and blue shield, yet this wasn’t always the case. Check out this original map from 1947 laying out what would be the Interstate System.   Ten years later in 1957, an official numbering scheme was developed, and for a bit of local flavor, check out this video circa 1961 from the Department of Commerce talking about the new Interstate in Kansas City entitled the, “Path to Prosperity” which expounds the virtues (some which are obviously dated) of I-35 in Kansas City.

Thankfully, summer vacations no longer require gassing up every fourth exit or so due to increasing fuel efficiency.  EPA is responsible for providing the fuel economy data that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to publish the annual Fuel Economy Guide.  You can access the guide here. It is a good resource if you are looking to pick up a new or used vehicle or want to ground truth your own vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

This brings me back to the family vacation; before you head out on the road make the most of your trip by planning ahead to save both gasoline and money.  You might just want to get an old service station map to plot your course, circle the roadside attractions you want to visit, and scribble notes.  Trust me a crumpled, folded, stained, marked-up map makes a great thing to throw in your kids’ memory box to remind them of your trip to Region 7 to see the largest ball of twine (I’ll let you decide whether it is the one in Cawker City, KS or Branson, MO…better yet visit them both).

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.