OTTAWA-The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) highlighted today the historic connection of a test road site to the Interstate System. Ottawa is home to the original test road site-located adjacent to Interstate 80, just west of the city. IDOT celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate by welcoming the national convoy and American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials (AASHTO) to Illinois.
“America’s interstate highway system is one of the most important public works projects in history and an example of what Americans can accomplish when we work together for our common good," Senator Durbin said. “I can’t think of a better place to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America’s interstate highway system than Ottawa, Illinois.”
“It is so important that we recognize and deeply thank the people who worked to make a difference in travel and the economy across the country,” IDOT Secretary Martin said. “The original test road site is where hundreds of military personnel spent hours driving and testing the materials to be used in Interstate construction,” IDOT Secretary Martin said. “Here we are fifty years later honoring the Interstate System-the number one influence on American cities during the last half of the 20th Century that has changed the lives of the American public in countless ways.”
Former military personnel drove the test road from 1958-1960. The men drove heavily loaded trucks, working nearly twelve hour shifts— driving the test road to determine if this same roadway could one day be an Interstate system. Over 17,100,000 miles were logged on the test road.
In 1919, President Dwight D. Eisenhower witnessed the need for a national highway system when as a lieutenant colonel in the Army he helped staff a coast-to-coast convoy of 81 military vehicles. The journey was a long and often lousy trip—62 days of heat, breakdowns, mud, bridgeless river-crossings, and rough roads. Where bridges did exist, the heavy military vehicles often broke through bridge decks. With 3,251 miles to cover between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, the convoy set a record pace—58 miles a day at about 6 mph. On today's Interstate highway, such a trip could be done in less than a week, covering in an hour the distance the 1919 military convoy needed a whole day to traverse.
This June marks the time when federal legislation was signed by President Eisenhower 50 years ago to begin one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken: the U.S. Interstate System.
Former U.S. Rep. Ken Gray (Illinois) had a hand in writing the 1956 Federal Highway Act. “The day the 1956 Federal Highway Act was signed was the greatest day in America since the end of World War II,” Gray said. “The Interstate System has saved millions of lives and paved the way for hundreds of millions of dollars in new development and construction."
One of the most exciting events of the Golden Anniversary celebration is Illinois’ participation in the AASHTO led 2006 Convoy Reenactment which will be a return trip of Eisenhower’s military cross country caravan. During the trip, it was only possible to travel 58 miles per day.
It will take the 2006 convoy approximately one hour to cover the same amount of miles it took the 1919 convoy to cover in one day. The re-enactment of the military convoy is significant in the celebration, because this event turned Eisenhower’s dream to reality--a National Interstate System. The convoy will travel from Ottawa to Tinley Park, Illinois through June 26 and then head to Indiana. For more information regarding the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate log onto www.il50.com.