Photo originally published Aug. 17, 1959

There wasn't an orange cone in sight on this day in 1959, when Minneapolis, Richfield and Bloomington joined forces to open the Twin Cities' first stretch of interstate: I-35W from 56th Street to 106th Street.

The honor of the ceremonial first crossing went to William "Torchy" Peden, a retired champion bicycle racer who happened to be Canadian but lived in Bloomington at the time. (He was called "Torchy" because of his red hair.) After the ceremony, Peden made the dreams of area kids come true by leading a series of bicycle races — right down the middle of the new interstate.

That stretch of roadway had been in the planning stages since the 1930s. It finally saw the light of day thanks to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower had signed into law. The Minnesota River bridge opened in 1960, allowing 35W to stretch down to Hwy. 13 in Burnsville.

But while some viewed the interstate as a sign of progress, others saw limitations.

Access to the interstate was limited and critics were unhappy that the wide stretch of concrete had isolated neighborhoods and the businesses along Lake Street.

And while 35W was supposed to make traveling more efficient, gridlock was already occurring by 1969.

Eisenhower might have been disappointed.

The bill he signed into law a decade earlier aimed to create 41,000 miles of National System of Interstate and Defense Highways that would "eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of 'speedy, safe transcontinental travel.' "

Today, 35W carries more than 200,000 vehicles daily, and there are usually a few orange cones in sight.

Nicole Hvidsten