Baseball star Mark McGwire got his stretch of highway a few years back. Now U.S. submarine veterans will get theirs.
At 10 a.m. today, a ceremony will be held to commemorate the renaming of 54 miles of Interstate 70 as U.S. Submarine Veterans Memorial Highway. The ceremony — to be held in MU’s Jesse Hall — will include remarks by submarine veterans as well as city, county, state and federal officials.
A year and a half ago, while heading toward St. Louis on I-70, U.S. submarine veteran Art Randall was beside himself. He noticed a sign that read Mark McGwire Highway. The stretch of roadway was dedicated as a tribute to the batter’s record-breaking 1998 season when he hit 70 home runs.
“I thought to myself, if he can get (a stretch of highway), then we can sure as heck get one,” said Randall, a resident of Chesterfield and director of the central region of U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc.
Since that time, Randall, with a coalition of five Missouri and Kansas submarine veteran organizations, has pushed for a 54-mile strip of I-70 to call their own.
On July 2, Gov. Bob Holden signed a measure renaming a stretch of I-70 in Saline, Cooper and part of Boone counties.
From the beginning, Randall was eager to have the stretch that ran through Columbia.
“There were a couple of reasons why we wanted to have the 54-mile strip pass through Columbia,” Randall said. “The USS Columbia, a state-of-the-art nuclear submarine, was one of them. The other reason was the sheer number of motorists that pass through the city of Columbia on a yearly basis.”
A 52-mile allotment is intended to memorialize the 52 submarines that were sunk in World War II. The losses accounted for 18 percent of the total commissioned submarines, which was among the greatest losses sustained by any military division.
The additional two miles are devoted to the substantial losses sustained by the submarines Thresher and Scorpion during the Cold War.
“It is in my belief that this memorial is an appropriate remembrance of those men that have served the United States in the submarine sector,” said Shane Peck, spokesman for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Department.