Saturday, Jul 4, 2015
I-57 Marks 50th Anniversary
WILLIAMSON COUNTY - Interstate 57 marked a major milestone this weekend, celebrating its 50th anniversary as the longest interstate running through Illinois.
The interstate took ten years to build and has brought considerable industry to the area, but it wouldn't have happened without the help of one man.
Ask former Congressman Ken Gray about Interstate 57 and his eyes light up. "It brings back pleasant memories," he says.
With his 24 years in Congress, and working under nine different presidents, Ken Gray considers I-57 one of his biggest accomplishments; because it was scheduled to end in Effingham.
"I put a stop to that. I said 57 will come through southern Illinois or there won't be any 57," says Gray.
Being on the roads committee, and a friend of President Eisenhower, helped Gray get the extension approved.
News articles from 1969 say the highway came with a price tag of more than $25 million, but Gray says it was worth it.
"Industry was passing us up," he says. Dirt roads and two lane highways were keeping investors at bay, but even before the interstate was finished, boat plants were already moving to southern Illinois.
"It (I-57) continues to bring business to southern Illinois," say Gray.
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