“Breaking Down” the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System

The I-40 “Crosstown.”    Almost every Central Oklahoman has heard about it, not because of where it goes (across town, duh) but what it is doing.  And that what is falling apart.   Before we get into that, let’s go over some history.

The recent family vacation took the Bings through middle America and the Deep South, mostly courtesy of the interstate highways that crisscross our great land.   We are all familiar with those little blue shield signs, each bearing the trademark large white font number, and a distinctive “East,” “West,” “North,” or “South.”    I heard about the origins of the system that slightly predated my mid 1960’s initial existence and the man who signed them into being, but I had never seen it promoted on location.    But, as our trip brought us closer to home after about 1,500 miles of sojourning, I saw it at the entrance to a beautiful southern rest stop deep into Mississippi:  “Eisenhower Interstate System”.

According to our informative friends at Wikipedia, “The Interstate Highway System was authorized by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The opening of Interstate 70 in Colorado through Glenwood Canyon in 1992 is often cited as the completion of the originally planned system The initial cost estimate for the system was $25 billion over 12 years; it ended up costing $114 billion (adjusted for inflation, $425 billion in 2006 dollars).”

I don’t know about you, but I find both $114 billion and $425 billion to be large sums of money. And yet, it is not enough. You see, in 1992, about the same time the nation’s system of roads could be declared finally completed with the Glenwood Canyon run, I was making a run from Atlanta to Dallas in an oversized rental truck. I can tell you, even 19 years later, it was one rough ride. That great system of roads, all the way from the eastern border of Louisiana to the western border of the same, was one giant pothole. The road was so rough, it shook the taillights off the rental vehicle, literally. The one highlight of the trip was when I stumbled into one of the numerous rest areas early the second morning to wash my face and brush my teeth. One of my fellow trucker brothers asked me “where you haulin’ out of?.” My reply? “Load o’ furniture outa Atlanta”. 10-4, good buddy? But, I digress.

You see, that 1992 Louisiana Interstate System Road, the pride of Dwight David himself, was already falling apart, just like our 2011 era Oklahoma I-40 Crosstown. If you’ve ever taken a trip down I-35 South toward some Red River Rivalry OU/Texas action in Big D, you know from experience that a road grader’s work is never done.

And there is a great analogy for life. Your work is never done. About the time you think you have something completed, mastered, finished, and there is nothing left to do, it is time to go back and shore up, repair, grade, and improve upon areas you worked on long and hard, once upon a time. Or, as oldest daughter H says: “Long time ago.”

So, in closing today to quote our friend Chuck Berry:

“Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way that the highway that the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than 2000 miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it goes from St Louis, Joplin Missouri
Oklahoma city looks oh so pretty
Youl see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona dont forget Winona
Kingsman, Barstaw, San Bernadino

Would you get hip to this kindly tip
And go take that California trip.”

But, when you get to OKC, watch out for the I-40 Crosstown. It needs a little work. Anybody know where we can find another Dwight David to help us get a new plan figured out?