Interstate highways are supposed to go from one state to the next.

That fact is in the very name: “inter” meaning between and “state” meaning. . .   uh. . . state. So interstate highways should go between states. Sure, Texas drivers can drive on the interstate for hours without hitting a state border, but  they’re original purpose was to make it possible for people to go from one state to another.

So this question comes up from time to time:
Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

And usually it seems to be asked by some smart aleck who thinks he’s just thought of something really clever and original. (You know who you are.)

In truth, Hawaii does have three interstate highways — H1, H2, and H3 — all of which were built to connect important military facilities on the island of Oahu. So not only do they not connect to other states, they don’t even connect to the other eight major islands.

And that mention of military facilities is a big part of the explanation of why they’re called “interstate highways” even when they’re obviously not inter-state highways.

Following World War II and during the Cold War, the US government had been concerned about the ability to rapidly move military personnel and equipment rapidly across the country. President Eisenhower in particular had returned from Germany very impressed by the Autobahn system that Hitler’s National Socialist had created to move their army around. So a movement was begun to build a similar system in the USA, which led eventually to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. This act called for the construction of an enormous highway infrastructure to connect major cities and military facilities, even the three in Hawaii.

And that’s why Hawaii has three interstate highways, even if they’re not for travelling inter-state.


  1. Steven lindsay on 02/02/2012 at 4:16 pm

    You’re missing a “to go” in the last sentence of the first paragraph.

    • admin on 02/03/2012 at 12:05 pm

      It was the second paragraph, but thanks for letting me know.

  2. Antonia on 05/24/2012 at 10:01 am

    Maybe I should think about hepinlg my mom put in a big garden out in her backyard. She knows how to can fruit and vegetables, maybe I need to get her to teach Mrs. Snave and me how to do it. Those who already know how to successfully garden and put up food may be in a better situation in the coming years than those of us who don’t. Gas lines today, bread lines tomorrow?Contemplating what things might look like in America in 8 or 10 years, or even sooner? It is pretty disheartening to think it might end up looking like the USSR. I need to try for some cheerier thoughts.I like Northcountryliberal’s idea. If things continue in the current vein, many of those properties might be destroyed before they can be sold… As Americans begin to realize the pie is big enough that maybe we all ought to be getting a bigger piece of it, I wonder if people are going to be asking for more pie in a polite manner, or if they might carry torches and pitchforks and simply not bother to make a request. Why not just take it? 😎 Seems like there is enough to go around, anyway. Sorry to be so gloomy here… I guess the thought of a national bankruptcy just doesn’t lend itself to snarky humor or jests. BBC, you have a good attitude.

  3. Larry Vargo on 02/03/2017 at 9:30 pm

    As I understand it the highways were built on the island but during the Great (De)Recession the funding for the teleportation gates ran out. I believe it was spent on a bridge in Alaska but I could be wrong. Also the residents, upon reflection, could think of a better place to vacation than right there where they live. So there was no incentive to come up with the money locally

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