by Lee Mertz
In the late fifties, General J. S. Bragdon, working for the President, made some very serious charges against the Bureau of Public Roads' (BPR) stewardship of the Interstate highway program and recommended far-reaching changes in the program. Among other things, he recommended an Interstate toll program, a cut-back in urban mileage, and a moratorium on all urban projects until a comprehensive planning process was established.
Major General J. S. Bragdon, U.S. Army Retired, was President Eisenhower's Special Assistant for Public Works Planning. During his study of the Interstate program, he headed a White House staff of some 25 people aided by consultants. The group was generally referred to as the "Bragdon Committee" and came from varying backgrounds. There were ex-military people, two ex-heads of highway departments, professors, and even one BPR staff person was detailed to the group for part of the study. The timespan ranged from August 1959 to late 1960.
Why this activity was undertaken is not completely clear, but there are bits of information that allow some inferences to be made. The 1956 Highway Act authorized $27.5 billion spread over 13 years to build the Interstate. It also called for biennial estimates of the remaining cost of completion starting in 1958. The 1958 Interstate Cost Estimate (ICE) was the first and raised the estimated cost to $39.9 billion, an increase of 45 percent. This was of great concern to the Bureau of the Budget (BOB). A press clipping from The Washington Star, October 18, 1959, characterized the mission as finding a way to build 41,000 miles of roads without straining the Federal budget. The article went on to say that under the existing tax rates, the pay-as-you-go program would stretch out into the 1980's, an unacceptable outcome. Possible elimination of urban superhighways as a cost-cutting measure was reported.
There were other items in the press. One written by Scrippts Howard staff writer, Lowell Bridwell, dated September 25, 1959, reported the establishment of the Blatnik Committee in the House of Representatives in the wake of bitter House dissention over passage of the 1-cent per gallon increase in the Federal gas tax in 1959. Critics of the tax hike complained that they had heard stories of extravagance, waste, and even fraud in connection with the Interstate program.
A Wall Street Journal article by Paul Duke and Rober Novak, written on the day the new gas tax took effect, gives many insights to the tenor of the times. ". . . charges are growing that he (the motorist) is being short-changed on the grandiose super highway system. . . ." The article notes two congressional inquiries about to get underway sparked by a report from the General Accounting Office which leveled charges of mismanagement against both the States and the Bureau of Public Roads. The House Public Works Committee was reported to be hiring a staff of five investigators and an engineer to head into the States to investigate irregularities. The House Ways and Means Committee will ". . . try to determine whether the Bureau of Public Roads is keeping close enough tabs on state highway expenditures."
The article went on to say that neither the elimination of waste or the new gas tax will solve the basic highway financing problem which resulted in a slowdown of the program in 1959 because of funding uncertainties among the States caused by the long congressional debate over highway financing before passage of the temporary 1-cent tax hike. Even with the increase, the program could not continue at the $2.5 billion level of 1959, which was the result of an anti-recession speedup in 1958 when Congress suspended the pay-as-you-go provision temporarily. $1.8 billion was all that the article forecast that the depleted Trust Fund could stand for 1960.
The article went on to report a rising tide of Senate "liberal" sentiment, led by Minnesota's Senator Eugene McCarthy, that was beginning to question giving highway building priority over Federal aid to education and slum clearance.
These items give some idea of the things in the wind during the Bragdon Committee's investigation. In addition, there are reports that President Eisenhower thought that the Interstate program was like the Autobahn in Germany and was shocked to find that it penetrated the cities. One report(1) is that the President was on his way to Camp David for the weekend when his entourage got caught in a traffic jam caused by Interstate construction in the suburbs. He was so shocked at what he saw that he asked Bragdon and Bureau of the Budget Director Maurice Stans to look into the matter. Another version is that Eisenhower found out about the urban Interstate from a presentation by Harland Bartholomew, the famous city planner who was then the Head of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission.(2)
It seems that General Bragdon was interested in the Interstate System from the beginning of the Eisenhower Administration. In September 1955, he wrote to Sherman Adams, Assistant to the President, outlining a "compromise plan" for a U.S. National Highway System and suggested that a group, including personnel from the Bureau of Public Roads, be designated to prepare a bill incorporating his proposals. The plan called for the establishment of a U.S. Highway Corporation that would issue revenue bonds to build three transcontinental routes: five north-south border-to-border routes, and eight interregional (diagonal) routes. Tolls would be charged and construction, maintenance, and policing would be done by the States. The routes would pass close to but not through large cities. This last phrase was to appear over and over in General Bragdon's writings in subsequent years and became the focus of a great deal of controversy.
