Celebrating the 50-Year Anniversary of Interstate-70

For more than six decades, Interstate 70 has played an important role in the economy and tourism of Kansas. In Trego County, it takes us to work, leads people to our businesses, and even brings WaKeeney’s famous Christmas Tree to our Main Street.

I-70 opens 1970

Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society.

Trego County’s I-70 Dedication Ceremony, the First in NW Kansas

The 22+ mile portion of I-70 that crosses Trego County was dedicated on October 10, 1960 in a ceremony attended by representatives of the governor’s office, state highway department officials, and regional and local dignitaries. The stretch between Ogallah and Collyer was the first portion completed in Northwest Kansas, a full ten years prior to the official completion of the entire stretch of road through our state.

Dedication Ceremony WKW October 13, 1960 Pg 2

Photo from the Western Kansas World, courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society. 

“Harold Hillman, president of Chamber of Commerce, waits for ribbon cutting with Vesta and Vera McCoy, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny McCoy and Duane Carlson. The girls held the blue ribbon that was stretched across the south double lane of Interstate 70 highway.” 

“Harold Hillman, president of Chamber of Commerce, waits for ribbon cutting with Vesta and Vera McCoy, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny McCoy and Duane Carlson. The girls held the blue ribbon that was stretched across the south double lane of Interstate 70 highway.” From the Western Kansas World Newspaper, October 1960. Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society.

The ceremony began with the Trego Golden Eagles Band parading down WaKeeny’s Main Street, followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony at the rest area between mile markers 130 & 131. Several speeches were given and a concert was performed by the TCHS band. A large group of Trego County residents were in attendance and the ceremony concluded with a buffet luncheon at the Staatz Hotel in Downtown WaKeeney.

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Linking the Country Together

Interstate 70 was an initiative of Kansas-born President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a World War II general, he was inspired by the Autobahn, Germany’s highway system, and saw a need for a similar transportation network in the United States. Through the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, he initiated the construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highway.

The 40k-mile highway stretches from Baltimore, Maryland to Cove Fort, Utah, with 424-miles crossing the state of Kansas and 22+ miles crossing Trego County. It was considered the “highway of the future” at the time, and over the last five decades it has become an important link that continues to benefit the people of our communities.

When Western Kansas drivers first took to the road in 1960 there were a few changes to the way they drove. The State Highway Patrol addressed these issues in an article in the Western Kansas World called “Some Do’s and Don’ts on I-70.” Among their directions were: Traffic must travel between 40 and 70-miles an hour, drivers cannot cross the center lane, instructions to enter the highway, and where stop signs were placed in WaKeeney as a result of the additional traffic to the interstate.

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Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society

A Road to Northwest Kansas Attractions

I-70 takes travelers across many of Kansas’s unique events and attractions, including Cedar Bluff State Park in Trego County, Monument Rocks and Castle Rock in Gove County, and Little Jerusalem Badlands, Kansas’s newest state park in Logan County. Other places of note along the route are Sternberg Museum of Natural History (Hays), Fick Fossil and History Museum (Oakley), the Flint Hills Discovery Center (Manhattan), the Territorial Capitol Museum (Lecompton), and the newly renovated Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum (Abilene). Along the way you’ll also find a wide variety of restaurants, locally grown food, and unique shopping experiences.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Travel on I-70

The Kansas I-70 Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by twelve Kansas communities including WaKeeney, is proud to celebrate 50 years of Interstate 70.

The current 16-member association includes Goodland, Colby, Oakley, WaKeeney, Hays, Russell, Salina, Abilene, Junction City, Manhattan, Lecompton, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Bonner Springs, Shawnee and Kansas City. Their goal is to achieve an economic benefit from tourism to their communities. Today, I-70 contributes more than 96,000 jobs and $11 billion dollars in trade and tourism dollars to the towns and cities along its route.

This summer take a drive on Interstate 70 and celebrate “America’s Main Street!”


*Because of closures/schedule changes due to COVID-19 please check availability before traveling.

 

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