America´s Interstates Turn 50: Tennessee’s Celebration Gets Underway

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | 07:00pm

Interstate History Exhibit Opens at Tennessee State Museum
Nashville, Tenn.—A new exhibit featuring the history of the Tennessee Interstate System and Senator Albert Gore, Senior’s contributions to the creation of America’s Interstate System opens tomorrow at the Tennessee State Museum. The exhibit is sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and will be officially opened by Commissioner Gerald Nicely during a ceremony at 2 p.m. The museum is located in the lower level of the Tennessee Performing Arts/James K. Polk Building at 505 Deaderick Street, in Nashville.

June 29, 2006, marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This landmark legislation set the wheels in motion for the development of one of the most significant contributing factors in our nation’s – and our state’s – growth, economy and mobility – the interstate system.

Tennessee’s own Senator Albert Gore, Senior was the author and principal sponsor of the legislation. It’s a huge point of pride for his son, the former Vice President.

“What he did on the interstate highway bill…he really never put out the kind of publicity touting his accomplishments. He was really the central figure from start to finish,” stated former Vice President Al Gore. “I remember going with him when I was six, seven, and eight years old to his committee meetings. He really spoke for the whole Senate on the question and they followed his lead. It made the most enormous impression on me. And by the way, he is the reason that I-40, I-65 and I-24 all meet at Nashville. And that in turn has been instrumental in attracting businesses like Nissan, Dell, Saturn and many others.”

“Interstates play a critical role in our daily lives. They allow us to visit loved ones near and far, to take convenient family vacations, and to get life’s essentials rapidly transported from farm and factory to the communities where we live,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “They impact all of our lives in some way, that’s why we chose to commemorate this anniversary with an exhibit in the Tennessee State Museum that we hope many people will see and enjoy.”

Included in the exhibit are the artworks of Tennessee fifth graders who entered TDOT’s “Interstates: A Symbol of Freedom” poster contest. Here are the top three winning entries:

Above: First place winner
Jayden Curry, Farmington Elementary, Germantown, Tenn.
Above: Second place winner
Jordan Stuart Shumate, School Pioneer Christian Academy, Whites Creek, Tenn.
Above: Third place winner
Sarah Kay Mitchell, Central Elementary School, Wartburg, Tenn.

Join TDOT in celebrating one of our nation’s greatest public works projects. Here is a list of upcoming events.

  • June 26 to June 27, 2006 – TDOT representatives travel to Tinsley Park, Illinois to join a national convoy from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., commemorating the Interstate System. The TDOT group will be part of the convoy leg from Tinsley Park to Akron, Ohio.
  • June 29, 2006 – State convoy will travel I-65 from Nashville to the Tennessee Welcome Center in Giles County to unveil a marker commemorating the first section of interstate opened in Tennessee. Official Anniversary Celebration Ceremony will begin at 12:30 at the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The ceremony will be at the Zero Highway Mile Marker (at the front of the mall near James Robertson Parkway), which was erected to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Interstate System. State convoy will leave at 1 p.m. from Bicentennial Mall.
  • June 29, 2006 – A special historic marker will be unveiled at 10 a.m. at the Memphis I-40 Welcome Center. The marker commemorates the U.S. Supreme Court decision which ultimately resulted in the removal of the Overton Park section of I-40 from the Interstate System.
  • June 29, 2006 – Celebration of the 50th anniversary will be held in Chattanooga on a bridge over I-24 near Missionary Ridge.
  • June 29, 2006 – Celebration of the 50th anniversary will be held in Knoxville at 10 a.m. at the TDOT Region One Complex off I-40 at Strawberry Plains, exit 398.
  • June 29, 2006 – The U.S. Postal Service will make available special postal cancellations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the interstate system with a special stamp at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville from 10 a.m. until noon. This is what they will look like:
  • July 2006 – Unveiling of a 50th Anniversary marker in the Smith County Welcome Center commemorating the contributions of Senator Albert Gore, Sr. who authored the legislation creating the U.S. Interstate System.
  • September 2006 – Presentation of an “Oral History of the Interstate” to the Gore Center at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro.
  • November 2006 – Publication of a history of the Tennessee Interstate System, The Decades of the Interstate, a collaborative effort between TDOT and the Tennessee Road Builders Association.

For more information about Tennessee’s interstates at 50, go to the special anniversary section of the TDOT web site at There is also a link to the national Interstate 50 web site at that location.

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