Elkton — Necessarily, a great deal has been published, posted and broadcast of late about the lamented 35th President of the United States of America John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the 50th anniversary of his assassination approaches Nov. 22.
New movies have been released and documentaries, television specials and the History Channel is replete with not only the histories and stories, but the conspiracy theories and more.
Locally, the tie of Kennedy has been observed by historians, in that the president journeyed to Maryland to dedicate the then recently completed Interstate 95 after the massive $11 million “Susquehanna Bridge” carrying I-95 was completed. Now known as the Tydings Memorial Bridge for U.S. Sen. Millard E. Tydings, the highway is known as JFK Memorial Highway through Cecil’s portion of the world. The monicker was quickly bequeathed on the span shortly after Kennedy’s death and his Nov. 14, 1963, dedication of the major interstate highway.
The massive project to build I-95 was extraordinarily costly and consumed years of research, study and planning. But if one reviews the speech that President Kennedy gave on that sunny day Nov. 14, 1963, he spoke of the completed project as a touchstone. He did not envision this would be the last project of this magnitude, but an impetus to major transportation and communication projects to come to keep America in the forefront of progress.
“It symbolizes, I believe, first of all the partnership between the federal government and the states, which is essential to the progress of all our people and secondly, it symbolizes the effort we have made to achieve the most modern interstate highway system in the world… and third it symbolizes the effort, which we are giving and must be giving to organizing an effective communication system here in the United States of America,” Kennedy said of I-95.
He proclaimed that no industry had a greater impact on the nation nor a greater economic impact than transportation. He used his pulpit at the dedication to call for a “new, comprehensive, national transportation policy, calling for an examination of the relationship between highways, rails, air routes and water routes” and announced a goal of “the development of the most efficient, economic and safest transportation system for all of our people.”
Having passed through the still fairly rural Harford County and the quite rural Cecil County, Kennedy touched upon his vision of the area in the near future, based upon the great modern improvements planned along I-95 and immediate environs.
“It may be only a few years when the whole area stretching from Washington to Boston, will be one gigantic urban center,” he predicted.
Kennedy observed that his administration had undertaken a comprehensive study of all the transportation modes the northeastern area would require in the coming years and acknowledged highway planning was not enough. Fifty years later, his statement still rings true, and is still being echoed by legislators on the local, state, and with increasing infrequency, national level, as well.
Kennedy qualified his statements with facts noting one-third of the people in the United States live in the 15 states through which I-95 travels.
“By the year 2000, these states will need to find housing and parks for 23 million more people, an increase of roughly 50 percent in less than 40 years,” Kennedy predicted in 1963. “They will need schools for six million more of your children, they will need hospital and nursing homes for some eight million men and women over the age of 65 compared to four and a half million today. They will need to provide an additional two billion gallons of water every day.”
He used his facts to urge a massive clean-up of area waterways and scientific study to convert fresh water from salt water.
“These are some of the facts, which the people of the northeast must face and the state governments must face, and the federal government must take the lead,” Kennedy announced. “They may be facts which some would prefer to ignore,” he added with near Nostradamus prophetic accuracy. “But if the United States of America, and particularly the northeast United States, these 15 states, are going to move ahead and provide a better life for the people of Delaware and people of Maryland, and the people of the United States, then we are going to have to do something about it.
“Because people several years ago made the plans and took the initiative, this highway is now being dedicated,” Kennedy concluded. “I hope in the year 1963 we will again take stock of the needs of the country over the next decade and we will begin today, this year, this decade, the things which will make this country a better place to live in for the rest of this century.”