In a letter dated February 9, 1959, to B. D. Tallamy, Federal Highway Administrator, General Bragdon inquired as to Public Roads' policy regarding the type of routes eligible for Interstate designation in urban areas. Tallamy agreed with Bragdon that the Interstate System is not designed to solve all of the principal highway traffic problems of cities and metropolitan areas. But he went on to cite the National Interregional Highway Committee and its report, "Interregional Highways" (House Document 379, 73rd Congress, 1944) as the basis for the establishment of the Interstate System that same year and quoted "All facts available to the Committee point to the sections of the recommended system within and in the environs of the larger cities and metropolitan areas as at once the most important in traffic service and the least adequate in their present state of improvement. These sections included routes around as well as into and through the urban areas. If priority of improvements within the System be determined by either the magnitude of benefits resulting or the urgency of need, it is to these sections that first attention should be accorded."
Tallamy went on to state that 37,700 miles were designated in 1947 under the authorization of the 1944 act, which included 4,400 miles extending into and through urban areas, leaving 2,300 miles of the total 40,000 reserved for additional routes in urban areas which were designated in 1955. He also quoted Section 103(d) of Title 23, "This system may be located both in rural and urban areas." Also Section 101(b) ". . . it being the intent that local needs to the extent practicable, suitable and feasible, shall be given equal consideration with the needs of interstate commerce."
In his letter, General Bragdon inquired about Interstate routes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their relationship to metropolitan planning. Tallamy replied that all of the Philadelphia routes conformed to the Philadelphia region arterial plan and cited the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission's report of December 1957 as the basis for the Tulsa routes. The points raised by General Bragdon and Tallamy's responses would be repeated many times over the next year and one-half since they were central to the dispute that ensued.
On June 17, 1959, General Bragdon wrote to the President suggesting a meeting on the "road situation." He said, "Inquiry reveals that many cities wish to take extreme advantage of the very liberal 90-10 provisions to solve their local problems of congestion which may include commuter traffic and other local needs." He was referring, of course, to the Interstate program. This statement is inconsistent with a later one in the same memorandum; ". . . States are often forcing upon cities the through city routes and would prefer not to have them. Sometimes these are used as a threat that the highway will pass by the city without any connections unless the city pays for them. In the case of Salt Lake City, the city officials did not want the Interstate System to go through the city. This would have saved over $7 million." Another quote, "Indicative of the impracticability of solving central city transportation problems by freeways is the calculation by one transportation expert that a rapid transit rail facility can move 40,000 seated passengers an hour whereas it takes 40 lanes of freeway to move an equivalent number by car. A study was made of 16 selected cities comparing the cost of the present plans of the Bureau of Public Roads for running the Interstate System through cities as compared with what the cost would be under the first concept of running not through, but close to and with feeder connections."
The 16 selected cities are many of the same ones that General Bragdon wrote to Tallamy about in February of that same year. General Bragdon also described Tallamy's February response in the memorandum to the President; "Mr. Tallamy agrees that the Interstate System is not designed to solve all the principal highway traffic problems of cities but maintains it has always been the intention since the Interstate Highway System was conceived to extend those highways into and through as well as around metropolitan areas and cities."
General Bragdon ended his memorandum to the President as follows: "Before too many committals have been made, I recommend that the Bureau of Public Roads be instructed to examine into the feasibility of adopting a policy of routing the Interstate Highway System close by but not through central cities, using ingress and egress routes to congested portions. The Bureau of the Budget concurs with me on the advisability of action along these lines. I believe the Bureau of Public Roads should make no further decisions on intracity routing until the policy thereon has been reviewed."
"I further recommend that an ad hoc group consisting of the Secretary of Commerce, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, and the Coordinator for Public Works Planning at the earliest possible date consider the matter and make further recommendations to you." The Coordinator for Public Works Planning was, of course, himself. It was his custom to refer to himself in the third person.
On July 2, 1959, President Eisenhower wrote to General Bragdon. The entire letter is reproduced here rather than attempting to summarize it.
The Federal-aid Highway Act of 1956 provided for a sharply accelerated roads program, established a time limit for completing the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, committed the Federal Government to the completion of a 40,000-mile system irrespective of cost, increased the Federal share for Interstate projects to 90% and established a "pay-as-you-go" system for funding Federal-aid payments. Questions have arisen as to (l) whether present policies of routing will achieve most economically the purposes sought; (2) whether design standards are greater than needed; and (3) whether needs justify a system of the magnitude currently planned. The cost of the system has increased from the $25 billion anticipated when the legislation was under consideration to a 1958 estimate of $36 billion, and is almost certain to increase substantially above this under present highway policies.
A broad review of the Federal highway program should be initiated to:
- Reexamine policies, methods, and standards now in effect in order to ascertain their effectiveness in achieving basic national objectives. This reexamination should cover, but not be limited to, intra-metropolitan area routing including ingress and egress, interchanges, grade separations, frontage roads, traffic lanes, utility relocations, and engineering design.
- Delineate Federal responsibility as distinguished from State and local responsibility in financing, planning, and supervising the highway program.
- Determine the means for improving coordination between planning for Federal-aid highways and State-local planning, especially urban planning.
