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Highway History

Building the Interstate

Section 5

Excerpts From the April 1962 Issue of American Highways.

ELLIS L. ARMSTRONG, President, Better Highways Information Foundation.

Mr. Armstrong was Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Roads during the Eisenhower Administration. This speech was an address to the Association of Highway Officials of North Atlantic States on March 22, 1962.

"...Providing highways is one of the largest operations of Government. If we are to bring to fruition the plans for a greater America that we have under way, it must be with the understanding and support of the individual citizen. Whether we like it or not, individual John Q. Public in our democracy is the one who determines the program that can be accomplished. He is the judge. And he judges on the basis of his understanding."


"...It is a fact that the program is being, with a very few exceptions, competently, honestly, and effectively administered and accomplished. Controls built into the program at the state level and the Federal level have kept wrongdoings to a minimum. There have been some few mistakes, wrongdoings, and errors of judgement; perfection in the world of man is still a goal rather than an actuality...Even the two year probings of Congressional investigators have failed to uncover anything of any consequence that is new...Unfortunately these investigations often appear not to be entirely objective, and equally unfortunately have been conducted by investigators not familiar with, or trained in the complexities of modern highway problems..."


"These facts seem to be overlooked or discounted in some of the recent vicious, unfair attacks on the highway program. Some of these are doing great harm and point out the need to greater effort to keep the program and its problems in true perspective. The recent article in Parade magazine with which I'm sure you are familiar, is one example of the problems you face..."

"The article makes a number of rather wild, sweeping statements such as '...a monstrous spider, called corruption, is devouring tax dollars by the millions...' and '...new highways are paved with waste, inefficiency, and boondoggling.' These statements are distortions that are just not so! The article offers as 'proof' a score of cases that I will discuss. The great disservice, injustice, and danger in the article is the innuendo and implication, the frequent use of 'for example' when there may have been no other example known, and the clever writing to create the impression of a 'Great Highway Robbery'".

"Careful review of the article's allegations, including checking by the States and the Bureau of Public Roads and with the Blatnik Committee and the industry, developed the following analysis which shows how far the article deviated from fairness and objectivity in its story. Probably because of misunderstanding and lack of research, and by reliance on 'back-fence' gossip, it fails to present the whole story and widely distorts actualities. Part of the allegations are true; but take a look at these allegations as compared with the facts."

Mr. Armstrong presented 15 allegations and stated the facts surrounding each case. There was an element of truth in each allegation but the presentations were distorted and sensationalized.


Chicago's American-May 13,1962

Cities and states that fail to make planning surveys will not receive federal expressway system funds.. Rex M. Whitton...sounded the warning at a press conference following a 2-day meeting with 250 state, county and municipal officials from thruout the midwest.

Whitton said that when and if the President's pending transportation program bill is passed by Congress, work will be pushed on the network from coast to coast...

"The measure provides that if cities, states and counties do not have their plans completed by July, 1965, they will not share in the federal funds."..


Boston Globe-May 2, 1962

ATLANTIC CITY-Are urban planners paying too much attention to expansion of transportation facilities and not enough on ways to reduce these needs?

This possibility was advanced before the American Society of Planning Officials convention yesterday by Tracy B. Augur, assistant commissioner for urban planning and community development, Urban Renewal Administration.

...On the same panel, D. Grant Mickle, deputy Federal highway administrator, Bureau of Public Roads, said that by July, 1965, in aid programs, the department will insist that road plans are consistent with comprehensive development plans for a metropolitan area.

Augur said two ways of meeting increasing transportation demands are to increase facilities for handling them or to reduce or stabilize the demand.

"The latter is apt to prove much less costly than the former"

He said he didn't think it should be assumed that increasing demands on city transportation systems are inevitable and that, therefore, widened pavements, new arterials, express highways, rail rapid transit and yet unknown devices will be needed to permit the continued functioning of urban areas.

"Modern urban aggregations, cannot get along without well planned transportation systems, but they can have better and more economical systems if the patterns of urban settlement and the facilities to serve them are worked out in concert."


New Hampshire Sunday News-June 24, 1962

The venerable AAA, now in its 60th year...has joined battle publicly with forces endeavoring to restrict U.S. citizens in their right to operate private automobiles...

AAA centers its fire on groups and individuals seeking on one or another pretext to exclude the private automobile from "metropolitan areas." AAA does not identify these people by name but they include figures high up in the Kennedy administration as well as certain influential members of Congress.

These enemies of the motor car hope to curtail its use through the diversion of public funds from road building to the subsidization of various crack-brained schemes for the restoration of "mass transit."

Under this heading they propound everything from trolley-cars to the elevated monorail as cures for urban "traffic congestion."

