Thursday, March 30

IDOT partners with the University of Illinois to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the interstate system       Send a link to a friend

[MARCH 30, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin announced Wednesday that IDOT and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officials are working together to honor and recognize engineering students who have competed in display-building contest at the university. Martin and university officials awarded the contest winners Wednesday, and the winning display was presented.

"The interstate system has long been considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time, and we are proud to be working with Chancellor Richard Herman and engineering students from the University of Illinois on a project of such important significance," Martin said. "Interstate travel has revolutionized our society, quickly and efficiently moving commerce and improving our everyday quality of life. We are proud to work with some of the top engineers in Illinois."

Since 1956, the interstate has been instrumental in drivers' freedom and safety throughout the state and nation. In addition, the Eisenhower Interstate System has played a significant role in the expansion of commerce and industry, not to mention advances in transportation over the past 50 years.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has formed a committee for the 50th anniversary of interstates and will participate in a national convoy and celebration this summer. The 50th anniversary national observance, with a re-enactment of a 1919 military cross-country convoy in which Dwight D. Eisenhower participated, is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The convoy will enter Illinois on Interstate 80 from Iowa and proceed across Illinois, stopping at the American Association of State Highway Officials Test Road site, adjacent to Interstate 80 in Ottawa, on June 24. The site is also referred to as the National Test Road. Tests at this site from 1958 to November of 1960 played a significant role in interstate development and produced surface formulas that were used for years to come in the construction of the interstate system. The convoy will then travel to Chicago, where a celebration will take place on June 26. The winning display will travel alongside the national convoy to commemorate this event.

The College of Engineering and the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have collaborated to provide a key piece for the celebration. Their collaboration led to a design competition across the campus for a museum-quality display to commemorate the 50 years of interstate highway construction and celebrate the impact of the interstate system on the people of Illinois.

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The winning concept, called "Roadside Conversations: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories," was designed by a team from the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Members of the team were Steve Kostell, instructor; Richard Valentin, graduate student; and Rose Marshack, visiting artist and technology integration specialist. The three are associated with the School of Art and Design within the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Their design, to be installed in an Airstream trailer shell by faculty and students, will feature an array of large flat-panel TVs showing images and short interviews with ordinary people recounting their stories of highway travel in the United States.

The exhibit will include a recording studio for visitors to share their own personal accounts, and these recordings will be incorporated into the program for future visitors. The exhibit will also feature high-tech video imaging to create a three-dimensional environment in which the visitor can use a game pad to navigate a simulation of interstate highway while under construction.

"We appreciate this opportunity to join with IDOT to create a project that will provide unique interaction with the public," said Herman, the university chancellor. "For many years, our College of Engineering has worked with IDOT on research related to highway construction, giving our faculty and students a meaningful way to apply knowledge to real-world challenges. We are delighted to partner with IDOT in telling the story of the Interstate Highway System and how it has improved life for the people of Illinois."

The "Roadside Conversations" mobile exhibit will be on hand for the June visit of the re-enactment of the 1919 military convoy as it enters Illinois and will continue with the convoy to Washington, D.C. The exhibit will be open to the public at stops along the convoy path, and an additional "road trip" is planned for the exhibit in late summer 2006 to visit other public venues in Illinois, such as museums and interstate rest areas.

[Illinois Department of Transportation news release]

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