the general’s plan is working…

June 13, 2011

Let’s change the air in the tires. Close your eyes and let’s travel back to the summer of 1919. You’re on the Lincoln High, just west of Grand Island, NE. There’s an army transport truck lying on its side with a broken axle, like a dying beast of burden. For the colonel this was just another mishap in a string of opportunities to see how America could get from the left coast to the right coast. Of course, this trek was but one of many transcontinental motor convoys across this great land.

This was simply in the middle on one of the first journeys the colonel was undertaking. Thus the story of the interstate highway system begins. The mission was to understand the challenges the American Army would encounter if our homeland was ever invaded and there was a need to get men and equipment from here to there in a hurry.

This convoy consisted of 81 military vehicles and stretched out over 2 miles, sitting on the South Lawn of the Big House on Penn Ave. That marker was painted with a zero, it was the starting point and it’s still there I’m told. As they are on all major highways, in order to help let you know where you are on that state’s highway system. It’s July 1919 and the convoy will soon meet the Lincoln Highway in southern Pennsylvania as it makes its way to SanFran, CA. Today that highway is marked as US Highway 30 and runs a long way towards the right coast.

A young lieutenant colonel from KS was along for the ride as an observer of the new Army Tank Corps. And ‘for the adventure of it’ as he stated later. This ride would forever change him and molded the relationship he would have between defense and America’s road system. Oh, the young man’s name was Dwight and would become the 34th President. Because of his foresight and leadership the interstate he championed was built. It’s named after him and there are markers everywhere along the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.

Signed into law in 1956, he lead the project as the first feasible plan to build a high-speed highway system connecting the country he first rode across in a tank. Bringing together government bodies on all levels in every state, the plan was for the Feds [90%] and states [10%] to cover the costs. This way the system would be uniform in design, standards and construction, thus ensuring the system would be safe for everyone everywhere they went. The states are responsible to maintain the Interstate Highway System.

can you name this vehicle?

The 47,000 miles in the Interstate Highway System equals only 1% of the over 4 million miles of roads in the country. Yet that 1% handles over 25% of all vehicle traffic. All interstate roads must have 2 lanes in each direction, with each lane being at least 12’ wide, curves must be designed to keep a car safely on the road at 70mph in the country and 50mph in cities and towns. There are 55,000 bridges and 104 tunnels all having the same design standards and requirements of construction.

So the next time you ‘take a drive’ try to remember a time when there wasn’t a gas station along the side of the road. Or whether you had to pack a lunch because there wouldn’t be a place to pull over to get something to eat. And sleeping? Maybe that’s where the saying, ‘did you bring a sleeping bag?’ came from. No, I stayed at a Howard Johnson’s last night!

And to think of it, nothing you have, use or own would get to you without trucks rolling on Dwight’s highway. So, say ‘thanks’ to the colonel sometime soon.

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