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Appreciating America's interstate highways
francis bond
Francis Bond lives in Richmond Hill, where he occasionally writes columns about things that interest him. - photo by File photo

If there was ever a great gift to America, it was the coming of the Interstate Highway System.

Today, we may not think that’s a great gift. But then, we were born into great achievements; we expect no less. It’s just the way we Americans are. We take these things for granted. As a matter of fact, the primary reason for the Interstate Highway System is intended to protect this nation; it’s referred to as the defense highway. Although the interstate highway becomes crowded at times, think how it would be if we didn’t have it. The effect of the interstate system certainly has made the nation appear smaller.

Can you remember planning a long vacation before the coming of the interstate system? I remember the pitfalls and risks I had to take in traveling down any highway and through towns and cities. I remember looking at a map to determine which highways to take. It was just a natural thing to do in those days to avoid trouble, traffic problems, dangers and other issues.

What happened between yesterday and today? In traveling down this road called the Interstate Highway System, one would wonder where it ended. One would say, “I can go anywhere, travel forever and go to any place in America, nonstop, and arrive there much sooner.”  

What would happen if there was an invasion by some other county? What would happen if we couldn’t get to a location for food, shelter and medical supplies in time?  What would happen if troops were not able to get to certain areas in time? Before the dawn of the interstate system, these things probably were never contemplated or considered by anyone.  

There happened to have been — and we were blessed to have had such a person — a citizen, a military leader, who did consider the danger of these things.

The U.S. interstate-system concept was developed after World War II. In 1919, a young Army officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, gained appreciation of the value of having such a highway system when he took an Army convoy across the nation on the first road across America, the Lincoln Highway.

Gen. Eisenhower carried this experience with him throughout World War II. According to history, after the war ended, Eisenhower was impressed when traveling on the Reichsautobahn system in Germany. When the general became president, he decided to champion the building of the same road system for America.

Eisenhower did this as a means of protecting America. The project did not get underway until about 1956.

The Reichsautobahn has a history of its own. It had connections with the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. He had the original concept for such a highway system; the primary reason was for national defense.

We should think about this great gift and appreciate it — even though, according history, it was Hitler’s idea.

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