Geneseo's “neighbor” Interstate 80 turns 50 this month. On Oct. 29, 1962, Interstate 80 opened west to Milan.
Geneseo's "neighbor" Interstate 80 turns 50 this month. On Oct. 29, 1962, Interstate 80 opened west to Milan.
Today, the transcontinental highway runs from San Francisco, Calif., to Teaneck, N.J. and is the second longest interstate highway in the United States. (The longest is Interstate 90.)
Illinois governor Otto Kerner officially opened Interstate 80 during a 1962 ceremony in Milan.
The paving contract for Interestate 80 near Geneseo was awarded to Standard Paving Co. of Chicago.
Utilizing a 50-man crew, the men could pour about 1,500 feet of double-lane paving per day as they built the interstate.
According to a 1961 issue of the Republic, Interstate 80 near Geneseo utilized a "new type of paving" when constructed.
"This type of paving different from the old pavers in that the cement is mixed at a central plant and hauled by a fleet of trucks to the slab to be poured," said the Republic. "After the roadbed is prepared and forms are in place, a crew operates the paving machine, the finishers and the curing operation. The old 'man killer' puddling is no longer used with the new machines."
In a 1997 Republic article celebrating the interstate's 35th anniversary, Basil Egert recalled serving as manager of the then brand-new Deck Oil, whose opening was timed to coincide with the construction of the new interestate.
Egert said they decided to open Deck Oil despite the fact that the building wasn't quite complete and the bathrooms weren't finished.
Hooked up or not, the bathrooms at Deck Oil were more or less the only public bathrooms just off the interestate for miles. Egert told the Republic opening day was the stuff of nightmares.
"We weren't prepared for the experience," he said. "The cars just overtook us. It was a terrible big day. The bathrooms were not done, and I had to haul water to flush them," he said.
"We were just dragging when we got through. I'll never forget it, it was quite an experience. I don't know how we made it through the day, but we weren't expecting what we were going to get," Egert said.
Fifty years on, Interestate 80 has become a regular feature of Geneseo's landscape.
"It's nice to be able to advertise Exit 19 as a destination point for visitors," said Geneseo mayor Linda Van Der Leest. "Exit 19 is just one small piece of a corridor that is responsible for attracting visitors to our city, allowing our citizens an easy commute to work in the Quad Cities and the link between the two oceans, providing transportation for goods and services nationwide."