In a hard-hitting broadside backed up by its member clubs over the country, AAA quickly explodes the idea that city congestion originated with the automobile: "Congestion and over-crowding have been urban problems since the dawn of history. The root cause of today's congestion is not the automobile, but the failure over a long period of years to provide adequate street and highway facilities".

...No urban freeway system can be considered complete, AAA warns, until coupled with an "inner belt" system of "routes leading into and through downtown," plus, of course, "ample downtown parking facilities."...

Excerpts From the July 1962 Issue of American Highways.

A. E. JOHNSON, Executive Secretary, AASHO on Urban Planning

The title of the speech was 'Urbanization, the Automobile and You'. It was given to the Mississippi Valley Conference of State Highway Departments and to the Association of Highway Officials of the North Atlantic States in March, 1962.


"...You may say that you have no urban problems because you have no large metropolitan areas in your State. But, let me assure you that you have an urbanization problem for it is relative and all cities are experiencing similar problems, irregardless of size."

"An essential part of the opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities of the State highway departments at the present time and in the future lie in our urban areas. If we fail, someone else will take over our urban activities."

"It behooves every State highway department to constantly evaluate what constitutes a balanced urban-rural program and make an equitable division of available funds to care for the needs of both areas. All systems of roads are needed to keep our economy strong. Eventually a more equitable representation in State legislatures will occur and the rural domination will be adjusted, which will influence the future activities of State highway departments."

He gave statistics and background to illustrate the dynamics of the urbanization of the country and saw no sign of slackening.


"It was...the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, together with the establishment of the Highway Trust Fund that really caused urban highway problems to come to life as we know them today, because the means were furnished to actually start work on highways to alleviate critical urban congestion."

"This Act gave the State highway departments, through the Bureau of Public Roads, the legal responsibility of carrying out the program, both in rural and urban areas. It was a proper assignment, and it was based on a solid record of accomplishment of the Bureau of Public Roads and the state highway departments over a period of 45 years."

"Almost immediately we started having problems, criticisms and challenges. Without doubt some of this was encouraged by some shortcomings on the part of the State highway departments, but a large part of the difficulties can be charged to the fact that the program was big and glamorous and a lot of money was involved. It brought forth challenges from competitive forms of transportation and from agencies, officials and individuals wanting to get into the act, because of its size and importance. Many who had never shown any interest in the highway program previously, immediately displayed an intense interest in its handling."


"...The Hartford Conference, held in Connecticut, was where we first heard a serious proposal that the highway program in urban areas be delayed to permit city planners to initiate and finish planning."


"The Sagamore Conference in New York was held to spell out guide lines for area-wide and cooperative planning of highway facilities and urban development. I had the privilege of serving as General Chairman of that conference."

"Next we heard serious proposals that the urban sections of the Interstate program be eliminated." (This was probably a reference to the recommendations of the Bragdon Committee in the White House.)


"Charges were made that highway planners were incompetent to locate and design facilities in urban areas, although the State highway departments have had the main responsibility in planning and designing practically all urban freeways to date."


"The Woods Hole Conference held in Massachusetts was where we first heard the theory that in order to conserve our resources and to hold transportation costs to a minimum, our transportation system should be planned and integrated with a national policy dictating what mode of transportation should be used for the movement of people and goods and to avoid a duplication of facilities or competition between modes."

"We heard charges that suburbs have created 'urban sprawl' which is alleged to be very undesirable and wasteful and has caused far too much private automobile travel."


"...We heard charges that the suburbs are making it difficult to establish rail transit facilities."

"We heard critical comments by many planners as to the activities of the State highway departments, but these planners themselves do not seem to agree as to how to plan the spatial form of the city or what the future land uses, especially in the outer fringe areas, are likely to be. Sometimes they fail to make much contribution to the highway planner in studying his problem. Transportation plans must be practical, feasible, justified and within financial possibility. Some planners proposals do not qualify as to the latter requirement."

"Certain architects have been very critical of the State highway departments, but they in themselves are very unlikely to agree as to what is the proper aesthetic treatment to be given highways and their criticisms have been rather vague and not constructive."

"...Certain rail transit promoters have put out propaganda as to the relative capacities of the urban freeway vs. the rail transit facility, which is entirely erroneous and downright misleading. Recently, one so-called authority stated that it required 21 lanes of freeway, completely filled with automobiles bumper to bumper, and loaded to capacity, to carry as many people as one rail of transit..."

"We are not in competition with rail transit and we don't believe that they should be with us, but, it is downright interesting to see some of the artists' depictions that are distributed as part of the rail transit promotion scheme along with some of the artists' drawings of monorail facilities, where the track is a very aesthetic, graceful and dainty thing, all of which is as misleading as the figures they quote."

"Charges have been made that people in the modern city are forced to own automobiles against their will, because of the spatial form of the city and because of the lack of suitable public transportation."

