History Of IKE

The Power Of “and”

Part 1: “The Father of the Interstate System”

Not only does our new transportation program bear his name, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a believer in something KDOT embraces: the power of “AND.”

  • President Eisenhower is the man who gave us the Interstate Highway System. From the very beginning he saw it as more than just a series of connecting roadways. In its very name it was the Interstate AND Defense highways. National System of Interstate And Defense Highways 1958
  • The system we rely on today was shaped by Eisenhower’s role as Supreme Allied Commander, the role which became crystal clear on D-Day in 1944.
  • Moving troops off the beaches at Normandy posed a logistical nightmare for the General.
  • France and Germany had invested in roadway systems after the First World War. Eisenhower adapted the roadways into one-way expressways straight through the heart of Europe.
  • The expressways would be known as the Red Ball Highway. In the 1920s and 1930, freight in America that was "Express" was marked with a "Red Ball" by private freight companies. At the time every soldier would have understood "Red Ball" to mean fast delivery.
  • At its peak, Eisenhower’s Red Ball Highway operated nearly 6,000 trucks and would move 12,500 tons of supplies a day.
  • Moving our military was top of mind for President Eisenhower. In 1919, a young Colonel Eisenhower was assigned to be an observer on an experiment, the first Transcontinental Motor Convoy. 
    IKE History
  • The operation was a road test for military vehicles and was used to identify the challenges in moving troops from coast to coast on the existing infrastructure. The road test covered 3,200 miles from Washington D.C. to San Francisco.
  • During the expedition, Eisenhower saw firsthand how disconnected the roads of the time were. Eisenhower's report to Army leaders urged the development of uniformly wide roads, with standardized bridge heights to accommodate military vehicles. This was nearly 40 years before he would create the Interstate Highway System as President.
    IKE History
  • The Eisenhower Interstate System reflects its namesake's needs as a young worker in a Kansas creamery AND as General AND as a President.
  • Lessons FROM Ike FOR IKE:
    1. Listen and learn: Like the Red Ball Express, good ideas can come from anywhere - including the private sector.
    2. Safety is our first goal: Our roadways connect us - we need to ensure everyone and everything arrives safely.
    3. Transportation is more than concrete and asphalt: It is a public good. We have an opportunity to make investments that move our state and its people forward---we need to make the most of that opportunity.

Part 2: The Program

Legislation to fund the next 10-year transportation infrastructure program was passed by the Kansas Legislature with strong bi-partisan support and was signed by Governor Laura Kelly on April 2, 2020. On May 14, 2020, Governor Laura Kelly and KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz announced the first 40 highway expansion and modernization projects for preliminary engineering work. Click below for more information on these projects. 

IKE Projects »

Have Questions?

Do you have a question, comment, suggestion or concern? Contact us by emailing IKE@KS.gov or by using the message fields located at the bottom of every page. You can also find out more about how we put your ideas to good work with our local consult process here.