Riding the concrete ribbon
Interstate 70 through Sherman County was the final Kansas piece of I-70. The first section of I-70 in Kansas opened west of Topeka Nov. 14, 1956. The highway didn’t reach Goodland until June 1970. At the time, the 424-mile stretch of I-70 in Kansas was the longest continuous segment of Interstate highway to be
completed by any state.
The highway opened at Goodland June 17, 1970. A caravan came out from Topeka to celebrate. According to Kansas State Historical Society (PDF), “at the Goodland dedication, John B. Kemp, Federal Highway Administration Regional Administrator, praised the federal-state partnership that produced the highway. But the stars of the ceremony were a vacationing family from Wisconsin. A puzzled father slowly approached the crowd standing in the middle of his route and carefully negotiated his car through the throng. With curious youngsters’ faces pasted to the rear windows, the family disappeared toward Colorado unaware that they were the first to use Interstate 70 border to border in Kansas.”
Interstate 70 mainly follows U.S. Highway 40 from Baltimore, Md., to Cove Fort, Utah, but it leaves Highway 40 and joins Highway 24’s route from Colby to Limon, Colo. Had I-70 stayed with Highway 40, Sharon Springs would be on the Interstate, not Goodland. In consequence, Kansas Department of Transportation 2014 traffic counts (PDF) showed 8,220 vehicles passing Goodland per day compared to 815 at Sharon Springs.
Colby banker and state Sen. August W. Lauterbach chaired the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He ensured that Goodland and Colby would get the Interstate instead of the Highway 40 communities west of Oakley. Because of his efforts, the curve at Oakley that sends the interstate between Highway 24’s and Highway 40’s routes is locally known as the Lauterbach Curve. Map shows I-70’s proposed sharp bend at Oakley. Highway 24 through Sherman County runs so close to Interstate 70 that it lost federal highway designation and became a county road.