Lunchtime tourist

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February 28, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Interstate 35

Slicing through Downtown at more than 55 mph is one of North America's main thoroughfares. Interstate 35 stretches over 1,500 miles and through six states, from the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth to the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas.

In 1919, young soldier Dwight Eisenhower joined the military's first cross-country caravan traveling from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. Because of bad roads, the journey took 62 days - averaging 5 mph! Within a year of becoming president, Eisenhower began plans for a national highway system. In 1956, the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways mapped nearly 43,000 miles of roads connecting all states in the continental U.S. In addition to automobile and truck traffic, the roads accommodated military and civil defense operations and became evacuation routes in case of disaster. The final segment of the plan was completed in Los Angeles in 1993.

Interstates have one or two-digit numbers. Odd numbers run north-south, while even ones run east-west. Odd numbers get larger toward the eastern part of the country; even ones increase as they go north. Those evenly divisible by five stretch from one U.S. border to another - or nearly so, in the case of I-35 and Duluth. In the entire interstate system, there are only two times where a road splits. Both cases are along I-35 where it divides into I-35W and I-35E: here in the Twin Cities and in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Our Minnesota section was built between 1959 and 1977. And your gasoline tax dollars paid for it, at the price of $3 million a mile. Each day, more than 188,000 vehicles pass through Downtown on I-35W. How did you get to work today?

LUNCH TIP: Bobby & Steve's AutoWorld (1221 Washington Ave. S.) has a 1950s-style grill upstairs that overlooks I-35W.

POP CULTURE BONUS: It's an urban myth that one mile in every five of interstates must be straight so it can be an airstrip in times of war or emergency.

Editor's note: 'Lunchtime Tourist' will be on hiatus until April 11. Linda Koutsky is finalizing the lavishly illustrated "Minnesota Vacation Days" for the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The book will explore 150 years of steamboat travel, historic lodges, tourist courts, and the state's abundant boating, camping and fishing lure manufacturers. This, is the second book by Linda and her mother Kathryn Koutsky, is a companion to their regional best-seller "Minnesota Eats Out." It will be in stores in September.