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Highway History

Building the Interstate

Section 2

Although the Interstate was authorized by the Congress in 1944 and most of the system was officially designated in 1947, construction did not begin in earnest until the passage of the 1956 Highway Act. Part One, "The Origins of the Interstate", documents the events leading to the 1956 Act. This Part Two begins there.

The record begins with the AASHO annual meeting in November of 1956 at Atlantic City N.J., just five months after passage of the Act.

Excerpts from the January 1957 Issue of American Highways.

REX WHITTON, Outgoing President, Missouri.


He expressed great regret for the untimely death of General Frank Merrill two days after he was elected President of AASHO. It was on this occasion that Whitton, the Vice President succeeded to the Presidency.

(There is a story connected with that. General Merrill was the leader of the famous Merrill's Marauder's in World War II, and was a great friend and comrade of General Eisenhower. After World War II, he was highly placed in the military occupation of the Philippines where Frank Turner was putting the roads back together. They had daily interactions. After military retirement, Merrill was appointed to head the New Hampshire highway department by Governor Sherman Adams, soon to become the White House chief of staff under President Eisenhower. One of the reasons he was elected President of AASHO, so the story goes, was, it was perceived, that he would have access to the Oval Office and influence with Ike, which, it was thought, was needed for the passage of the 1956 Act.)


Whitton thanked everyone involved in the 1956 Act. He noted that the passage of that monumental legislation was due largely to good public relations and encouraged all to pay more attention to that critical function in the future. He noted that Congress had asked the highway departments for four studies. Their performance on those was critical to the future of the highway program. The studies were; a new Interstate cost estimate, maximum sizes and weights, a study of a policy for the reimbursement for highways already on the Interstate System and a study on the costs of different classes of highways.

NOTE: The reimbursement issue was very controversial and AASHO's recommendation for it did not survive in the 1956 Act.

He appealed to the members to update their procedures to modern methods using computers, photogrammetry and efficiency procedures.

JOHN VOLPE, Federal Highway Administrator.


Volpe gave great credit to deceased General Merrill and to Francis du Pont for getting the 1956 Act started.

He emphasized the great importance of the events during the crucial two years between Ike's famous speech kicking off the campaign for an expanded highway program and passage of the 56 Act.


He warned the members to not compromise when faced with local opposition to a segment of Interstate because of the special National importance of the program. He warned them of the temptation to overbuild since the Federal Government would be picking up 90% of the cost.


"We have been asked whether it is a good policy for a State to concentrate in early stages of the Interstate program on projects in urban areas, on the grounds that it is in those areas that the need for traffic relief is the greatest. Our answer is that we strongly favor such a policy provided, first, that urgent rural needs are not overlooked and, second, that firm agreement has been reached with officials of the urban areas on the location and design of the proposed improvements."

"The second condition is especially important. Highway improvement in urban areas is probably the most critical feature of the program. Over half the Interstate funds will be spent there, and the extremely high cost per mile of the urban facilities makes it essential that they be properly located to insure wise expenditure of State and Federal funds. Correct location can be of even more importance to the cities themselves, however, for these freeways will become integral links in the urban transportation network, often serving transit as well as private vehicles. Properly located they can encourage good urban development, aid urban renewal, and be of great over-all benefit to the community. Improperly located they can impair or even prevent desirable growth and community life. So we must be assured that, as required by the 1956 Act, local needs be given serious and proper consideration. I urge State Highway officials to seek and to utilize the cooperation of city officials in locating these urban expressways."

"Much needs to be done by the cities to insure their ability to cooperate with the States in planning these facilities. It is most gratifying that a Joint Committee of this Association and the American Municipal Association is at work on this problem. The group held its first meeting only last Friday. It is fortunate also that the National Committee on Urban Transportation, composed largely of city officials and on which the Bureau is represented, has long been at work preparing manuals for the collection of highway planning data for cities comparable to those obtained in our 20-year program of Statewide Highway Planning Surveys. These manuals are now being tested in eight pilot cities in as many States. This Committee's work will be invaluable to the Joint AMA and AASHO Committee and to all States. Both Committees deserve, and I am sure will receive, the full support of all States."


He noted that the concept of controlled access was new and the Interstate was the first time the concept was required for an entire system. He warned that the concept was not well understood and opposition would develop but the 2/3 reduction in accidents was well worth it. He noted the growing number of "before and after" studies that were documenting the economic advantages of controlled access. He noted particularly Rt. 128 in Boston. He called their attention to the requirements for a new cost estimate for the Interstate and periodic updates through 1968. He urged cooperation and compliance with the new labor provisions of the 1956 Act. He said that delegations of authority to BPR field offices were necessary to keep pace with the expanded program. Approval of Secondary program projects had already been delegated from Washington to the Division Offices (now Regions). Fifteen additional Supergrade positions were given to BPR as part of the reorganization. $200 million of Interstate projects had been obligated.

SEN. DENNIS CHAVES, N.M., Chairman Senate Public Works Committee.


He described the Highway program as being a 13-year program with a 3-year space to start with through 1959, after which the Congress would look the matter over and make decisions about the future.

He noted that prior to the Reorganization Act (The Monroney-Mansfield Act), roads were authorized through the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.

He warned the members not to forget the views of the citizens. That was the reason that the Act called for public hearings. He worried about the affect bypasses would have on businesses.



He stressed the importance of the Interstate in economic growth, national unity, etc. He placed great emphasis on the studies required, i.e, ICE, 210 study, etc. He stressed the importance of keeping politics and compromise from undermining the functional attributes of the Interstate System. One of the problems that he saw was the number of governmental units dealing with highways-46,000 by his count. He saw this as a threat to the program.

REP. GORDON H. SCHERRER, Ohio, House Subcommittee on Roads.


