The year 2006 was the golden anniversary, or the 50th birthday, of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. This system, usually referred to as The Interstate Highway System, is a system of freeways named after the U.S. President who supported it. The system is the largest highway system in the world, consisting of 46,876 miles (75,440 km) of freeways. The construction of the interstate highway system is an important part of American history. It has played a major role in preserving and maintaining the America way of life.
The interstate highway system has several major functions. One of its major functions is to facilitate the distribution of US good. Because the intestate passes through many downtown areas, it plays an important role in the distribution of almost all goods in the United States. Nearly all products travel at least part of the way to their destination on the Interstate System. Another major function of the interstate is to facilitate military troop movement to and from airports, seaports, rail terminals and other military destinations. The Interstate highways are connected to route in the Strategic Highway Network, which is a system of highways that are vital to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Today, most of the Interstate system consists of newly constructed highways. The longest section of the Interstate system runs from Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington. It covers 3,020.54 miles. The shortest two-digit interstate is from Emery, North Caroline to Greensboro, North Caroline. It covers only 12.27 miles. All state capitals except five are served by the system. The five that are not directly served are Juneau, AK, Dover, DE, Jefferson City, MO, Carson City, NV, and Pierre, SD. The Interstate Highway System serves almost all major U.S. cities.
EACH Interstate highway is marked with a red, white, and blue shield with the word “Interstate,” the name of the state, and the route number. Interstate highways are named with one or two-digit numbers. North-south highways are designated with odd numbers; east-west highways are named with even numbers. The north-south Interstate highways begin in the west with the lowest odd number; the east-west highways begin in the south with the lowest even numbers. There all mile markers at each mile of the interstate system, starting at the westernmost or southernmost point on the highway. Every Interstate highway begins with the number “0”. Interchanges are numbered according to their location on the highway in relation to mileage; an exit between milepost 7 and milepost 8 would be designated “Exit 7.” This system allows drivers estimate the distance to a desired exit, which a road is leading off the highway. Despite the common acceptance of the numbering system on the Interstate highways, some states have adopted different numbering systems. For example, a portion of the Interstate 19 in Arizona is measured in kilometers instead of miles since the highway goes south to Mexico.
Since the Interstate highways are freeways-highways that do not have signs and cross streets – they have the highest speed limits in the nation. Most interstate highways have speed limits between 65 – 75 miles per hour (105 – 120 kilometers per hour), but some areas in Texas and Utah have an 80 mile-per-hour (130 kilometer-per-hour) speed limit.
The federal government primarily funds interstate highways. However, they are owned and operated by the individual states or toll authorities in the states. The federal government generally funds up to 90% of the cost of an Interstate highway, while the states pay the remainder of the cost.
Where are the highest speeds allowed on Interstate highways?
On January 3, 1961, nine days after Christmas, Richard Legg, John Byrnes, and Richard McKinley were killed in a remote desert in eastern Idaho. Their deaths occurred when a nuclear reactor exploded at a top-secret base in the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS). Official reports state that the explosion and subsequent reactor meltdown resulted from the improper retraction of the control rod. When questioned about the events that occurred there, officials were very reticent. The whole affair, in fact, was discussed much, and seemed to disappear with time.
In order to grasp the mysterious nature of the NRTS catastrophe, it help to know a bit about how nuclear reactors work. After all, the generation of nuclear energy may strike many as an esoteric process. However, given its relative simplicity, the way in which the NRTS reactor functions is widely comprehensible. In this particular kind of reactor, a cluster of nine-ton uranium fuel rods are positioned lengthwise around a central control rod. The reaction begins with the slow removal of the control ro, which starts a controlled nuclear reaction and begins to heat the water in the reactor. This heat generates steam, which builds pressure inside the tank. As pressure builds, the steam looks for a place to escape. The only place this steam is able to escape is through the turbine. As it passes through the turbine on its way out of the tank, it turns the giant fan blades and produces energy.
On the morning of January 3, after the machine had been shut down for the holidays, the three men arrived at the station to restart the reactor. The control rod needed to be pulled out only four inches to be reconnected to the automated driver. However, records indicate that Byrnes yanked it out 23 inches, over five times the distance necessary. In milliseconds the reactor exploded. Legg was impaled on the ceiling; he would be discovered last. It took one week and a lead-shielded crane to remove his body. Even in full protective gear, workers were only able to work a minute at a time. The three men are buried in lead-lined coffins under concrete in New York, Michigan, and Arlington Cemetery, Virginia.
The investigation took nearly two years to complete. Did Byrnes have a dark motive? Or was it simply an accident? Did he know how precarious the procedure was? Other operators were questioned as to whether they knew the consequences of pulling the control rod out so far. They responded “Of course! We often talked about what we would do if we were at a radar station and the Russians came.
“We’d yank it out.”
Official reports are oddly ambiguous, but what they do not explain, gossip does. Rumors had it that there was tension between the men because Byrnes suspected the other two of being involved with his young wife. There is little doubt than he, like the other operators, knew exactly what would happen when he yanked the control rod.
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