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A Look at the History of the Federal Highway Administration
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December 20
1912 In a speech to the Automobile Club of America, President William Howard Taft says, "I admit that the general Government has the power for the purpose of promoting interstate commerce to build National roads. [But] I venture to question the wisdom of opening that method of spending Federal Government money . . . because if you once set out upon a plan of National roads in addition to the plan of National waterways, I do not know how great the expenditure will amount to."
1930 President Herbert Hoover approves an emergency appropriation of $80 million to be apportioned among the 48 States and Hawaii in the same manner prescribed for regular Federal-aid funds. The funds are loans the States can use to match Federal-aid highway funds. However, the funds may be used only for projects that will actually be completed by September 1, 1931, and the amounts actually expended by the States must be repaid over a period of 5 years. This emergency measure is intended to make up for deficiencies of State revenue and permit increased employment on road work during the early road-building season of 1931. (The loans were changed to grants by the Hayden-Cartwright Act of 1934.)
Illustrative of unemployment relief efforts.
1944 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act, approved by Congress after months of wrangling over the shape of the post-war program. The act authorizes $500 million per year for 3 years, including $150 million for a new FAS system to be selected by the State highway agencies in cooperation with county or local road officials and the PRA. The act also authorizes designation of a 40,000-mile National System of Interstate Highways, but without any funds specifically for its construction.
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