Today I had the honor to be a part of Pennsylvania’s commemoration of the signage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which took place at the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg. It was a birthday celebration for the Interstate System. It’s so hard to shop for a highway!
Dignitaries, media, and those who were a part of the re-enactment of the 1919 Army convoy, gathered at the Eisenhower farm. As a result, the original convoy showed a young kid by the name of Eisenhower the necessity of good transportation. Not to mention his time in World War II.
The bus ride from Gettysburg Middle School was a nice jaunt through the historic borough. I sat next to a gentleman from Omaha, Nebraska who was representing Werner Enterprising trucking. He gave me a foam stress reliever in the shape of the familiar Werner 18-wheeler. He mentioned that he had never visited anything in Pennsylvania, but had driven through the state many times. Not surprising considering there are only two routes from New England to the rest of the country that bypass the state.
Once at the farm, we toured the main house, where the Eisenhowers had entertained dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Nikita Khrushchev. It is a very beautiful and sprawling holding. After everyone had finished taking the tour, it was time for the press conference.
First to speak was Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation, Allen Biehler. After him were Joe Brimmeir, CEO of the Turnpike Commission, J. Richard Capka from the Federal Highway Administration, and Ted Leonard from the Pennsylvania AAA Federation.
After the press conference, I introduced myself to Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT’s Press Secretary, who invited me to the event. He praised the work I have done on the website and said it is a great resource. Specifically, he commended my work on the histories of the highways. While we were talking, Secretary Biehler came over to speak with Mr. Kirkpatrick. At that point, I introduced myself and Mr. Kirkpatrick remarked, “This is the guy who does that website.” He gave me an Interstate 50th pin, which is similar to the image below.
While waiting for our bus back to the school, I overheard a man talking about the weather. I introduced myself and he did likewise. He mentioned he was a representative from the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, which by the way own pahighways.org. I had discovered they owned the .org of my domain once. So, I mentioned that I own the .com. He said, “We know. We tried for the .com only to find you owned it.” Hey, you snooze, you lose.
Back at the school, we had a lovely catered meal. I had the honor to sit at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. While standing in line for lunch, I struck up a conversation with the Director of ODOT, Gary Ridley. I told him that I liked the new Oklahoma route marker, and we began discussing the states that used their outlines for their markers. I also mentioned having been to Oklahoma while storm chasing, and had talked to Gary England of KWTV-TV while researching a paper in college. Mr. Ridley said that Gary helps them with winter forecasts to determine where and when ODOT crews will be needed. The others at the table asked me what organization I was a member. I said, “I do a website called Pennsylvania Highways,” while Mr. Kirkpatrick happened to be walking behind me. He overheard and said, “It is a great website and resource.”
All in all, I enjoyed the event. I was honored that PennDOT even considered inviting me. Many thanks to Rich Kirkpatrick and the PennDOT Press Office. It was indeed a happy birthday for the Interstate System. You know what, it doesn’t look a day over 49! In conclusion, it is ironic to think that President Eisenhower’s farm can not be accessed directly via any Interstate.