Matter & Substance
  April 29, 2014

The United States Transportation System: Our Huge Advantage

The United States enjoys a huge competitive advantage among other nations due to our transportation system. No country in the world has a system like that of the United States which combines geography and constructed assets.

The Mississippi River system forms the backbone of shipping through the central United States from the Appalachians to the Rockies. This huge watershed flows south to the Gulf of Mexico creating a massive system of navigable waterways where goods can be shipped throughout the world. This system can be contrasted with Russia where the major rivers flow North into the Arctic Ocean or into the Caspian Sea and are useless for transportation outside Russia. Additionally, the United States has the Great Lakes system with access to the Atlantic through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Another advantage is the system of inland waterways that run along the Atlantic coast. All of these waterways have been utilized for commerce since the explorers arrived from Europe.

The geographic advantage has been enhanced by the development of railroads. There are approximately 233,000 railroad miles in the United States. Although passenger travel has declined over the years, railroads play an important role in the economy, especially for moving imports and exports using containers, and for shipments of coal and oil.

These factors are further enhanced by the Interstate Highway System. This is a tremendous source of wealth for the nation as it is extremely efficient and results in cost reduction for almost everything we buy. The system consists of about 48,000 miles. The cost of construction was about $450 billion (in 2006 dollars). It also permits one to get in their car and drive virtually anywhere in the continental United States. The Interstate Highway System came about because President Eisenhower saw the limitations of the European roads and highways during World War II. He recognized that the proposed system also would provide key ground transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments in case of an emergency or foreign invasion. One can see the benefit of this system when they visit places like Alaska or Hawaii where many things have to be brought in by ship or aircraft and everything is really expensive.

We benefit from our unique transportation system every day. It has dramatically improved our quality of life.


"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." - Maya Angelou