In the summer of 1919, a young lieutenant colonel Eisenhower was part of a convoy to road-test US army vehicles and to see how easy it would be to cross the continent. The convoy averaged 6 miles an hour and it took them 62 days to go just over 3000 miles. What did they notice about the roads?
- Half the distance (specifically west of the Mississippi River) was all dirt roads, wheel paths, desert sands or mountain trails.
- More than 230 recorded road accidents
- Lots of quicksand and mud on the roads
- Inadequate bridges
- Lack of places to stop for food, bathing facilities, shelter, even good drinking water.
- Eisenhower’s report after the trip noted that: "Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until the roads are improved and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls."
During World War II, Eisenhower saw a much different scenario. The autobahns in Germany made for easy troop movement, which impressed Eisenhower as he oversaw the invasion of Western Europe. The article quotes Eisenhower: "The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land."
Today’s interstate system is now 46, 876 miles long – thanks to the experiences of President Eisenhower that made him make an interstate system a priority of his administration. So go explore more about Eisenhower and his interstate system!