Leaders of the group representing America’s state departments of transportation joined members of Congress, Michigan officials and the chairman of a transportation technology group at a news conference Jan. 11 announcing a year of activities celebrating the 50th anniversary – and the future – of the U.S. Interstate Highway System.
"The bill creating the Interstate Highway System was one of the earliest votes I participated in as a member of Congress," said Michigan Congressman John Dingell, who recently celebrated his own 50th anniversary as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. "We knew that it represented progress, but it unleashed great forces on the United States that have proven to be of enduring benefit to our economy and society."
“The Interstate System has long been considered
one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time, but it has
also been the linchpin of the U.S. economy,” said Harold Linnenkohl,
president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“Most Americans alive today have little experience of what the world was like without an Interstate Highway System,” said John Horsley, executive director of AASHTO. “But even as we take it for granted, we fail to recognize that virtually all our goods – from food and clothing to the stuff we send for on E-Bay – move on the Interstates en route to our homes.”
AASHTO plans a national coast-to-coast convoy in June that will commemorate a trip made in 1919 by Dwight D. Eisenhower, then a young soldier. That early trip – a muddy, tortuous journey from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco that took months – turned the man who got the Interstate system approved by Congress into a good-roads advocate throughout his life.
AASHTO’s convoy will begin in San Francisco on June 15 and travel the Interstate 80 corridor to Washington, D.C., arriving June 29, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Interstate Highway Act by former President Eisenhower.
A deputation from the convoy will temporarily leave the main route to travel to the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan., prior to rejoining the convoy. State transportation departments have planned numerous family-friendly events at stops along the convoy route.
Also speaking at the news conference were Michigan Department of Transportation Director Gloria Jeff, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley and Martin Capper, chairman of ITS America, a group that promotes the use of cutting-edge “intelligent transportation” systems in vehicles and other transportation settings.
For more information about the Interstate Highway System 50th Anniversary, see AASHTO’s website at http://www.interstate50th.org/ . A four-minute video about the history of the Interstate system and the promise of technology in making it safer and more efficient can be viewed at the Web site http://www.beerymedia.com/interstate50th2.mov .