Photo by George Lauby
Lincoln Highway marker still stands at 5th and Jeffers advises motorists to turn at 4th St.
Photo by Kaycee Anderson
An antique auto travels the Lincoln Highway route in the Nebraskaland Days Parade.
A hundred years ago, citizens along a 3,389 mile long line on a map that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific gathered to celebrate that our nation’s first-ever transcontinental highway would pass through their cities. Nebraskans gathered statewide to celebrate, including nearly 10,000 in Omaha alone, as the Lincoln Highway was born.
This highway was about much more than economic opportunity; it literally united the nation just as its namesake did decades before.
U.S. Highway 30, as it is now known, passes through 11 states. It enters Nebraska in Blair along the Missouri River and Bushnell near the Wyoming border.
Since its inception, the highway has provided a smoother route for our cities and townships to share commodities, culture and camaraderie with folks across the country.
It also paved the way for our current interstate system, which today stretches nearly 50,000 miles, almost enough to circle the equator twice.
The Lincoln Highway’s profound history is entrenched in Nebraska today.
Stretches of its original brick road can still be found - and driven on - in Elkhorn. A well-known Conoco-turned-antique shop in Potter, which pumped thousands of gallons of gas for passersby during the road’s earliest days, still attracts tourists.
Next week, Kearney is hosting a centennial celebration to recognize the Lincoln Highway and its 100 years connecting a country. Kearney is particularly fitting to host the occasion because it serves as the highway’s midpoint, sitting exactly 1,733 miles from both San Francisco and Boston.
Festivities, which are open to the public, include parades, historical reenactments, concerts and a car show. Hundreds of classic cars are expected to literally meet in the middle – the heart of our nation’s Heartland – for the event.
The celebration will conclude July 1 with an official ceremony.
I’m also introducing a resolution to recognize the profound impact the nation’s first coast-to-coast highway has had on our state and nation over the last 100 years.
The Lincoln Highway brought new goods, visitors and development to every town it touched, and continues to connect communities today. My resolution honors these economic and social impacts, including the upcoming celebration, which is expected to draw thousands of tourists to our state.
More specifically, the resolution resolves that the Senate "recognizes June 30, 2013, as the centennial of the Lincoln Highway; commemorates the important role that the Lincoln Highway has played in significant historical and cultural events in the United States; and recognizes the economic growth, modernization in infrastructure and rural development that resulted from the Lincoln Highway."
Affectionately known as America’s Main Street, the Lincoln Highway will continue to serve as a symbol of American ingenuity for years to come.
Called by some the single most important road to ever cross Nebraska, and perhaps our nation, it’s certainly deserving of this special recognition by the U.S. Senate.
Best wishes to those celebrating its centennial in Kearney this weekend, as well as everyone who may pause to reflect upon its significance.