He extolled the virtues of the Interstate Program and worried aloud about the many attempts there would be for graft, fraud, inefficiency, and chicanery in a program so large. He appealed to the members to hold the line.

BERTRAM D. TALLAMY, Administrator Designate, N.Y. Thruway Auth.

He cheered them on and told them how good they were and that they would face great adversity in the great task ahead, but they would do it and achieve mightily.


A section of U.S. 40 West of Topeka was opened to Traffic Nov. 14, 1956.

NOTE: This was probably the first section of Interstate opened to traffic after the passage of the 1956 Highway Act. Obviously, Interstate segments had been built and opened to traffic before this date.

C.D. CURTISS, Commissioner of Public Roads, BPR.


The President signed the 56 Act on June 29, 1956. He contrasted the mood of the convention to that of the year before when they were all downcast by the defeat of highway legislation. He said that more money would be made available to the Highway departments in four years than in the 40 years before. He emphasized the need for the use of computers and photogrammetry and modern management practices and standard designs in order to efficiently implement such a large program.

He quoted at length many of the provisions of the Act and called attention to five studies required by the Congress from Interstate cost estimates to the 210 cost allocation study.

Excerpts from the April 1957 Issue of American Highways.


The cover was a portrait of MacDonald edged in black. He died on Sunday, April 7, 1957 at Texas A&M., College Station. He was carried back to Washington on the National Limited to be buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Pyke Johnson wrote the eulogy which spelled out 10 points that were most important to MacDonald just before his death:


  1. Recognition of the essential fact that transportation is not simply a service agency. It is a force which can and does affect our whole way of living or making a living.

  2. The highway program must rest upon the essential premise that we are dealing with the lives of people and in the end they will make the final choices. No government can dictate.

  3. The Highway partnership has proved its durability and is a model that should be applied to other programs here and abroad.

  4. The extension of the highway program into urban areas is simply an extension of the same principles that have operated in the past.

  5. If the States are to carry forward successfully the provisions of the 56 Act, they must reorganize and provide centralized policy for the urban and secondary programs.

  6. Every urban area should have a comprehensive transportation plan geared to the total future needs of the area. This work should go forward immediately in order to limit the costs of rights-of-way, relieve congestion and to find locations for the Interstate.

  7. The scenic beauty of the Interstate highways should be preserved by laws preventing the encroachment of ugly structures.

  8. It is idle to attempt to estimate the final cost of the Interstate or its date of completion. The important thing is the existing rate of construction and does it meet existing needs.

  9. Everything possible should be done to keep the people fully informed as to what is being done and why. In the end, the public interest will prevail.

  10. Research in all aspects of highway construction, management and operation should go forward unremittingly.

The Chief was born in Leadville, Colorado July, 23, 1881.


This was a reprint of a speech he gave in March of 1957 to the Mississippi Valley Association.


He spelled out what he considered to be the real issues facing the highway departments. The dimensions of the new program were so staggering that considerable skepticism that the States could do the job had been expressed. He cited an article in the American Road Builder Newsletter that predicted that the concept of limited access and by-passes was so radical that State legislatures would not pass enabling legislation and so many States would have to pass up the 90% and use their 10% on regular 50-50 programs at least for the time being.


He stressed the need for all highway departments to reevaluate their organizational structure and to provide career stability to attract sufficient engineers to do the job. He noted the feeling in some quarters that the Interstate program was a Federal takeover. He saw no grounds for that.

He saw the use of new techniques in management, computers, photogrammetry, design, finance, law, construction equipment, public relations, etc., as necessary.

He felt that the highway departments must depart from traditional procedures and employ consulting engineers to help level off the peaks in the design load. Bonding would certainly have to be judiciously used and many legislatures would have to provide increased highway funding.

A.E.(ALF)JOHNSON, Executive Secretary, AASHO

This was a reprint of a speech he made at the Mississippi Valley Conference in Chicago, Ill., March 7, 1957. He made several observations:


  1. "Congress has listened and given this 'Federal-State partnership' the first chance at doing the job (building the Interstate). If the partnership falters and fails, someone else will do it for us, of that you can be sure...."

  2. "If we have differences between States or with the Bureau of Public Roads, let us keep our differences to ourselves and resolve them within our own group and not air them before the public and in the press..."

  3. "Public hearings required by the Act of 1956 will require the finest in public relations. Hearings must be sincere formalized, and the Department must be fully prepared to explain and support their proposals with factual data and logical reasons."

    "If a hearing should force a change in project location, the public and political reaction can be so powerful as to effectively block a subsequent location and placing the project under construction."

    "The (above) experience should be avoided if possible. Be properly prepared before holding hearings. If you cannot marshal support for a proposed plan at a hearing, you should probably withdraw it and take another look."

  4. "Pick your most critically needed projects first, for if the need is apparent, public support is more certain. Do not force construction on routes where the need is less apparent..."

  5. "The highway official must furnish definite assurances that the other highways under his jurisdiction will not be neglected while he is expediting the construction of the Interstate..."

  6. "With the large number of right of way parcels that must be acquired, the number of persons involved, and amounts of money expended, the official should be constantly aware of its importance and insist on all right of way transactions being thoroughly documented and properly handled."

  7. "The official must assure himself that he is not overdesigning nor underdesigning as both are a gross waste of public funds entrusted to him for spending."

  8. He advocated an "assembly line" approach to project development as opposed to prior practices of undertaking planning and design only after the money was in hand.

  9. "There are still charges made that control of access must be eliminated or undergo serious dilution..." He went on to say that how commercial development was handled was crucial to the retention of the limited access concept. "Highway officials must prove the worth of controlled access or the beneficial effect upon local business of taking through traffic around the town on a traffic relief route by referring to research and economic studies that have been made on the subject, generally by some other State."

