June 17, 1970
A major milestone for the Kansas State Highway Commission took place when the final section of Interstate 70 in the Sunflower State was formally opened. (The Kansas State Highway Commission remained in existence until 1975, when it was replaced by the present-day Kansas Department of Transportation.) The last part of I-70 to be completed in Kansas was a 19-mile (30.6-kilometer) stretch located in the western region of the state between the city of Goodland and the border with Colorado.
The official windup of construction on I-70 within Kansas was a cause for celebration throughout the state. “Interstate 70 Spans Kansas East to West,” proclaimed a large headline in the Salina Journal the weekend before that last remaining segment was opened. A map appearing just above the headline highlighted the 424-mile (624.4- kilometer) portion of I-70 in Kansas from the state’s boundary with Missouri to the Colorado line.
Kansas joined Missouri and Pennsylvania as the only states to have their entire sections of I-70 open to multi-lane traffic by that time. Kansas’ share of I-70 had the added distinction of being the longest continuous stretch of an Interstate highway to be completed by any state up to that time.
Another claim to fame for I-70 in Kansas is that its initial segment was the first one to be completed with funds made available under the provisions of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorizing construction of the Interstate Highway System. The pioneering segment of I-70 built in Kansas was an eight-mile (12.9-kilometer) section just west of the capital city of Topeka in the eastern region of the state.
The dedication ceremonies for that first completed portion of I-70 were held in November 1956, less than five months after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had signed that landmark federal measure into law. Those attending the ceremonies included Fred Hall, governor of Kansas; and Frank E. Harwi, Jr., director of the Kansas State Highway Commission.
More than 13 years later, the dedication of the final section of I-70 in the Sunflower State was held at an interchange located just east of Goodland. Governor Robert Docking of Kansas cut a ribbon as part of those festivities.
At a luncheon in Goodland that same day, Docking emphasized not only the potential economic benefits of a fully open I-70 in Kansas but also what he thought the highway had in common with other notable transportation routes in the state’s history. He said, “I-70 has been compared to the Santa Fe Trail, to the Butterfield Overland Dispatch trail, to the Kansas Pacific Railroad and the Golden Belt Highway. All were milestones in our Kansas heritage.”
G.N. Farley, a state engineer involved in the construction of I-70, had offered a similarly positive assessment of the Interstate highways in Kansas. He noted a few months before the debut of the last section of I-70, “None of us realize our capabilities until confronted with a job as large as the Interstate but with organization and teamwork, a difficult job seems easy.”
The completion of I-70 in the state would be officially cited in August of that year by John D. Montgomery, who served as director of the Kansas State Highway Commission from 1967 to 1972. In his biennial report to the governor, Montgomery singled out the construction of that final section of the highway as one of the commission’s leading achievements during the previous two years.
I-70 in its entirety now courses through 10 states altogether. This highway specifically covers a total of 2,151 miles (3,462 kilometers) between Utah and Maryland. Only Colorado, with 451 miles (726 kilometers) of I-70 within its borders, surpasses Kansas in terms of the largest share of that highway.
For more information on I-70 in Kansas, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_70_in_Kansas and https://www.ksdot.org/interstate50th/KsStory_I70.asp
Additional information on I-70 in its entirety is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_70