Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Calvin White Jr.

Second Committee Member

J. Laurence Hare


Social sciences


In order to understand the development of the Interstate 49 corridor, which began almost a half century ago, it is necessary to analyze the complex nature of federal aid highway legislation. For nearly one-hundred years politicians struggled to create a comprehensive highway program, and many felt this had been achieved with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. However, the focus on the construction of interstate highways often overlooked the needs of important secondary and primary highways. Although John Paul Hammerschmidt, the first Republican Congressman to serve Arkansas since Reconstruction, believed the Social and economic success of the United States relied almost entirely on the continued development of a national system of interstate highways, he understood the difficulties faced by constituents located in isolated rural areas off the interstate highway grid. The discontinuance of privatized passenger railroads in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hit the people of western Arkansas especially hard. The most serious blow occurred when service ended on the last remaining passenger trains between Kansas City and New Orleans, which left a significant transportation void. Hammerschmidt used his power as a member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee to cosponsor the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1972 which would have allowed Highway Trust Fund monies to continue to be used for both interstate and other federal highways. The 1972 act also included a provision for the establishment of a priority primary route system, which would insure federal funding for the improvement of key arterial routes throughout Arkansas. Unfortunately, the bill died, and it was not until 1991 with ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) that Hammerschmidt was in a position to secure funds for a major North-South interstate highway through Arkansas. ISTEA made possible the construction of Interstate 540 through Northwest Arkansas. Since that time, politicians and various interest groups continued to advocate for the development of a major North-South interstate between Kansas City and New Orleans. Their plans were realized with Interstate 49, now estimated to be almost eighty percent complete. When finished, it will connect the Gulf Coast to Winnipeg, Canada.