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A Look at the History of the Federal Highway Administration


Although FHWA By Day is being published as part of the FHWA's celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Federal-aid highway program and the 40th anniversary of the Interstate System, it grew out of an earlier occasion--FHWA's 100th birthday in 1993. On November 24, 1992, during the first meeting of the 100th Year Celebration Committee, participants thought a calendar of all centennial events would be a good idea. After the meeting, the phrase "calendar of events" gave me the idea of producing a calendar with highlights of FHWA's history in the daily squares, but the limited space in each square seemed to make the idea impractical. However, when I discussed the idea with Nick Artimovich, an engineer in the Federal-Aid and Design Division, he suggested using a "book of days" format, rather than a calendar, to allow flexible space for sufficient text. That suggestion provided the framework for FHWA By Day.

I limited FHWA By Day to events involving the FHWA and its predecessor agencies, directly or indirectly. As a result, I had to leave out many important events in highway history over the past 100-plus years that might otherwise have been of interest. However, perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the research was that I was unable to find dates for many events I wanted to include.

The best sources proved to be America's Highways 1776-1976 and the DOT Library. The FHWA published America's Highways 1776-1976, written by FHWA staff, as our contribution to the Nation's Bicentennial. It has since become a standard and highly reliable reference for highway historians. The DOT Library includes the remnants of the library assembled by the FHWA and its predecessors dating to the early days of the "road inquiry." Collections of the Agency's annual reports, bulletins, circulars, news releases, newspaper clipping collections, speeches, and other documents, as well as highway magazines, provided many of the events recorded in FHWA By Day. Copies of our inhouse newsletters, The News in Public Roads and FHWA News, were especially useful.

Many people helped make FHWA By Day possible. Brenda Gordon, Frank Reilly, and (before her retirement) Mary Jo Burke of the DOT Library were, as always, cooperative, friendly, and patient as I rummaged through their stacks and vertical files. As research suggested lines of inquiry, I also consulted with Agency personnel, who contributed information or "days" from their experience. In particular, I must thank FHWA's Tom Edick, Emil Elinsky (retired), Jim Hall, Stan Hamilton, Kevin Heanue, and Bob Warren (retired). (Thanks to Kevin's timely assistance, Frank Turner contributed the date I always thought would be the most difficult to fill in: December 25). Then-Executive Director E. Dean Carlson provided the first "official" support for FHWA By Day, while FHWA's Publishing and Visual Communications Branch under Glenn Vinson provided the technical support and allowed me to rummage through their photo files. Jay Carroll and Lance Strozier of USDOT's Graphic Section opened their photo negative files to me and located many of the post-1967 photographs used here, while AASHTO's Donna Tamburelli allowed me to borrow photographs from AASHTO's files.

FHWA By Day was designed and edited by Program Development's Public Information Specialist, Deborah L. Vocke. Aside from contributing many ideas that helped make this publication attractive (including the photo album format with quotes alongside the text), Debbie worked with me on developing and editing the text; reminding me of significant dates; identifying events to be deleted when I had more events than would fit in the available space; managing all aspects of production, including making choices on which pictures to use, layout, reviewing and proofreading the entire book; and writing the captions. She also offered encouragement when the road seemed longer and more difficult than I had expected.

As we celebrate our two important anniversaries in 1996, I hope FHWA By Day will give the reader some idea of the thousands of daily events that make history happen. Thanks to all who helped make FHWA By Day possible.

Signature: Richard F. Weingroff
Richard F. Weingroff
Information Liaison Specialist, HPD-1

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