  10. He noted that uniform standards for Interstate signing were then under development.

  11. "...There are still those who oppose various features of the highway program for selfish reasons. The program can be terminated in several ways. Any reason within our control must never be a cause. We must remain vigilant."

Excerpts from the July 1957 Issue of American Highways.

W.A. BUGGE, President

This was a reprint of a speech that Mr. Bugge made to the Western Assn. of State Highway Officials in Houston, Texas, June 11, 1957.


He first touched on the dimensions of the 1956 Act and then turned to the responsibilities of the highway departments. He worried that because of the greatly increased problems brought on by the new program that the States might have a tendency to buck the problems back to Washington and he felt that that would be a sure way of insuring the downfall of State sovereignty in highways. He reminded them that the Federal government was not capable of running a vast highway program even if it wanted to. He stressed that the States must take a more active role in planning and research than they had been inclined to do in the past. They must be more active in the development of standards not only for construction but uniformity of State laws on traffic control and regulation.

He emphasized that the 90-10 matching rate did not alter at all the traditional prerogative of State initiation of all projects. He felt that every State should review its legislated authority and seek necessary changes and also to review their user revenue situation in order to insure adequate matching and to take care of non Federal-aid responsibilities. Each should review its management structure and salary schedules and seek changes in order to obtain and hold engineering talent. Greater efficiencies should be sought through computers, photogrammetry, and innovative construction equipment and techniques.

He felt that new personnel relations were required in order to instill trust and confidence in employees. Public relations was also extremely important and an area that highway engineers had traditionally shunned but success or failure might well hinge on their abilities in that area.

He also felt that all departments needed to strengthen their abilities in the area of accounting not only for showing accountability for public funds but from the standpoint of evaluating economic payoffs of projects and methods for planning and programming purposes.

F.C. TURNER, Deputy Commissioner & Chief Engineer, BPR.

This is a speech given at the Third Annual Seminar, American Right of Way Association, Chicago, May 16, 1957. It was titled "Federal Highway Program and Procedures."

He reminded them that the 1956 Act was not new at all but was the 49th amendment to the 1916 Act.


He spelled out the history of the highway program and emphasized the importance of planning in influencing the course of events over the years. He cited the reports Toll Roads and Free Roads and Interregional Highways as being crucial to the establishment of the Interstate program. He also cited President Eisenhower's speech in 1954 calling for a "Grand Plan" for highways as another critical milestone.

He pointed out that the requirement of the 1956 Act that the Interstate be designed and built for traffic requirements many years in advance, was the first time in history that the program was required to be forward looking and not just reactive to already existing congestion (This was indeed contrary to the principle upon which the program was built through the twenties, i.e., that only projects be built that had the demonstrated ability to return more revenue than they cost. Doing otherwise was considered to have been the error of the counties and townships, thus squandering their resources on small projects with insignificant travel. MacDonald had been quite critical of Germany for building the Autobahnen when the traffic wasn't already there).

The control of access was also radically new and of direct concern to the audience. He cited statistics to show the safety and capacity implications.


He noted the recent development of the "System" concept in highways which was greatly accelerated by the 1944 Highway Act which required the development of multiple Federal aid systems and thus required the revision of State laws to permit that function to take place. He cited this as a great step ahead in planning for priorities in highway improvements and the allocation of resources to where they were most needed.

CLIFTON W. ENFIELD, General Counsel, BPR

This was given to the Third Annual National Seminar of the American Right-of-way Association, May 16, 1957, Chicago. It was titled "Acquisition of Right-of-way for Federal-aid Highways."


He noted that right-of-way acquisitions during the next 13 years would exceed the total such actions for highways in history partially because 75% of the Interstate would be constructed on new alignment.

He stressed that since the function was so new, whole new disciplines and concepts would have to be developed. New legislation would have to be enacted, standards developed, appraisers hired and trained etc., and it would all have to be done quickly.

The very nature of right-of-way acquisition by eminent domain would result in litigation, a field new to the departments and they must prepare for it.


He cited the issuance of PPM 21-4 having to do with acquisition of right-of-way by the Federal government on the State's behalf. This was a new feature of the 1956 Act available to those States that did not have the legal authority for access control and other features such as utility relocation. He described the process in some detail noting that the Department of Justice would do the acquisition through the local office of the United States Attorney.

The speech was quite technical and comprehensive in an area that has received little public attention.

A.E. JOHNSON, Executive Secretary, AASHO.

This was an address given to the American Right-of-way Association on May 16, 1957.


He noted that the 1956 Act had spurred r.o.w. legislation in more than a dozen States. He said the expanded highway program was under scrutiny by Congress because of the vast sums involved and the feature that the Federal government would acquire r.o.w on request. He said that a Congressional hearing on the subject had begun the day before.


He said that 44 departments had indicated that they would have no need to have the Federal government do the acquisition. He discussed the details of how various departments were organized. He said proposals were before Congress to allow payments to displaced tenants. He urged extreme care and diligence in the acquisition process to avoid scandal.

JOSEPH C. HAZEN, Managing Editor, The Architectural Forum.

This Speech was delivered to the 43rd. Annual Road School, Purdue University, April 24, 1957.


"To dispel immediately any friendliness that may be lurking in some dark corner of this room, let me tell you of the thought that kept my mind off the road I travelled this morning between Indianapolis and Lafayette: I kept wondering if this conference on road building in 1957 didn't make about as much sense as the last annual convention of carriage makers back in 1909. Why? Did you know that General Motors has announced the formation of a new division, prophetically named 'the electronic highway department!' And did you know that the Rotor-Craft Corp. of Glendale, Calif. has announced the production of a jet-powered helicopter for civilians-as simple to operate as an outboard and priced at half the cost of our cheapest automobile-less than $1000! Who needs roads?"