- Develop recommendations covering the legislative and administrative action required to redirect the program as indicated in 1, 2, and 3, in a manner that will (a) minimize the Federal cost of the highway program, and (b) assure financing these costs from the Trust Fund on a self-sustaining basis.
In this study priority should be given to those aspects of the problem where maximum savings can be effected. As specific conclusions and recommendations are developed, I expect them to be implemented, after appropriate clearances, without waiting for the final report to be completed.
The scope and method for carrying on this study should be developed jointly by you, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget and the Department of Commerce. However, in view of your assigned duties in the area of public works planning, I want you to assume responsibility for carrying out this broad study of the highway program. It will, of course, be necessary to consult on a continuing basis with the Bureau of the Budget in order that the study and the final recommendation are consistent with overall budgetary, legislative, and management policies of the Federal Government.
In view of the importance of this study it is my wish that you give this project highest priority in your work program.
You should also coordinate this work with the Secretary of Commerce who will furnish you such assistance and data as may be necessary.
I am addressing letters to the Secretary of Commerce and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget regarding this study as well as a separate study to be undertaken under the direction of the Budget Bureau on the immediate problem of avoiding appropriations from the general fund to meet impending deficits in 1960 and 1961 in the Highway Trust Fund.
On August 14, 1959, General Bragdon wrote to Secretary of Commerce Frederick N. Mueller informing him of the names and duties of the members of his study group and transmitting the first of a series of requests for information about the highway program. Included in the request were:
Also enclosed were three draft policy statements for reaction; Policy 1 had to do with "Definition of Commitment" for the Interstate System. It stated that funds may have been committed under policies that should be modified and went on to give a proposed Definition of Commitment, i.e., when a large proportion of contracts had been awarded and/or right of way acquired for a section of Interstate.
Proposed Policy 1A was titled "Objectives of the Interstate System." It postulated that the Interstate System was to serve inter-city travel and not local traffic. "These highways will ordinarily pass close to, or around, but not through congested areas." Local needs to be provided for by Interstate only where it does not increase costs. Otherwise, local routes are to be financed by ABC funds.
Proposed Policy 2A stated that ". . . circumferential routes around and outside the congested portions of large metropolitan areas are considered as elements of the system." ". . . routes within metropolitan areas are considered local requirements. . . ." The above policies were to be examined by BPR for feasibility of application to the 18 cities.
So at this early stage of the Committee's activities, there seemed to be rather well-developed ideas about what was deemed necessary to re-orient the Interstate program. The data and information requests accompanying the proposed policies were comprehensive, ranging from requests for policies and procedures to information about project status, design, traffic estimates, interchange spacing, number of lanes, construction status, etc. Further requests for information followed in quick succession throughout the remainder of 1959 and into the spring of 1960.
In September 1959, a report titled "Legislative Intent with Respect to the Location of Interstate Routes in Urban Areas and the Concept of Local Needs in Section 116 of the Federal Highway Act of 1956," prepared by the BOB and the Department of Commerce, was issued. It was requested by General Bragdon. It is a comprehensive historical and legislative background document on the development of the Interstate program. It traces the roots of the program to the 1921 Federal-Aid Highway Act which contains wording such as, "Highways that may received Federal aid shall be divided into two classes, one of which shall be known as primary or interstate highways and shall not exceed three-sevenths of the total mileage which may receive Federal aid. . . ."
The report goes on to identify the so-called Pershing map which delineated military needs in the early 1920's, the public works programs of the 1930's, War Department needs developed in 1935, and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938 which mandated the study "Toll Roads and Free Roads" as all having a contribution to the development of the Interstate System first identified in the 1944 Highway Act.
Regarding the question of Interstate highways going into urban areas, the report states "The 1944 Interregional Highway report makes it perfectly clear that the Interstate Highway System would penetrate the cities and metropolitan areas, and would include both intracity and circumferential routes."
Section 108(b) of the 1956 act states that: "For the purpose of expediting the construction . . . of the Interstate system, including extensions thereof through urban areas, designated in accordance with the provisions of section 7 of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 . . . there is hereby authorized to be appropriated . . . ." The report states "This authorizing language is specific and clearly expresses the intent of the Congress to finance the then designated system, which included the urban circumferential and radial routes designated in prior years." There seemed to be no question about congressional intent. The definition of "local needs" was a different story, however.
Section 116 of the 1956 act states "(b) COMPLETION OF INTERSTATE SYSTEM: PROGRESS REPORT ON FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM--It is further declared that one of the most important objectives of this Act is the prompt completion of the Interstate System. Insofar as possible in consonance with this objective, existing highways located on an interstate route shall be used to the extent that such use is practicable, suitable and feasible, it being the intent that local needs, to the extent practicable, suitable and feasible, shall be given equal consideration with the needs of interstate commerce. . . ."
