I-70 Historical Memories
At one of the public hearings to discuss future improvements to Interstate 70, a High Hill native recalled the early days of the interstate’s construction and riding his bicycle on the new pavement before it was opened to traffic. He also remembered how his parents “rented out the upstairs of our farmhouse to construction workers.”
Others have told stories of lying flat on their backs in the grassy median to watch the stars, undisturbed by the infrequent passage of cars. Still others (yikes!) have told stories about the first time they drove 100 miles an hour. Those actions, risky enough more than 40 years ago, would be virtually impossible on the increasingly congested route today.
Here are some quotes taken from public comment forms submitted during 2002-2003. They are from people who were alive when construction began on the first U.S. interstate in Missouri.
“My most vivid memory was the building of such big highways (two lanes each way) and the bridges. At the time I felt this will last through my lifetime. I also remember riding my bicycle and playing ball on the roadway before the system opened.”
Willard Lee Holtzclaw
“I distinctly remember my mother not allowing my dad to use the interstate when we went on summer trips back in the 1950s because she was certain we would be killed in an accident by all the super fast traffic that she had heard we would encounter.”
“In August 1967 I moved to Columbia from St. Joseph and I drove on this beautiful brand new highway that was smooth and state of the art for its time. Now it’s a disaster.”
“My husband, Robert Wiley, was the first mechanic at the Sweet Springs highway shed when it opened in 1964.”
Mrs. Vivan Wiley
Sweet Springs, Mo.
“My grandfather’s most vivid memory was the covering of several historical pieces (mill stones, foundations, etc.) that were of special interest to our family. I-70 directly affected how we farmed our land and how it was used. These changes continue today.”
“During the building of I-70 my father sued for access to the north end of our farm. We lost, but were paid, I think $5,600 in damages for having to drive an extra 7 to 9 miles each and every time we went to the farm.”
Mary S. Watson
“My mom has a major connection to the original construction. She also has some political pull around here. If you convince her you’ll be doing well (Mary Watson – Blackwater, Mo.). I would like to see her supporting this. MoDOT was not good to our family the last time. As the saying goes … “A teaspoon of sugar …… “
“I-70 was constructed in 1962 at that time taking ¼ of our property. Paving I-70 was done by Koss Construction Co. Sand and gravel were stock-piled on our farm.”
“My oldest daughter played in the Hickman High School band that marched across the bridge of the ribbon-cutting ceremony when traffic was allowed to start to use it. Try getting under the Missouri River Bridge and watch it shake when trucks go over.”
“I know a guy who worked on the Cedar Creek bridge and when they started it a rush of water took out what they did so they backed up and raised the bridge plans some.”
“I-70 is the oldest interstate in the nation. I remember it being built in the late 50s, early 60s. It’s worn out. It needs to be completely replaced for Missouri so stay current in today’s economy.”
“I worked in the summer on building the second set of lanes between Warrenton and Highway 19 (Montgomery City exit) while going to college. I worked for the dirt construction company. This was in 1961 and or 1962, I believe.”
Robert D. Gibbs
“Traveling from Kansas City to St. Louis before I-70 was an 8-hour drive. The first trip after it was completed was a joy – not bad now!”
“I remember the earth movers cutting the big trench through Wright City. This had far-reaching adverse affects on this town. Please keep this concern in mind for future right-of-way designs.”
Wright City, Mo.
“Happy to have had it all these years.”
Don and Marie Benoist
“I grew up in St. Peters. We used to walk across the highway to get to Old Town St. Peters. Try that now.”
St. Peters, Mo.
“I remember driving through St. Charles on the old bridge to connect to the “brand new I-70” at St. Charles. I think that a small aircraft ran short … out of fuel and landed on the uncompleted portion here at Warrenton, but the year is unknown.”
“A lot of local truckers and contractors worked on the new road. My home was moved to make way for the new road – 38 or so years ago.”
High Hill, Mo.
“I-70 took some frontage off my husband’s farm, but land values have increased tremendously.”