The Coastal Post - July, 1996

Before The Interstate It Took Two Months To Cross The Country

More than 4,600 businesses employing 220,000 individuals are located along the Interstate Highway System in California—ranking California as first in both categories according to figures released by NATSO, Inc., the professional association representing America's travel plazas and truckstops.

NATSO compiled the statistics to underscore the importance of the Interstate Highway System, which celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday, June 29.

Nationwide, 52,045 businesses with the mission of serving motorists are located at interchanges along the Interstate system. Collectively these businesses employ 2,426,905 Americans.

The report from NATSO cited 2,534 food service establishments, 1,203 gas stations, 754 hotels and motels, 109 fuel stops, and 43 full-service travel plazas and truckstops along Interstate highways in California.

In 1919, as a young Army colonel, Dwight Eisenhower traveled from Washington, DC to San Francisco as part of a program by the Lincoln Highway Association. The goal of the Lincoln Highway Association was to encourage the federal government to invest in highways by demonstrating to the Army that highways were an important part of our national security. The cross-country trip took two months—traveling over dirt roads and broken bridges.

During World War II, General Eisenhower recognized the pivotal role Germany's state-of-the-art highway system—the Autobahn—-played in that country's war effort. That experience, coupled with the two-month journey he took in 1919, convinced President Eisenhower that a limited access highway system was critical to our national security.

"Perhaps more than any other innovation of the 20th century, the development of the Interstate Highway system has helped shape our national economy and unify a larger and diverse nation," said NATSO President W. Dewey Clower. "For 40 years, the Interstate system has strengthened our nation's economy, enhanced our national security, and provided millions of Americans with the freedom of mobility."

"Recognizing that freedom—or independence—seems especially appropriate at this time as we celebrate the Independence Day holiday when so many Americans will travel the Interstate System," added Clower.