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Interstate anniversary showcases Alabama industry

This is the centennial anniversary of a historic trip that changed the American economy.

In a test of military mobility, a cross-country 80-vehicle convoy left Washington, D.C., on July 7, 1919, and 61 days later arrived in San Francisco, California.

Among the 24 officers and 258 enlisted men was Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Years later, he would see the military effectiveness of the German autobahn.

As President in 1956, Eisenhower lobbied for and Congress funded the first projects that eventually grew into the Interstate Highway System, which today carries Eisenhower’s name. It was built to military standards concerning width, height, and weight capacities so that it could rapidly deploy all types of military equipment.

And of course, it transformed interstate commerce and opened up much of the nation for economic development, similar to the advances of the transcontinental railroad a century earlier.

None of this would be possible without iron or steel or without American ironworkers. Iron and steel reinforces the roadbeds and crosses the ravines and rivers making possible this visionary and transforming public works infrastructure.

Despite daunting challenges presented by illegal practices of foreign competitors, America’s iron and steel manufacturing sectors are as robust as ever, and iron and steel remain the bedrock of our transportation and infrastructure systems. Alabama’s iron and steel products are the foundation of our roads, bridges, structural, energy, and water infrastructures, as well as the primary components of many vehicles that Americans drive every day.

The Alabama Iron and Steel Council and Manufacture Alabama are grateful for that propitious 61-day trek and the visionary leadership of Lt. Col. Eisenhower.

Maury D. Gaston is Manager of Marketing Services at AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, and current Chairman of the Alabama Iron & Steel Council (AISC). The AISC operates as an independent industry council of Manufacture Alabama, the state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to manufacturers and their supplier/vendor partners. AISC member companies include AM/NS Calvert, AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, CMC Steel, McWane, Inc., Nucor Steel, Outokumpu Stainless USA, SSAB Americas, U.S. Pipe & Foundry, United States Steel, Alabama Power Company, Colburn Construction, Inc., ERP Compliant Coke, OMI-Bisco Refractories, O’Neal Manufacturing Services, Reno Refractories, Southeast Gas and Southern Alloy Corporation.