Section 116(b) derives from the wording of S. 1048 in 1955 which is slightly different: "Insofar as possible, in consonance with this objective of a magnificent national highway system, existing highways located on an interstate route shall be used to the extent that such use is practicable, suitable, and feasible. It also declares it to be the legislative intent of this bill that local needs to the extent practicable, suitable and feasible, shall be given equal consideration with the needs of interstate travel and commerce."
There are two interpretations that can be drawn from 116(b). The joint BOB/Commerce report concluded that ". . . the phrase 'local needs, to the extent practicable, suitable, and feasible shall be given equal consideration with the needs of interstate commerce' applies to 'existing highways located on an existing interstate route.'" BPR's interpretation was that "local needs" be given equal consideration on all interstate routes on the grounds that the reports, "Toll Roads and Free Roads" and "Interregional Highways," leading to the establishment of the Interstate System recommended that local travel in urban areas be served to the extent practical without compromising the interstate character of the System. Background hearings during and after the 1956 act show that congressmen were divided on the issue. Senator Robert Kerr, Oklahoma, thought it meant that existing highways should be used as much as possible, and in order to do that, the local traffic already being served had to be taken care of. Senator Albert Gore, Tennessee, and Senator Francis Case, South Dakota, thought it meant that local needs should be served and agreed that a significant proportion of the increase in cost shown in the 1958 ICE was for that purpose.
On September 18, 1959, Bragdon wrote to Secretary Mueller agreeing with the findings of the BOB/Commerce report, but felt that "we should go further in deducing what has been the results of a too broad interpretation . . . ."
The following "bullets" are excerpted from his letter:
He went on to recommend:
These were strong words.
On October 7, Secretary of Commerce Mueller wrote to Tallamy citing the joint "intent" report and a meeting between Bragdon, Maurice Stans (Director of BOB), and himself that took place September 21, 1959, at which there was agreement that BPR should:
He then requested Tallamy to:
On October 13, 1959, Tallamy wrote Mueller a very strong letter. He complained that BPR had never seen the "intent" report being cited and, further, had not been party to its preparation, thus putting him at a disadvantage. He did have Bragdon's "conclusions" and recommendations presented in his September 18 letter and had the following comments:
Mr. Tallamy attached a 27-page point-by-point rebuttal to Bragdon's September 18 conclusions and recommendations prepared by Clifford Enfield, Chief Counsel of BPR.
At this point, there seemed to be a cooling of relations between Bragdon and Tallamy with subsequent Bragdon memorandums being addressed to Ellis L. Armstrong, Commissioner, BPR. Through all of this, requests for data, evaluations, and delegations of authority continued at a great rate.
On October 13, 1959, Bragdon wrote to Armstrong presenting suggested criteria for urban routings, apparently having given up on Tallamy producing them by October 7:
By this time, news of the activities of the Bragdon team had come to the attention of the press. On October 18, 1959, the Sunday edition of The Washington Star carried an article reporting that serious study was being given to the possibility of the States paying a larger share of the Interstate program. The Bragdon mission was described as finding a way to build the System without straining the Federal budget. Given the 50-percent increase in the estimated costs, there was no way it could be built by 1972 as scheduled. The article predicted completion by 1980 under the existing taxes.
The alternatives reported were: abandon pay-as-you-go, eliminate urban Interstate, reduce frills and increase taxes. The article reported that sources close to Bragdon said that he had turned away from eliminating urban Interstate routes because of the political ramifications since urban motorists pay half the highway user taxes. Further, he believed that enough "frills" could be eliminated to bring the program into line. Bragdon also expressed disappointment that only 5,000 miles were open to traffic.
On October 19, Bragdon wrote to Mueller complaining that Mueller's instructions to BPR on October 7 did not include a requirement for comprehensive transportation- land use planning as a condition of project approvals. He suggested that that oversight be remedied immediately. He also noted that his October 7 deadline for criteria was missed by BPR. He complained that BPR staff was not communicating openly with his staff, their reasons being that the issues being discussed were primarily policy oriented and therefore not properly items for discussion at the staff level. General Bragdon stated his view that nothing was policy until implementation decisions were made. He asked Mueller to instruct BPR staff to communicate and interact freely with his staff without requiring written requests through administrative channels.
In this letter, he proposed, for the first time, that an interim report to the President be developed by mid-December covering urban routings, needs, mileage, location, geometrics, interchanges, grade separations, number of lanes, frontage roads, planning, program control, and financing. In closing, he reiterated his request that instructions be issued immediately requiring comprehensive planning and a moratorium on urban project approvals until conformity with community plans could be assured by State and local governments. He also set a new deadline date of November 9 for BPR to submit revised criteria.
The strong insistance on a requirement for "comprehensive, economic growth, land use and transportation planning" is interesting because this was 3 years before the passage of the "3C planning process" requirement in the 1962 act. It leads to speculation as to whether the Bragdon recommendations were the source of that later statutory requirement.
