Dwight Eisenhower on the nation's highways
The sight of 80 military vehicles making their way west in July of 1919 must have given a fright to some folks. The vehicles, along with 280 officers and enlisted personnel, set out a journey from Washington, D.C., to California as part of the Transcontinental Motor Convoy, appointed to survey the viability of the country's roads. After the close of World War I, the U.S. War Department needed to know if the roads could handle long-distance movements of vehicles in the case of a military emergency.
The verdict? According to Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower's report, "The dirt roads of Iowa ... would be impossible in wet weather." "In Nebraska, the first sand was encountered and two days were lost in the western part of the state." "From Orr's Ranch, Utah to Carson City, Nevada, the road is one succession of dirt, rats, pits, and holes."
The convoy took 62 days to reach San Francisco, and the experience left a lifelong impression on Eisenhower. Later, as President of the United States, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, funding the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, resulting in the building of more than 41,000 miles of highway.