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A Look at the History of the Federal Highway Administration
"The essence of a national objective is 'the general welfare,' and in that regard road making stands pre-eminent. The tax of bad roads is more evenly distributed than any other. It falls alike on producer and consumer, but with especial weight on the poor in towns and cities who depend so largely on farm products for their subsistence. Road improvement would bring relief to every class. Moreover, the mere expenditure of hundreds of millions annually for labor and materials in the rural districts would give years of prosperity to the whole country . . . while by a wise use of the means available, within the span of one long life, and almost without effort, the whole great work would be paid for, the debt cancelled, and the noble heritage of Good Roads left free to our children's children forever."
General Roy Stone
"National Aid to Road Building"
Good Roads, September 1892


On October 3, 1893, General Roy Stone took charge of the Federal Government's new Office of Road Inquiry -- with a staff of one stenographer and a budget of $10,000. Although his budget never exceeded that amount, and was reduced to $8,000 some years, General Stone energized his small agency, making it a leader in the Good Roads Movement before he left office in 1899. In the 120-plus years since its humble beginnings, the U.S. government's road agency - which now has some 3,000 employees and division offices in every State - has followed General Stone's example by working with its State, local and private-sector partners to formulate the vision, harness the best technology and foster a commitment to excellence that has given our nation the most extensive road network in history.

This publication, FHWA By Day, tells the story of the predecessor agencies that led to the Federal Highway Administration by briefly narrating some of the events - major, minor, and in between -since General Stone first walked into his offices in the attic of the U.S. Department of Agriculture building - long since torn down. These events include milestones and landmarks but also the unheralded, routine, day-to-day activities of the thousands of men and women who made the FHWA a world leader in surface transportation.

What comes across most strikingly is the broad range of the agency's activities over the years. In addition to satisfying our most fundamental purpose of cooperating with our State partners on Federal-aid highway projects, the agency has built roads in U.S. forests, wildlife preserves and other difficult locations; conducted cutting-edge research throughout its history; worked hand-in-hand with State and local officials in the aftermath of natural disasters and catastrophes; assisted in providing essential highway infrastructure in countries around the world and trained foreign personnel to carry on this work after we were gone; helped the Nation through two world wars and several major military actions, through economic panics, recessions and the Great Depression; provided leadership and national purpose in highway development; transformed several times to meet changing transportation needs and environmental demands; and fostered long-lasting partnerships that have been at the center of our success.

The agency's emphasis today is on Every Day Counts, a State-based model for identifying and rapidly deploying proven but underused innovations to shorten the project delivery process and reduce project cost, enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion and improve environmental sustainability. FHWA By Day demonstrates that, on a daily basis, the FHWA and its many predecessors have been making every day count for more than a century.

The key to our past -- our commitment to the core principles of partnerships, technological excellence, and development of our human resources -- is the key to how FHWA and its many partners will address the challenges that lay ahead in the 21st century.

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