"In certain public hearings, we have seen incited emotional opposition to our proposed projects from neighborhood associations, college alumnae, and others who have not really checked into the need for the facility nor the reasons for its proposal, but who have followed a critical leader."

"We are certain that lip service has been paid to rail transit, not because of support for rail transit but for the purpose of delaying highway improvements for other reasons."


"We have seen the Congress of the United States pass legislation establishing a moratorium for 5 years for the construction of an important part of the Interstate System in Washington, D.C., in order to give another form of transportation a chance."

"Although a number from that agency have been friendly and cooperative, we have heard a top housing official state resentment toward the State highway departments because of the legal authority that they have over Federal-aid highways in urban areas."


"We have heard a top housing official be very critical of the State highway departments activities in cities, alleging they are engrossed only in locating the highway along the cheapest line without thought to other factors."

"It has been rumored that certain people have pressed for Highway Trust Funds to be apportioned directly to cities, not necessarily for highways, but for transportation purposes, and that they be administered through a proposed Department of Urban Affairs. Federal Housing Administrator Weaver has, however, put the housing agency on record as not having designs on the Highway Trust Fund."

"We have heard a prominent National Capitol planner state that he would be happy if there were never another foot of highway built in the District of Columbia and if there were never another automobile sold there."

"We have heard city planners propose rigid housing control and zoning to force a spatial form of a city that would lend itself to rail transportation."

"We have seen official proposals for artificial barriers against the use of private automobiles in downtown areas."

"We have heard transit people press for delays in the Highway program to give proposed rail facilities a chance."


"It is evident that improved highways are needed now for the movement of people, goods, and services and if rail facilities are indicated, they should be planned and constructed with the highway program if at all possible, but needed highways should not be delayed for such ridiculous reasons."

"We have heard it charged that the State highway departments do nothing to help displaced tenants in the metropolitan areas and that the highway program is destroying taxable property and making people homeless."

"We have heard anti-highway charges that evolved in the large metropolitan areas as part of the rail transit propaganda, used to hinder the development of the highway program, in cities the size that are unlikely to have the need for rail transit facilities in the foreseeable future, if ever, and where adequate highways offer the only solution. I refer to such claims that 'the automobile and the city can never live together,' and that 'urban freeways create far more problems than they solve.'"

"We have heard the statement that too much of the consumer dollar is going for private automobile transportation."

"We have heard an outstanding urban leader say that in the not too distant future it may be necessary to curb private automobile ownership to make people save their money."

He gave extensive statistics on automobile ownership and use.


"The result has been the development of a rather prevalent and unfavorable set of 'images' particularly in the urban areas. An all too prevalent 'image' of a highway official is a crude, single purpose individual with no sense of values of aesthetics, with a total disregard of public opinion, incompetent to work in urban areas, who shows a blood passion for wanting to displace people and who wins his argument, as to project location, by putting a bulldozer out in front of him and clearing the line for the new highway against all opposition."


"The 'image' being given the urban freeway is an expensive and unneeded facility, strangling the life out of the city, creating ugly slashes in the urban area, destroying taxable property, making people homeless, creating more problems than it solves, and a malignancy of concrete and asphalt that is consuming the entire area."


"The 'image' of the automobile is that of a monster that takes too much of the people's money; that is holding up the establishment of a better and cheaper form of transportation; that is responsible for urban sprawl; that is an inefficient contraption wasting our resources; that is creating intolerable congestion, and is poisoning our air."

"Our big challenge at this time is to recreate these 'images' in their proper perspective, and it is indeed a challenging necessity."

"What have the State highway departments done about it?"

"Thirty nine of them have established some form of urban unit in their organization..."


"After the Sagamore Conference, a special committee of AASHO planned and staged four regional seminars for the purpose of acquainting highway planners and city planners with the abilities of each and how they could work together in aiding each other in their work, and especially how the city planner can be of assistance to the highway official in carrying out his assignment to construct urban highways."

"It has been the State highway departments and the Bureau of Public Roads, who have been responsible for the development of most of the scientific techniques in urban transportation planning."

"It has been the State highway departments that have been responsible for initiating and conducting, to date, most of the urban transportation planning that has been undertaken."

"It has been the State highway departments that have developed urban freeway design standards."

"AASHO created a joint committee with the American Municipal Association, which has been very successful and constructive."

"AASHO has established a permanent committee on Urban Transportation Planning."

"At the 1961 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, AASHO took an unprecedented step in developing and adopting a Transportation Policy Statement, spelling out the importance of highways and automotive transportation in our economy and their proper role in any National Transportation Policy that might be developed."