On October 28, 1959, Mueller wrote to Bragdon acknowledging the preparation of a draft interim report by December and a final report by March 31, 1960, and pledged the complete cooperation of the Department of Commerce and open discussions by the BPR staff. He took note of the most difficult task that General Bragdon was doing for the President. The rest of the letter, however, constituted a distinct backing away from Bragdon's recommendations.
He stated that curtailment of urban projects was not necessary because of restraints on obligation authority and a limitation schedule of reimbursements to States. Most of that fiscal year's limitations had already been reached. He felt that the second half of the fiscal year, when two-thirds of the limitations would be released, would be the time for "new thinking" on urban construction. He also appealed to Bragdon that the "new criteria" should be the result of a careful deliberative process rather than precipitous action.
With regard to "urban master plans," he had given it a lot of thought and agreed that all communities should have them and that urban projects should conform to them, but he was worried how "national priorities" would be preserved and whether the Federal Government could "dictate." He felt that the voluntary program, then going on between AASHO and the American Municipal Association and supported by BPR, would produce "master plans" in 2 or 3 years anyway. He ended with the observation that he felt that it would be a mistake to give the public the impression that mistakes had out- weighed accomplishments since there was a lot to be proud of with the Interstate program.
On the same day Mueller wrote to Tallamy recognizing Tallamy's bitter complaints of October 13 and informed him of the decision that a draft interim report would be prepared by mid-December and finalized the following March, and that Bragdon expected the "new criteria" from BPR by November 9. He also transmitted the "intent" study prepared by his staff and BOB for Bragdon and reassured Tallamy that it was only a "staff study" and did not represent the official views of the Department. He appealed to Tallamy that "we" are following the "expressed wishes of the President" and that General Bragdon should receive complete cooperation, but that BPR should feel free to present alternates to proposals of the Bragdon group. He asked Tallamy to take immediate implementing actions wherever he could in order to demonstrate cooperation.
On October 29, 1959, Under Secretary John J. Allen transmitted a Bragdon letter written on the 26th in which he presented a comprehensive list of suggested criteria for interchange spacing. The letter:
On October 31, 1959, Bragdon wrote to Mueller apprising him that he had determined that it was feasible to complete a basic interconnected, intercity Interstate System as Phase I within the $27.4 billion that was authorized in the 1956 act.
He went on to say that the economies necessary for Phase I were to be achieved by instituting revised criteria relating to:
He noted that action must be taken immediately to control costs. Attached to the letter was a paper titled "Principles for Determining a Basic System or First Phase . . . Under Present Funding." Included were:
The above letter was transmitted to Tallamy on November 6 by Under Secretary Allen. He portrayed the Phase I steps suggested by Bragdon as "programming" and felt there might be other ways of achieving the same objectives. He also observed that the premise that Congress had only authorized $27.4 billion might not be valid. That same day, Allen requested a legal opinion from Dodds, the General Counsel of the Department of Commerce, as to the $27.4 billion limitation of the 1956 act. He noted in the request that some Congressmen had expressed the same view. He went on to say that he did not feel that the authorization question had any relevance to program scheduling or phasing of the program.
On November 6, Mr. Bertram H. Lindman of Bragdon's staff wrote to O.K. Normann, BPR Planning, presenting an Interstate toll proposal:
On November 10, 1959, Bragdon transmitted proposed criteria for grade separations and frontage roads to Under Secretary Allen:
On November 12, 1959, E. H. Holmes, BPR, wrote to F. C. Turner asking for guidance on transmitting information to the Bragdon group. He noted that Tallamy had embargoed all transmissions on November 10 until an "official" request came through normal channels.
On November 19, 1959, H. J. Kaltenbach, General Bragdon's Counsel, rendered a legal opinion to Bragdon having to do with the question of "When are Interstate routes fixed and not subject to deletion by the Secretary?" or more specifically, "Could a route in the yellow book (urban) be eliminated by the Secretary?"(3)
Citing Sections 103(e) and 106(a), Kaltenbach found that the Secretary could delete a segment of Interstate unilaterally. Joint action of the Secretary and a State was required for designation, but the Secretary could de-designate if he had a valid reason. He found that approval of PS&E was the critical point. Anything before that was reversible given a valid reason.
On November 21, 1959, Bragdon transmitted a paper on "Needs Mileage and Route Designation" to Under Secretary Allen requesting comments:
By this time, teams of Bragdon people began to appear in the BPR field offices and the States. Ed Swick, then Regional Engineer in Kansas City, documented visits to inspect planning in St. Louis and the status of the Interstate System there. He noted that Rex Whitton of the Missouri Highway Department visited with the group and pointed out the practical political fact that local needs had to be considered along with Interstate. Groups also visited Boston, New York City, and Atlanta.