"...I suggest 'The Metropolitan Transportation Problem' by Wilfred Owen of MIT and any articles you can find written by his MIT colleague, John T. Howard."

"Maybe I will have trouble convincing you that the outlook for highway building is a gloomy one, for I know and you know that $100 billion of federal, state and local funds will go into highway building in the next 10 to 15 years. But in one major respect the outlook for highway building is gloomy: unless we are very careful, the program will completely fail its purpose."


"Most people will say that the purpose of a highway is to move traffic. Not so. That is its function. Its purpose, like that of any public facility, is to serve the community. Unless the new highways serve the community, regardless of how well built they are, how smooth, how fast, how heavy an axle load they will carry or how attractive they are-regardless of how well they meet all these tests, if our new highways do not serve the community, they fail."

"First, what do we mean by 'Community?'..." He went on to define it as the metro areas where 60% of the population lives.

"Our metropolitan areas are growing in acreage as well as in population, consuming rural land at a gluttonous rate...These land-eating metropolitan areas of our country comprise the community of which we speak-the community which the new highways must serve."


"...The auto can break cities as well as make them. The auto's speed and turning radius long ago made the city's horse and buggy street pattern quite obsolete; the auto's quantity production long ago made the city impossibly congested; and then the auto provided the means by which the upper and middle income groups could escape from the city...and the means by which the city's slums and blight are now being transplanted into the suburbs and into the country."

"Out of control, as it is today, this city smashing chain reaction will end only when we run out of unspoiled land as one metropolis sprawls into another."

He described urban sprawl in detail and dimensioned it and quoted Catherine Bauer, a leading Geographer in the Forum Magazine: "'The challenge of tomorrow-the shaping of the metropolitan community that must provide for these 46 million more Americans outside our central cities-is going unheeded by and large. Most new development continues to take place outside the jurisdiction of responsible local government or of well-staffed planning agencies. Growth in the hinterland just happens-shaped in the main, by fate, the ad hoc decisions of individual developers, and the narrow financial concerns of the Federal Housing Administration and the lending agencies.'"


"Fortunately, the auto and the highway which have contributed to the growth and congestion crisis now confronting our cities can also be their salvation. But will they? Will the new 41,000 mile highway program, about 6,000 miles of which will be built within urban areas, relieve the traffic congestion which is choking our cities? Not unless it helps solve the fundamental problems that cause this urban congestion."

He went on to point out that if the highways were planned to implement other public works that the urban areas had planned or were underway, the highways could help, but if they weren't, they would compound the problems.

"You say there is no question about this cooperation between the highway planners and the community leaders. I say there is..." He cited a particular highway in New Jersey where its construction was sprung on the local officials as a complete surprise.

"Of course, it would be ideal if every community not only had a master plan of future development but also had it published for all to know. Better yet, the downtown renewal program and the access highway program should be planned simultaneously, as it has been in several of our more wide-awake communities."

He pointed out that a new radial freeway would extend suburban sprawl further out and create housing that would become eventual slums and that such developments would overload the highway.

"These and similar questions indicate that the transportation problem is not simply a matter of providing more and bigger highways and parking lots. As Wilfred Owen says, the metropolitan transportation problem is really only partly a transportation problem. 'Half is building additional transport facilities. The other half,' he says, 'is creating an environment in which the transportation system can work.' By 'creating an environment,' he means imposing restraints to avoid the creation of transport demands beyond the capacity of the transportation system. In other words, to make sure that the problem a highway is designed to solve doesn't change as soon as the concrete has set."


"I can hear you say that often the city has no plans for the highway designers to tie into. All too often this is true. But most large cities and many smaller communities do have plans and planners. For you to ignore or disregard them is inexcusable. If they do not exist, then it behooves the highway builders to urge the cities to find out-or to find out for themselves-how a proposed highway can best serve the true interests of the community."

"Highway planning today involves so much more than technology and design that few engineers are qualified to handle the job alone. Their work today involves land use plus planning, industrial development, land economics, urban renewal, city planning and a host of other specialties. If they are intelligent enough to see this, they are also intelligent enough to see that they cannot do the full job alone. They must work closely with city planners and, where cities do not employ planners, perhaps they should hire planners themselves as consultants. Surely we want our highways in a hurry and at minimum cost consistent with sound design. But speed of construction and low cost may be far less important than the long range benefits and economies that may be had by devoting a little extra time and money on integrating the highways into other city plans."


"Without such thoughtful coordination of the highway program with city planning and urban renewal, the proposed $100 billion of highway spending will buy as much chaos as concrete, and years from now we will be little better off than we are today."

"...Smarter men than I have prophesied that during the next few years you and your colleagues, in planning the highways under the new Federal Aid program, will have more effect on the pattern of growth and the character of our metropolitan areas, than all of the planning done by all of our city planners since the war."

"That, gentlemen, is an awful responsibility. I beseech you to handle it carefully."

Excerpts from the October 1957 Issue of American Highways:


The article documented approval of the Interstate numbering sign at a meeting of the Committee on Administration held at the AASHO Road Test on August 14, 1957. Over 100 designs were considered. The policy and procedure governing the use of the signs was also presented.


The title of the speech was "Cooperation, The Password To Success". It was delivered at the 16th annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of State Highway Officials.

"...We are now in the big time. There are disciplines and interests that have never been interested in the highway program before that are now becoming interested. These new interests can give us many problems not before encountered."


"We hear allegations now that the men who have developed procedures and planning and who have located and designed the nation's foremost urban motor facilities are not entirely capable of doing so, and may need some expert assistance from outsiders. I say that the highway engineer, going about his location, development and design, as he does, follows proper and established procedures of planning. He determines what the traffic is, where it wants to go, what it will be within a given time in the future, and the existing and probable land uses within the city. He determines where the cheapest right of way may be available, and he combines all these factors and makes a recommendation. As long as he bases and supports proposals on such procedure, he is doing a good engineering and planning job and is performing as he should if competent and adequate professional planning has not already been done or is underway."

