WASHINGTON DC. This afternoon the “Celebrate the Interstate” convoy that took off under the auspices of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on June 16 from San Francisco reached the end of its road in Washington DC, winding up an impressive mobile commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the legislation authorizing the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which was signed into law by President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower.
AASHTO, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments, received support for the convoy from various sponsors, especially several “premiere partners,” including Bridgestone/Firestone and the American Trucking Assns., as 75 trucks, buses and other vehicles retraced in reverse the legendary route of the First Transcontinental Motor Train in 1919.
Eisenhower, then a lieutenant colonel, was a staff officer on that post WW I venture. That rugged journey of over 3,000 miles from Washington to San Francisco helped sell Ike on the need for an interconnected national highway system.
Others, of course, helped make good roads a reality, including the founder of Firestone, Harvey Firestone, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As President, Eisenhower signed the legislation making the Interstates a reality on June 29, 1956. Fifty years to the day later, the convoy arrived in Washington, D.C., for a celebration near to the very same “Zero Milestone” from which Ike’s 1919 convoy.
No fewer than 15 events were held in cities along the route. For example, on June 26, the convoy rolled into Akron, OH, with two tractor-trailers from the Bridgestone/Firestone private fleet bearing special trailer graphics commemorating the Motor Train and Eisenhower’s role in creating the Interstate system. Those trucks were among a handful with the 2006 convoy from start top finish.
As it happened, back in 1919, Harvey Firestone hosted the Motor Train’s members at his farm in Columbiana, OH. In honor of that bit of corporate history, on the evening of the 26th, a county-fair-like picnic and festival was hosted by Bridgestone/Firestone at its Akron technical center, featuring antique cars, race-car drivers and race-car haulers, that drew Interstate fans of all ages. On the menu was the same kind of fried-chicken dinner as served to the original convoy in 1919.
For a complete overview of the convoy, not to mention the Interstate system, go to this special AASHTO site: www.interstate50th.org.
Write to David Cullen at [email protected]