Asphalt Paving Blog

The Revolution of Pavement Starting at Route 66

Have you ever wondered what the first paved road was like? Route 66 is not the same as it was when the highway was built in the 1930s. With highways and paving, transportation and people’s lives were revolutionized during the 1930s and 1940s.

Route 66 Pavement

Highways allowed people the opportunity to travel, to have a sense of freedom, going from town to town. Route 66 was the first paved highway that gave hope to those looking for jobs and a better life.  The highway was so popular a song was even written about it, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” which became a hit by Nat King Cole.

Among popular highways like Route 66, came Wisconsin’s first divided highway. Blue Mound Road became a divided, paved, four-lane highway in the 1920s. The road was highly travelled because it connected Wisconsin’s two major cities, Madison and Milwaukee. 

Building interstates was the next step after highways. After Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, the interstate network was born. The late 50s ended with the construction of the interstate and it was not completed until the 1990s. The creation of interstates boosted business and cities and suburbs started to grow.

Trucking and long-distance travel increased because of the development of interstates. More families began traveling and touring. More companies began using commercial freight by truck as opposed to using the railroad. With all the travel, the automobile industry began expanding and had a stronger demand.

Because of the increase in traffic and travel, more distinct ways of commuting were necessary. So began the construction of intercity highways, beltways, and city streets, resulting in the growth for business in America.

What would it have been like had paved roads not been created, and stayed dirt roads? How would the business industry have developed?

Interested in learning more about the growth of the paving industry and how roads evolved? Read more at America on the Move from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Topics: Route 66, Paving, Madsion, Pavement, Milwaukee