As a young Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, Eisenhower joined a military convoy that took more than two months to cross the United States along the old "Lincoln Highway," which occupies roughly the same corridor as I-80. Eisenhower's 1919 convoy crawled from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, destroying bridges and encountering travel obstacles all along the way.
The difficulty of the experience led the young Eisenhower to believe the U.S. needed an improved highway system. Those views were reinforced during World War II, when, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, Ike saw the autobahns of Germany and recognized the military, as well as civilian, utility of such a system of superhighways.
When he became president, getting an Interstate system built became Eisenhower's domestic-policy focus. He signed the bill starting up the construction on June 29, 1956.
AASHTO's convoy will feature 20 trucks, buses, recreational vehicles and cars. It will stop daily for public events sponsored by the state departments of transportation as it crosses the country. Plans include a 1950s-themed rock-and-roll party, a tailgate party, events at antique auto museums, and stops at the Eisenhower farm at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and at the Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, which will be reached by a breakaway group from the main convoy.
State governors and legislators will join in the celebrations across the country. Personalities joining the convoy are slated to include former President Eisenhower's great-grandson, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater; "Commissioner of Tailgating" Joe Cahn; author and road historian Dan McNichol; national transportation authority Alan Pisarski; Bob Lee, owner of Country Coach, a builder of luxury recreational vehicles; and RVing expert Dave Humphries. Andrew Firestone, great-grandson of good-roads advocate Harvey Firestone who hosted the first convoy in 1919, will serve as the convoy "Launch Master" and will also host the convoy for a major celebration at the Bridgestone-Firestone facility in Akron, Ohio.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will keynote the launch event in San Francisco and also will welcome the convoy when it arrives on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. at 12:30 p.m. on June 29. Mineta will also address an AASHTO-Transportation Construction Coalition Policy Forum June 28-29 at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington.
AASHTO President Harold Linnenkohl, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, and Executive Director John Horsley will join Mineta for the kick-off in San Francisco and the arrival in Washington, as well as participating in events at other stops along the route. Gary Ridley, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and Chairman of the AASHTO Interstate 50th Anniversary Steering Committee, will also appear at convoy events across the country.
The convoy will include major representation from the trucking industry including the American Trucking Association's "Good Stuff, Trucks Bring It" rig and the Highway Watch program that trains truckers in spotting and reporting potential terrorist threats. Convoy participants will receive special training in the Highway Watch program.
For complete information about the convoy and other Interstate anniversary activities visithttp://www.Interstate50th.org