"If an urban area has some advance planning as to land use development and the like, any highway department would be most happy to have this information and consider it. If such planning has not already taken place, it is doubtful that time can be afforded in an urban area to develop such plans, and the highway departments will have to go about their job and do the best planning, location design that is possible."


"We should bear in mind that the urban part of the Interstate program, and the allocation for the urban extensions of the primary Federal-aid system are not large enough nor designed to take care of all of the urban transportation problems. The recent Hartford meeting of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company on highway planning in metropolitan areas has brought some of the attitudes that exist into the open and identified them. Some are constructive, some serve as warnings that we must heed. There one proposal was made that we have a two-year moratorium on the highway program to give the planners an opportunity to prepare for the program. The economic penalties for delaying already vitally needed facilities for another two years would be tremendous. A two-year moratorium is a bit ridiculous. We note that the American Municipal Association official in attendance denounced the proposal. We know that there are constructive planners who can help us and some others that dwell in the realm of untried theories."

He noted that $1 billion had already been obligated on the Interstate. He estimated that the Interstate would require about 2 million acres of right of way but 1.5 of that would be from unproductive land.


He listed 8 different meanings of "cooperation" ranging from the departments cooperating with each other to cooperation within highway departments. No. 5 was cooperation with the local officials. "Local officials-Urban and County have an intense interest and responsibility in the highway programs, and we should make them feel they have a part in the successful execution of the program...By considering any plans and proposals that these local governments may have for highways is most helpful and establishes good relationships..."

No.6 was cooperation with civic groups and other organizations. "By cooperating with this type of group, we can gain support for our proposed projects especially if we are able to show the reasons for our proposals and explain how we arrived at those proposals as we should in every case..."

No. 7 was cooperation with the public. "Here I refer to dislocated persons, who are having to move because of right of way acquisition."


"We are right now in the stage of the program when there is a period of dissatisfaction. Many individuals are disgruntled-the housewife whose home is being filled with dust, the merchant or innkeeper who is being left on an old road, the farmer whose farm is being cut in two, the dislocated apartment dweller, the property owner, and others, are dissatisfied and will be until the highway project in question is completed, handling traffic, and a period of stabilization and readjustment has elapsed."

"In the past, these dissatisfied individuals have usually carried their complaints to the highway departments, the highway commission and the Governor. There has been so much publicity, however, about the big national highway program that a great volume of mail now goes to the Congress."


"...During the past year the highway officials have not had a legislative policy. Our thinking was in line with the Chairman of the House Public Works Committee. We must, however, have a strong legislative policy this coming year or lose prestige. We cannot and should not neglect our responsibilities and leave certain important items to the good judgement of the Congress, even on controversial matters..."


"Other things that can complicate our picture can be the rapid transit problem, wherein those interests are looking longingly towards our road funds, and the actions of organized groups, and business interests that are being affected by the relocation of the highways or by the control of access..."

He closed by admonishing his audience to keep the word "cooperation" uppermost in their minds.

C.D. CURTISS, Comm. Public Roads, to SASHO

The Commissioner gave a status report on the program, complimented certain Interstate highway projects, especially in the South, and discussed the importance of the AASHO Road Test as an element in the Congressional requirement for a uniform size and weight study and also its importance in the Section 210 Cost Allocation Study.

F.A. DAVIS, President of SASHO-Welcome.


"...Getting the big new highway program rolling has been the toughest job and the greatest challenge that the highway engineer has had to face until now. The big program has been a reality for a little more than a year. Some of our people expected immediate results but in most instances the public has been considerate and understanding. It is generally realized that a construction program of this magnitude cannot be put under way immediately. However, we have now had our breathing spell. After more than a year, the public wants to see results in the form of work under way, and the public has a right to expect results. We must now deliver the goods in the form of completed projects. The obstacles that stand in the way must be overcome..."


"...The location of the Interstate routes and the hearings on them give new emphasis to the problem of public relations. The motel owner on the existing road bitterly resents being left to wither on the vine-or so he thinks-while the big new super-highway that is to be the Interstate route is relocated over the hill from him. The farmer doesn't want to go down to the next interchange to get across the road to visit his neighbor on the other side. They all think that controlled access is fine for the other fellow but it should not apply to him. We shall have to get our story across to the public, and get it presented in its best light, if we are going to have support for this program. The Interstate System will, I think, sell itself when substantial mileage of it is in use, but in the early stages there are many misconceptions and much local opposition. The hearings now required on all Federal aid projects brings us in much closer touch with the local people than ever before. If we use it properly, it is a wonderful opportunity..."

NOTE: This may have led to the AASHO Committee on Public Information being directed at the 1957 annual meeting to assemble all information on the economic impact of limited access highways. The resulting report, dated December 1958, entitled Expressways Benefit You, though identified as preliminary, yielded considerable information. A polling of States' public relations activities in 1954 showed only a few States had public information programs.


"...No one can say what the future holds. The Congress, this year enacted no new legislation. But the coming year will bring up many questions of vital interest to all of us. Congress will have before it the revised cost estimate of the Interstate System. According to all reports, this is considerably in excess of the original estimate, and will require much more than the 27 billion dollars contemplated by the 1956 Act. What will Congress do? The 13-year period of construction has already been extended to 16. Will it be further extended or will additional funds be provided?"

"Congress will also have before it the report on toll and free roads previously constructed and now made a part of the Interstate System. It will be interesting to see how this controversial question is resolved. Likewise, the question of control of billboards along the Interstate System is going to come in for a lot of attention."