A significant turn of the Secretary's views was stated in a November 27, 1959, memorandum from Under Secretary Allen to Tallamy. He stated that Mueller had met with Bragdon on November 13 and had expressed concern about recognition of the Secretary's and BPR's legal responsibilities and accountability under the law. He wanted to be assured that all discussions with the Bragdon group concerned policy development and not implementation. He expressed concern that if discussions got into the implementation of specific routes or projects, individuals not accountable to the Department would be performing functions for which the Department was lawfully accountable. He warned that all conversations should be limited to principles and criteria for phasing and criticism of program administration. He wanted it to be clear that whatever changes might result must be administered by BPR as called for by law. On the same day Bragdon transmitted an analysis of right-of-way acquisition practices among States:
On December 3, 1959, Tallamy wrote to Mueller commenting on the "Legislative Intent" paper prepared jointly by BOB and Commerce staff in September. He opened with a strong statement that "The Federal highway program has been and is being administered according to the intent of Congress, the intent of the Administration and within the law itself." He disagreed strongly with the statement in the paper that BPR failed to reevaluate the Interstate program in 1956 when the Congress changed the matching ratio to 90-10. He asserted that the Interstate program had been under evaluation and reevaluation ever since 1939 and the process certainly did not stop in 1956. Other points in his letter were:
On December 4, 1959, Ellis Armstrong forwarded a report on urban planning to Under Secretary Allen that had been asked for by the Bragdon group. He referred to item 10 of Bragdon's September 18 letter in which Bragdon expressed the belief that there was a lack of urban planning in the development of the urban Interstate routes. Armstrong cited BPR's long record of encouraging urban planning and noted that 149 of the 288 cities over 25,000 served by the Interstate had comprehensive plans with 45 more under way. He stated further that BPR's efforts in this regard were being increased.
On December 18, 1959, Floyd Peterson, Bragdon's Chief of Staff, transmitted a paper, "A Planning Framework for Highways," to S. T. Hitchcock in BPR Planning. The letter of transmittal took note of meetings between staffs on the subject and expressed the hope that all changes agreed to had been incorporated. The paper took note of BPR's activities in urban planning in a complimentary way, but observed that it "may be necessary to go beyond past efforts of exhortation and persuasion . . . ." It went on to cite the "workable program" of the Urban Renewal Administration as being the way to "stimulate" planning activity. Other points:
On December 21, Armstrong wrote to Allen commenting on Bragdon's October 31 memorandum in which he advocated "phasing" of the Interstate program. He presented a map (not found) showing three stages or phasing of the program. The first phase consisted of construction expected to be completed by December 31, 1970, using then authorized funds. The second phase consisted of routes where preliminary engineering and/or right-of-way acquisition were expected to be under way as of December 31, 1970, and a third phase where route location studies would not be completed by December 31, 1970. He went on to make the point that the System will be phased by the dynamics of the process, and it was not expected to (in fact could not) exceed authorizations. Dictation from Washington would hinder, not help the process. Armstrong felt that it was very important that General Bragdon understand this.
On December 30, 1959, Bragdon wrote to Mueller commenting on a draft of the Interstate Cost Estimate manual then in preparation for the 1960 estimate. His opening was quite acerbic where he noted that little attention had been paid to his many communications urging the adoption of criteria for the administration of the Interstate program. He went on to say that the manual was not in keeping with the basic objectives of the Interstate System as stated in the BOB/Commerce "Intent" paper. He went on to recommend that the manual be revised to specifically state:
General Bragdon ended his letter by stating that the Director of the Bureau of the Budget concurred in principle but took no position on the conclusions reached, and that a meeting and thorough discussion should take place before issuance of the manual.
There is an undated copy of a memorandum that Tallamy wrote to Mueller commenting on Bragdon's December 30 criticism of the draft Interstate Cost manual. He made the following points:
On January 6, 1960, C. W. Enfield, Chief Counsel of BPR, wrote to R. J. Dodds, General Counsel of the Department of Commerce, sending comments on General Bragdon's October 31 letter to Mueller in which he proposed criteria to complete the basic Interstate System within the $27.4 billion authorizations. Enfield made the following points:
On January 8, 1960, Ellis Armstrong issued a "Circular Memorandum" that made the following points:
On January 9, 1960, Bragdon sent to Mueller the first two sections of the Draft Interim Report dealing with criteria essentially the same as his earlier recommendations. He estimated that implementation would save from $3 to $7 billion, but that implementation must be done quickly.
On January 19, Section III of the Draft Interim Report was transmitted from Bragdon to Mueller.
On January 23, Tallamy wrote to Robert E. Merriam, Deputy Assistant to the President for Interdepartmental Affairs commenting on the Interim Report point by point and in detail. In general, there were two main themes--that the Interstate program was being administered according to the intent of the Congress and that special legislation would be required to implement the Bragdon recommendations.
