Interstate convoy celebration reflects many interests

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A cross-country convoy will leave the West Coast this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation’s Interstate Highway System. Andrew Firestone, great-grandson of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. founder Harvey S. Firestone, will officially launch the caravan Friday, June 16.

Organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the caravan has been tasked with recreating, in reverse, the historic Transcontinental Motor Train of 1919. The original 1919 convoy tested how quickly troops and supplies could travel across the continental United States in the event of an emergency. The test proved taxing: Leaving Washington, D.C., on July 7, 1919, and following the original Lincoln Highway, the convoy didn’t arrive in San Francisco until 62 days and 3,250 miles later.

The anniversary convoy will travel eastward on I-80 through 13 states. It will start in San Francisco and end in Washington, D.C. on June 29, exactly 50 years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The act provided initial funding for interstate highway construction, which now includes nearly 47,000 miles of superhighways.

Harvey Firestone, an enthusiastic supporter of paved, connected roads, supplied two of his own trucks — both equipped with his pneumatic tires, then an innovation — to the first caravan. Two Firestone trucks will participate in the anniversary convoy.

The American Trucking Associations also will be sponsoring two tractor-trailer rigs in the convoy. One, a Werner Enterprises tractor, will pull a trailer with ATA’s slogan, “Good Stuff. Trucks Bring It.” Also on the road for ATA will be a special Highway Watch tractor-trailer rig highlighting the nation’s top over-the-road transportation safety and security program.

Each segment of the trip will be driven by a different pair of million-mile, accident-free captains from ATA’s America’s Road Team, sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America. For a convoy map and schedule of events, go to www.interstate50th.org.