"Unquestionably, Congress is going to insist on progress on the Interstate System. We shall have to demonstrate the fact that we are capable of carrying out this highway program as designed, and on schedule. Otherwise, we can expect drastic action."


"There has been much pressure to expand the Interstate System beyond the 41,000-mile limit now set on it. I understand that the Bureau of Public Roads has requests for about 14,000 miles additional. They have the unenviable task of selecting 1,000 miles out of this. Many of us feel that the Interstate program will be a continuing one. As the System is developed, the public will demand that it be expanded. But we also feel that it would not be wise to expand it until we are at least well on the way with the present system..."

Excerpts from the January 1958 Issue of American Highways.

WM. A BUGGE, The President's Annual Address

"...I want to mention Thomas H. MacDonald. He is no longer with us, but the monument he built with his heart, his intelligence and his tireless devotion to duty stands on. He designed this relationship between the Federal and State governments in highway matters. He saw it grow into one of the finest instruments ever developed. He saw it flourish and he saw it build a highway system which is the finest ever achieved by man..."


"Of course, there is a danger that the Federal-State relationship he built may be changed. For the Federal government is pouring large sums of money into a highway program. If the States can't spend that money effectively, the Federal government will spend it and that means a subordination of the role of the State highway departments. The State highway departments may become mere messengers of the Federal government..."

"The manner in which the States discharge their obligations in this large-scale highway program will determine largely just what role the State highway departments play over the years ahead."


Certainly the legislation we can expect at this next session of the Congress will reflect the public support the State Highway departments have. If the people support their State highway departments, highway policy will continue to be determined at the State level. But if we haven't earned the public support through effective and vigorous action there is grave danger that highway policy will be transferred piece by piece to the Federal government. That would be fatal to the success of our highway program."


"Now I come to the subject which Congress will deal with which is of overwhelming importance to the success of the program. That's the consideration of the "Needs Studies" the States have made. This will set the score of the highway program. It will determine just how much money a (each) State gets for improvement of its portion of the Interstate system."


"These totals are going to be more than the total in the 1955 "Needs Study." But there are valid reasons for this. It is assumed there will be a modest increase in the estimated cost of the Interstate System over the 1954 figure, however, the increase can accurately be explained as follows: One half is caused by the increase in construction and right of way costs since 1954, the other half by a better realization of the design and construction requirements of the traffic needs of 1975. Nevertheless, this association will be called upon to defend those cost figures and to defend the policy which would allocate the money among the States on the basis of the relationship of need. This must continue to be of concern to us during the next session of Congress..."

The rest of the speech was routine reports of status.

SEN. ALBERT GORE, Address to the Annual Meeting

His speech was largely historical in nature.

"My distinguished predecessor in the Senate, the late Senator Kenneth D. McKellar, was among those in Congress who was instrumental in the passage of the 1916 Act. It has been said that he became interested in a Federal highway program when he found it necessary to ship his automobile from Tennessee to Washington by rail because there was no adequate road over which it could be driven..."


"...A...major policy change contained in the 1956 Act was the provision earmarking certain highway user taxes for use solely in highway construction. I want to be quite frank in saying that I have some reservations about the earmarking of tax funds. If carried too far, there is no question but that such earmarking can completely hamstring a legislative body by denying it effective control over the appropriation of funds. I can assure you that Congress will watch most carefully and jealously the operation of the highway trust fund. We will certainly seek to insure that the funds are used strictly for the purposes for which they are earmarked..."

"...The program has not gotten off to as fast a start as many of us would like to see..."

"...In his announcement of October 18, the Secretary of Commerce approved not only an additional thousand miles specifically provided for in the Act, but also yet another 1,102 miles said to have become available as a result of estimated savings in mileage by the use of new locations with more direct connections between control points on the System..."


"...I say to you quite frankly, that I was and am somewhat concerned about the action of the Department of Commerce in approving for designation new additions to the Interstate System which had not been sought by the States and, at least in some instances, without even having consulted the Highway Department in the States in which they were to be located. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1944 which established the Interstate System provided that the routes to make up the System should be "selected by joint action of the State Highway Departments of each State and the adjoining States, as provided for by the Federal Highway Act of November 9, 1921, for the selection of the Federal Aid System..."

"So far as I have been able to ascertain, up until last month, the Bureau of Public Roads had invariably adhered to a policy of considering only those requests for additions to or changes in the System for which one or more of the States had made formal application...We can't have a partnership if we don't even have consultation..."


"...We shall insist that this great highway program be clean of fraud, free of partisan politics, and conducted in true cooperation and mutual respect by both Federal and State officials."

BERTRAM D. TALLAMY, Administrator's Annual Address.


"...I thought I would talk to you about such things as our progress, the status of the trust fund-that must be of interest to you-the fact that we have decentralized our operations a great deal now in an effort to expedite the highway program. I would like to tell you about some of the problems of the future and the pitfalls as I see them in this program, including the need for overall planning in connection with the development of our metropolitan plans for highway development. I think I ought to talk to you a little bit about the thousand mile addition of the Interstate System. (Laughter-this was what Senator Gore earlier accused the Administration of designating without consulting the highway departments.) And another thing that is very important, I think, is the matter of public hearings."

He gave the status of program obligations and the condition of the Trust Fund which included a discussion of the strategy to avoid a deficit in the Fund. He noted that all program authority except final location approval had been delegated to the field offices. He spoke of the shortage of trained engineers and encouraged the use of electronic computers and photogrammetry wherever possible and offered technical assistance in both of those areas. He stressed the tremendous amount of work being done in the cities:


"...We are not getting credit, neither the Federal government nor the State highway departments, for this particular work that we are doing (metropolitan planning), and doing properly. And let me stress the vital importance of proceeding in accordance with a good overall basic plan when you undertake the construction of urban arterial highways or sections of the Interstate system in metropolitan areas."