A January 28, 1960, newsclip from the Indianapolis Star reported that Congressman Joseph W. Bar (D. Indiana) had conferred with Bragdon and his staff and was deeply disturbed that the urban Interstate might be cut back leaving the urban areas to cope with the floods of traffic that the Interstate would dump into the urban areas. Bragdon said that the cities are seeking solutions to local problems and that is not what the Congress intended. Mayor Boswell of Indianapolis said that it would be better to drop the whole Interstate program than to leave the cities to cope alone.
The Congressional Quarterly of January 29, 1960, quoted Senator Dennis Chavez (D. New Mexico) as saying there were rumors that Bragdon would recommend cutting back on the urban Interstate to save money. He said he would oppose any cut backs. Senator Gore (D. Tennessee) and Republican Whip Thomas Kuchel (California) said there would be bi-partisan opposition to any attempt to cut back the program. Opposition was also voiced by Representative Fallon (D. Maryland), Chairman of the House Public Works Committee.
Also on January 29, 1960, a meeting was held at the Department of Justice. Present were R. Kramer, Assistant Attorney General; R. McPhee, Associate Special Counsel to the President; H. Kaltenbach, Counsel to General Bragdon; N. Siegle, Department of Justice, R. Dodds, General Counsel, Department of Commerce, and C. Enfield, BPR Chief Counsel. Three issues were discussed: (l) The "local needs" question, (2) whether legislation was needed for phasing, and (3) the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to unilaterally de-designate Interstate routes.
On the local needs question, Kaltenbach presented the opinion that the meaning of the law (Section 116(b)) was that local needs were to receive equal consideration only where existing highways were used for Interstate locations. Enfield held the opposite view. Kramer, speaking for the Attorney General, found that either interpretation was legal, and it was, therefore, a policy issue.
With regard to phasing of the Interstate program, all agreed that legislation would be necessary. McPhee, Counsel to the President, suggested that Bragdon drop phasing from his recommendations for that reason.
On the Secretary's authority to de-designate Interstate routes, Enfield held that the Secretary could only act on matters initiated by a State, and it was illegal for any unilateral action. McPhee emphasized that it would be most unfortunate for Commerce or BPR to adopt such a position and ordered a legal opinion to be prepared by Commerce on the subject.
On February 8, Bragdon sent Mueller a revised Section III of the Interim Report in which he discussed four different funding possibilities for the Interstate System. His conclusions were:
On February 23, Kaltenbach sent Bragdon a legal opinion stating that the recommendations contained in the Interim Report could be implemented administra- tively without legislation being necessary, notwithstanding BPR and Enfield's comprehensive and detailed opinions to the contrary. His main points were that a search for congressional intent is only necessary where the law is ambiguous. The pertinent laws were unambiguous on their face, therefore, BPR was trying to administratively rewrite laws by presenting background colloquies between congressmen as intent.
On February 23, Dodds sent Enfield a lengthy and thorough opinion from R. McPhee, Associate Special Counsel to the President, which said, in essence, that the Secretgary had the authority to delete Interstate routes if he has good reason and not acting capriciously.
The February-March 1960 issue of the Highway Highlights magazine carried an article about General Bragdon. It is not known exactly when the interview took place. The following items are excerpted from the article:
During the early spring of 1960, the records show a great deal of activity where information or data previously requested was coming in from the field offices and being transmitted to the Bragdon team. Sometimes, Bragdon wrote directly to BPR field offices requesting information about a particuilar city or State.
The whole activity peaked on April 6, 1960, with a meeting with President Eisenhower. Attending were Mueller, Stans, Bragdon, Merriam, Col. Meek, and Tallamy. The records do not show what happened at that meeting. Both Merriam and Bragdon are known to have written notes for the record after the meeting. They are in the Eisenhower Library.(4) Both indicate that Eisenhower said that "the matter of running Interstate routes through the congested parts of the cities was entirely against his original concept and wishes." The notes also Indicate that he said "the yellow book" depicting routes in cities had sold the program to Congress." Tallamy has a different recollection of the meeting. A transcript of a portion of a recent interview with Tallamy follows:
Mertz There is evidence that President Eisenhower was, let's say, ambivalent about the urban portions of the Interstate. On the one hand he is known to have said that the "yellow book," which was published in 1955 and showed the urban segments of the Interstate, helped to sell the program in 1956. On the other hand, he is quoted as having said that if he had known that the Interstate was going into urban areas, he would never have signed the 1956 act. These are reported quotes. Do you have any recollections of that?
Tallamy Not the way you have cited it to me.
Mertz Tell it your way.
Tallamy In the first place, the statement that you made in relation to whether he would have supported it or not, I have never heard anything like that. I think I was there at the time the statement was made and whoever has indicated this has put their own words to it I'm afraid.
Mertz Where this quote comes from is whoever wrote the minutes of that meeting.
Tallamy Well, I really don't know who wrote the minutes of it, but I can tell you I don't remember any minutes being taken. Do you mean a stenographer took them?
