By Nicole Warburton
As part of a month-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the nation's interstate highway system, a group of visiting dignitaries — in trucks, cars and on motorcycles — stopped at Sugarhouse Park on Monday to talk about the benefits of America's interstates. I-80, which was clogged with morning traffic, was the backdrop for the gathering.
"More than anything else, the interstate provides a very important commodity, which is mobility," said Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who spoke to a gathering of state and national transportation leaders, politicians and local officials. "This is something worth celebrating."
The governor, dressed in a leather jacket, led a convoy of more than 50 vehicles onto I-80 after his remarks. About half of the group is part of a convoy traveling across the nation this month to celebrate the interstate's 50th anniversary and to commemorate a trip made by Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1919 to see if people could travel across America by truck.
On June 29, 1956, Eisenhower, then president, signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act that allowed for the creation of America's interstates. The nation has just under 47,000 miles in its interstate highway system. The earliest segment of I-80 in Utah was built from Silver Creek Junction to Wanship in 1964.
State officials said the nation's interstate highway system is "one of the most significant transportation developments of the past century."
"The economic prosperity we enjoy in the United
States is largely built on the construction of the interstate highway,"
said John Njord, director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
"It catapulted us as a nation into an era of growth, cultural development
and economic prosperity. It has made a difference in just about everything:
where we live, how we live and the quality of our lives."
"I'm very proud to be his great-grandson," Atwater said.
For more information about the celebration of the interstate, and to see where the commemorative convoy is stopping en route to Washington, go to: http://www.interstate50th.org/ .