"I said you were doing it right and you are. The law requires, and you would do it any way, that we design these highways for 1975 traffic. Now, before you do that, you have to know what the traffic is today. You have to know where it starts and where it wants to go in the metropolitan area, and then you have to find out the peak loads of traffic, where it comes from and where it wants to go at rush hours. Then you have to know the same information for 1975 before you can properly design a highway to carry 1975 traffic."

"Now it is perfectly obvious that you cannot forecast traffic of the future in any metropolitan area unless you know how that area is going to function in 1975, how it is going to develop between now and 1975, what vacant areas today are going to be industrial, what single dwelling unit areas today are going to be multiple dwelling units. Is your commercial area going to expand into a downtown section or are other areas going to be opened up for commercial development? Is urban redevelopment in the picture?"

"Those are the things that the State highway engineer has to know before he can forecast what the traffic flows are going to be in 1975, and he has to know that before he can design his highways for 1975. Obviously, so if the city doesn't have a good urban program planned today, one that the State highway engineer can use to facilitate his designs he must go through the same basic steps that the city has to go through to develop its own master plan for transportation. That hard fact ought to be recognized by everybody and if, by chance you are ignoring it I certainly urge that you immediately review your procedures for urban arterial development to make certain that this basic method is being followed. It is the only sound approach and it is the only way you can be sure that these wonderful highways which you are developing will actually stimulate metropolitan development as it should be stimulated..."


"...Now as to the Interstate System expansion which we announced recently. If there was ever a problem and a headache that was given to the Bureau of Public Roads, it was to be the Solomon to distribute the newly authorized 1,000 miles plus some 1,102 miles in saving when there were 13,775 miles of requests. It was done analytically."

He described how the elimination of stubs, discontinuities etc., brought the candidate mileage down to 5,285 from 13,775. Those remaining were carefully considered from the standpoint of Defense, system integration, population served and economic importance. Rating weights were assigned to each factor and then to each route and the evaluations continued until those remaining were within the mileage to be allocated.

"We would like to have called in all of the States where new routes appeared during the latter part of this analysis looming up as very important. It would have been very desirable to have called you in and said, 'This looks good and we would like to have you initiate it,' but to do so would have involved joint action of a number of States all over the United States which would have surely delayed the decision many months, and would, in turn, have delayed the advancement of other routes for which you have already made application."

"I think we did it right, but certainly there was no intent on the part of the Bureau of Public Roads or the Department of Commerce to indicate any beginning at all of the Bureau of Public Roads dominating this highway picture..."


"...This new legislation required that we-you, rather,-hold public hearings...it has been necessary during the initiation of this program to go to the public hearings with nearly completed plans, and in a few places completed plans, because you had them already finished at the time this legislation requiring public hearings was adopted so there was no other alternative, but that time is gone now and we should hold our public hearings ...when you have decided on the best location, you know where the interchanges are going to be...and you know that it is physically possible to build the route there...but no further." He went on to describe that if information was developed at the hearing that required a change in location, a lot of money would have been wasted in the development of final plans.

He indicated that costs would be up in the revised Interstate Cost Estimate about to be submitted. He noted the difficulty of estimating costs 15 years in advance but he felt that the program would put so much work under construction that costs could come down.

SEN. FRANCIS CASE, S.D., Address to the Annual Meeting.


"...We were told by your representatives and by the Bureau of Public Roads that we were not keeping pace with the growing highway needs of the country, so in the 1954 Act we attempted to provide a Federal aid program which would roughly approximate the dollars being collected on these taxes I have mentioned, so we stepped up the total amount for the ABC Roads from 550 to 700 million dollars per year. We stepped up the interstate program from 25 million to 175 million. Percentage wise that was a much larger increase, but as it was indicated this morning, the interstate system had been in the doldrums. Authorized in 1944, designated in 1947, we had been spending only about 25 million dollars a year."

"One reason for the position of the interstate system was not merely the small amount of dollars provided for it but it was the fact that the standards for the interstate system were properly higher than for the other parts of the primary system and the states confronted with the necessity of getting the most road miles for their dollars were reluctant to match too much on a 50-50 basis. They had to put in more to meet the standards and yet could not get as much for their dollars."

"...So in the 1954 Act we proposed that the percentage matched by the Federal Government be increased. I do not recall whether it was a 75-25 basis or 66 2/3 and 33 1/3 basis. In the conference it was settled at 60-40. We established a principle that if we were going to build an interstate system to a higher standard at the interest of the Federal government then it would be appropriate that the Federal Government should make a larger contribution toward the cost of meeting that high standard."

"Then we did some other things in the 1954 Act which laid the foundation for the 1956 Act which were epochal in character. We had had some discussion about a joint Congressional study of the needs for bringing our several highway systems up to date, not merely the interstate but the primary, secondary and urban."

"So we wrote into the Highway Act Section 13 which directed the Bureau of Public Roads to make a study in cooperation with the several state highway authorities of the needs of the several systems to see what was needed to bring the system up to the standard necessary to meet our traffic requirements. That Section 13 study became the basis for the work of the Governors Committee and the Clay Committee which followed a year or two later."

"In 1954 when we were working on the step-up of the rate of aid for the agency roads some of the brethren in the Senate and the House were a little skeptical as to whether or not the President would approve and provide that large an increase. In fact, we were told in the conference that some members of the Congress felt quite confident the President would not agree with it if we followed the recommendations of the Senate bill in that respect."


"I have never forgotten when we went to the White House at the time the President signed the 1954 Act that he had a fist-full of pens there and he signed a few letters with each pen and passed them out to us. He said, "That gets us started, but we must do more," and he went on to talk to us about other public needs, too."