Mertz No, one view presented by a researcher says that Bragdon wrote the minutes after the meeting.
Tallamy That could be.
Mertz Another view is that a Mr. Merriam, who was a White House Assistant and present at the meeting, wrote the minutes.
Tallamy I'll try to express it the way I interpreted it. We had the meeting in the President's Office. I was defending what we were doing, obviously, and Bragdon had an easel there with a lot of display charts with some young officer operating the charts for him, and he started the discussion and continued at quite some length. Then, I think, the President interrupted him and said "I'd like to hear what Mr. Tallamy has to say." I could see that the President was getting nervous about the time he was spending on this, probably to him, minor detail. So I didn't want to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary so I said, "Mr. President, I would like to show you this book which was on everybody's desk at the time the Interstate legislation was approved."
Mertz This was the "yellow book"?
Tallamy Yes. Then I leafed through and showed a couple of charts showing the cities and said, "These are the routes in them." He said, "Are you sure? This was on everybody's desk?" I said, "Well I'm pretty sure. I wasn't there at the time, but I am as certain as can be that that was the case." I'm not sure of this, but pretty sure, he turned and asked General Bragdon if that was his recollection too, and I am quite sure he said it was. Well then, I think the President said "I didn't realize that that was the case"--something to that effect. Then he said, "The meeting's over gentlemen, I'll let you know what I decide." This is the way it ended."
Mertz Just to refresh your memory, that meeting took place on April 6, 1960.
Tallamy That's about right.
On April 13, 1960, Congressman Gordon Scherer (R. Ohio) wrote to Secretary Mueller:
As you know I have been greatly concerned since I spoke to the American Association of State Highway Officials last October about the possibility of the Administration recommending cutbacks or the de-emphasizing of the Interstate System in urban areas.
I will not restate in this letter why I feel that the adoption of such a policy would be a serious mistake since I have discussed this matter on many occasions with Under Secretary Allen and Highway Administrator Tallamy. The fact that such a cutback and other proposed changes in highway construction standards have been under consideration has caused much uncertainty throughout the country with reference to future highway planning.
In order to eliminate this uncertainty I am wondering whether or not you are able to advise me if any conclusions have been reached with respect to this matter, and if so, the nature thereof.
On April 15, 1960, Secretary Mueller replied. An excerpt from his letter was published on April 25 in the American Municipal Association newsletter.
NO CUTBACKS IN URBAN INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS: Congressman George H. Scherer (R., Ohio) made public April 21 a letter from the Secretary of Commerce dated April 15, 1960, setting forth the Administration's position about the Interstate Highway System as it relates to urban areas. Excerpts defining the Administration's official position follow:
The administration has no intention whatever of abandoning any of the routes presently designated as general corridors of traffic -- in urban or in rural areas. We all appreciate, of course, that the Interstate System cannot, nor is it intended to, provide the solution to the rush hour traffic problems of our metropolitan areas. That rests in the coordination of many elements, such as the Federal-aid urban arterial highways and other major city and State thoroughfares, combined with both rail and rubber mass transportation and, to a considerable degree, with both air and water facilities. The Interstate System, however, will be part of this overall approach to the problem and will facilitate the movement of interstate highway traffic within the many metropolitan areas in which this system has been designated. I know you are aware that current revenue estimates for the highway trust fund are about $11 billion less than the amount required to build this projected system on present costs. In our report to the Congress next January we will present revised cost estimates along with a suggested program designed to raise sufficient funds to pay for this program. You also know that the President has proposed an immediate one-half cent increase in the gas tax with extension of a 4 1/2-cent rate through fiscal 1964. This tax would allow increased apportionments in the next several years, which are necessary if the program, including the urban routes of particular interest to you, is to get back on schedule.
The White House has advised your Executive Director that the above statement was intended to put a stop to rumors which have been circulating since last Fall that a White House study under the direction of General Bragdon would result in Administration action to cut back the Interstate construction program, particularly in urban areas.
A few weeks later, Eisenhower appointed General Bragdon to the Civil Aeronautics Board and Floyd Peterson became Bragdon's successor. A 12-page report was submitted to the President on January 17, 1961, almost the last day of the Administration. By Peterson's own statement, it was a classic of "bureaucratic aridity."
Interview with Paul Sitton, then the BOB Highway Examiner. [Return to document]
Harland Bartholomew was also a member of the Interregional Highway Committee appointed by President Roosevelt in April 1941 to study and report on ". . . a system of national highways. . . ." The Committee's report, "Interregional Highways," forwarded to Congress in January 1944, was the basis for the establishment of the Interstate System in the 1944 Highway Act. [Return to document]
It should be noted here that Mr. Kaltenbach was Chief Counsel of BPR during C. D. Curtiss' tenure as Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Roads. [Return to document]
Schwartz, Gary T., "Urban Freeways and the Interstate System," Southern California Law Review, Vol. 49.406, 1976. [Return to document]