TINLEY PARK-Recognizing Illinois as a major transportation center in the country, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) welcomed a national convoy of transportation officials to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate System. The convoy represents members of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials (AASHTO) who are recreating President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1919 military cross country caravan that went from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, California. The Interstate system was created on June 29, 1956 when President Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act.
“On behalf of the citizens of the State of Illinois, we are proud to be a part of a historical event that was such a major influence on Americans from across the country,” IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin said. “The Interstate system has changed the lives of the American people and stimulated development around the country.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s signature that day on the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 marked the end of a decades-long debate about how to develop and fund a modern national highway system and launched the largest public works project in American history.
Today’s interstate highway system is made up of an interconnected network of 46,726 miles of divided “superhighways.” The interstates serve as the backbone of the network of highways, roads and streets that make up the majority of our ground transportation system.
There are more than 2,000 miles of Interstate highway throughout the Land of Lincoln. The State of Illinois is a key transportation center within the United States for trucking and other commercial traffic flow. Illinois ranks third in the nation in interstate miles. Only Texas’ (3,233.45 mileage) and California’s (2,455.74) mileage ranks ahead of Illinois’ 2,169.53 mileage. In Illinois, over 29% of all travel is done on the interstates and over 60% of all truck travel.
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s commemoration of this historic anniversary focuses on three themes that the department views as profound, positive impacts of the Interstate system on the lives of Illinois residents.
FREEDOM: The enhanced freedom of movement.
SAFETY: The important improvements in highway safety.
PROGRESS: The increased opportunities for a higher quality of life made possible by progress and economic growth.
Meanwhile, IDOT partnered up with the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana to create a traveling exhibit for the celebration. The concept is called “Roadside Conversations: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories” was designed by a team from the College of Fine and Applied Arts. The design is installed in an airstream trailer that features an array of large flat panel TVs showing images and short interviews with ordinary people recounting their stories of highway travel in the United States.
The Interstate system has transformed our nation and our economy by allowing Americans to travel within a few days' drive of practically everyone else in our nation, altering our willingness to travel and the way we schedule our time. It has also changed the way we move people and freight, has facilitated international trade, and turned trucks into rolling warehouses.
The coast-to-coast convoy began in San Francisco on June 15 and will cross the Interstate 80 corridor to end in Washington, D.C. on June 29. This route is similar to the one taken in 1919 by Dwight D. Eisenhower as a young soldier with a cross-country military convoy. Eisenhower’s difficult journey took months and he became a good-roads advocate. Eisenhower prompted the approval of the Interstate System by Congress.