"That was followed by the message he sent to the Conference of Governors, delivered by Vice President Nixon, in which he threw out the bold challenge for the greatly stepped-up building of the interstate highway system. The President appointed a committee headed by General Lucius Clay and in 1955 those recommendation came to the Congress."

"...We had the Constitutional problem (in 1955) that you cannot originate revenue measures; they can only start in the House. In fact, the bill itself must carry a House Number, if it included tax features."


"Some of us thought it might be possible to develop a use fee or a license system for cars that travel on the interstate road and use that as a method of financing. Be that as it may, the thing could not be worked out satisfactorily in 1955 when we originally passed the version of the stepped-up program which was the basis of the Senate action. In the House of Representatives they ran into the same hard stubborn rock to get across and the bill failed in the 1955 session of the House, but in 1956 Congressman George Fallon and his associates Harry McGregor and others, came forward with the taxes that were worked out by the Ways and Means Committee to finance the program."

"...The second thing that ought to be considered and must be considered in the work on the 1958 Act will be the evaluation of the cost estimates for completing the interstate system. I think many of you are familiar with the fact that one of our greatest problems in both the Senate and House and also in the Conference was the method of apportionment that should be used for the interstate funds. In the 1954 Act we had met the problem halfway, you might say, by providing for the allocation of 50 percent of the funds on population alone and then the other 50 per cent on the one third-one third-one third familiar ratio which, when added together, gave us two-thirds on the basis of population one-sixth on area and one- sixth on mileage."


"Because of the great spread of different yardsticks that must have been used in the cost estimates that were available to us at the time of the conference on the 1956 Act we finally arrived at a compromise of continuing to ride on the old formula for the first three years and then for the last ten years the new estimate of costs on which you have been working and to which Mr. Tallamy referred this morning. But there is nothing automatic about that. The 1956 Act could not bind and does not pretend to bind the Congress that will be in session in 1958. We could go through all of this again, this matter of determining the apportionment."

"...If the cost estimates stand up, then they will be basic and we will start out apportioning the states one-tenth of the cost estimated for the cost of completing the miles in that state designated under the original 40,000 miles designation."

"Those of you familiar with the language on the additional 1,000 miles remember that the addition of that 1,000 miles did not automatically increase the amount of money going to the state..."


"A third thing which the committees are almost certain to take up is the determination of whether or not states that have had toll roads incorporated into the interstate system will be reimbursed for the cost of the same. Some 2100 miles of toll roads or turnpikes are incorporated into the interstate system now. Congress could turn a deaf ear to the pleas of those states for reimbursement on the grounds that those roads are already built, but I think that there will be a feeling that there should be some reimbursement to the states if the roads are made free before the tolls have completed retirement of the bonds outstanding. This will be a vexing problem and a difficult problem because the natural temptation will be to say 'Let's not pay for them right away. They are being used, they are in operation, the states are collecting the money for them.'"

The rest of the speech was about things that might possibly come up in the next highway hearings.

REP. GEORGE FALLON, Md., House Public Works Committee-Address to the Annual Meeting.

He indicated that the Congress would be reviewing the progress of the Interstate and that it was looking forward to receiving the new cost estimate and the other studies being done by BPR.


"...I think I hear practically all of the complaints that you officials live with all the time. There are those who claim the program is bogging down and want it speeded up and those who in cities would like to declare a moratorium for two or three years to provide time for urban planning; those who insist on a community bypass and those who resist the bypass; those who can never agree with those who consider the interstate ugly or "phony" as to defense importance; those who see opportunity in doing strange and wondrous things with the Trust Fund money..."


"...Another legislative job facing our Committee is the codification and modernization of Federal highway laws, now largely a hodge-podge and in many respects obsolete. I am sure that this is of extreme importance to the Bureau of Public Roads and to you in the State highway departments. I will introduce legislation to accomplish this and hope it will move along rapidly..."

"...Speaking of modernization and moving this program forward, its very size and newness has generated the need for expanded and improved public relations between highway departments and the people who are affected. I mentioned some of the typical complaints and charges that I hear; actually the immensity of the program and its long- term benefits have not yet really come home to the public."


"As highway engineers and administrators, you have an enormous responsibility in your contacts with the public to spell out the value of the new highways and to deal, in every case, with tact and diplomacy."

"...An enlightened and understanding public is not only essential to the success of your local highway programs but of immense help to Members of Congress in their efforts to shape acceptable legislation. We need the support of the folks back home."

He touched on the need for more attention to highway safety and congratulated AASHO on the great job it was doing.

C.D. CURTISS, Commissioner, BPR to the Annual meeting, Nov. 18, 1957

Curtiss urged the use of all forms of media, including the public hearings, to disseminate knowledge about the new program. He felt that the immediate future would be difficult until sufficient mileage was open for traffic at which point, the program would sell itself.


"Perhaps the greatest challenge...is in the urban areas. Here, as you all know, careful cooperative planning is a basic requirement, and such work has been carried out in a number of States. Where up-to-date master plans providing for different types of land use were available, work on urban sections of the Interstate was initiated without delay...Where up-to-date plans are not available, further surveys and studies are necessary to properly locate the Interstate..."

"As experience has shown, this is an undertaking which requires the full cooperation of all levels of government. Fortunately we are not strangers to this kind of cooperation. It has been going on for some time-long enough to demonstrate that our State highway departments are well qualified to carry out the necessary planning surveys in cooperation with municipal officials of the areas under study."

He cited several studies around the country as models of good cooperation and practice..."The joint AMA-AASHO Committee and the Urban Transportation Committee are making a most useful contribution to a better understanding of urban transportation problems and the need for full and prompt cooperation at all levels of government. Leadership of the individual State highway departments is necessary to make this cooperation effective."

The rest of the speech was quite comprehensive. The topics were the same as those covered by the other speakers at the meeting.

Updated: 06/27/2017
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