He spelled out the elements of the policy which were based on the concept that urban highways are an extension of the statewide highway system and that they must be planned accordingly. The policy went on to state that urban highways must be cooperatively planned with urban development and:

"That if the modern suburb or urban automobile traffic becomes objectionable to the average citizen, natural phenomena will correct the problem, and changes would not be forced to match some pet theories, or to accommodate the profit incentive desires of a few."

"It is our honest belief that if the average person knows the whole story that they will agree with our position."

"...Very shortly a series of regional conferences will be held to explain the necessity for such a program (of transportation studies); to explain how the planning activity can be organized, how the various committees are set up, how to utilize the capabilities and abilities of the City Engineer, the City Planner, housing Officials, the City Traffic engineer, and the City Administrator, as well as the technical personnel, housing and administrative personnel of the County and other levels of Government involved in the program."

"It is important that this program be successful in an America where urbanization is increasing, and where we must know more about the effects of transportation on the city and the interaction between transportation, land use, and urban economics."

"...We are fortunate in that we still have the opportunity to handle this urban problem, and before a federal directive appears requiring such planning as a prerequisite for approval of any federal-aid highway project in an urban area." (The 1962 Highway Act requiring such planning was passed later that fall.)

"...We must demonstrate our exceptional interest and competency in the field of urban highway planning, even to the point of maybe 'going a little overboard' or stand the chance of losing the urban part of the program."

"I am certain that the State highway departments are anxious and ready to cooperate with anyone who can contribute constructively to planning highways in urban areas, but they will resist giving up their authority to any other group or agency or let anyone else, not presently authorized, have the veto or approval authority over their operations."


Engineering News Record-Sept. 13, 1962

Federal-aid highway construction is not keeping pace with projected goals.

In a strongly worded letter to state highway officials, BPR Administrator Rex M. Whitton urges "all possible measures" to put the road program into "high gear". Otherwise, he warns, the public may demand a "change in the legislation that for many years has maintained the cooperative federal - state highway improvement process". This is a thinly guarded way of saying the federal government may have to assume a stronger role.

The number of highway - contracts awarded in the first half of this year was 8% lower than the comparable period of 1961...The first-half 1962 rate of completion on the Interstate system was 4.6 miles a day.

At this rate, says Rex Whitton, the Interstate program won't be completed until 1981, missing the 1973 goal by eight years. Between now and 1973, he warns, the completion rate must be stepped up to 7.8 miles a day. This is a full 70% faster than the progress rate of the past 12 months. Congress appears unlikely to act on President Kennedy's three-year, $500 million mass transit program this year, though the Administration hasn't given up hope of such action completely. The measure has cleared committees in both houses, winning comfortable bipartisan support. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee has cleared it for debate in that chamber-without setting a date.

The real rub, however, is in the House. The House Rules Committee which determines which bills reach the House floor and when, hasn't considered the measure at all. The Senate isn't likely to act unless there is a major breakup of the existing logjam in higher priority bills...


New York Times, Sept. 28, 1962

"Senate Shelves Transit Aid Bill." "2.6 Billion Allotted in States' Road Aid." These were two recent headlines on news dispatches from Washington that betray the Government's one-sided interest in highway construction for the automobile, to the almost total exclusion of any assistance to the financially stricken railroads.

The $500,000,000 Kennedy program for helping metropolitan areas solve their problems of traffic congestion by improvement and expansion of mass transportation facilities is apparently dead.

There is no legitimate quarrel with large expenditure of funds for the Interstate highway program, mainly financed by user taxes, or with much other road construction. No one doubts that the automobile is here to stay. Our cities are trying to live with it, and make room for it. But it is a losing battle.

There can be no satisfactory future for New York, for instance, that does not make the subway, the commuter railroad, the bus the principal reliance of people on the move. If the general good requires, as it does, the survival of the railroads and their improvement-especially in respect to commuter services-then Government cannot remain aloof from the rail problem while enthusiastically accepting highway construction for the automobile as a prime and legitimate responsibility...


The Evening Star-Sept. 26, 1962

It is against the public interest to delay highway construction in the Washington area for a "highly problematic" rapid transit system, transportation veteran Robert Moses said last night.

Acceptance and financing for rapid transit is doubtful because in a city the size of Washington the initial cost is too great, he said. Subsidies are hard to come by and no fare structure can be visualized that will pay for the system, he added...

...In reference to recent congressional postponements of several District highway projects, Mr. Moses said:

"It is not in the public interest to delay this program on the theory that an as yet undisclosed and undetermined rapid transit system will make such highway arterials unnecessary or materially alter the proposed network."...

..."There are locations where rapid transit can be combined with vehicular lanes with the same right-of-way, but not many. No doubt commuter subsidies of some kind are inevitable, but they should depend on superior rail service after the relative roles of the train, bus, car and aircraft have been determined by experts concerned only with the truth."...

Excerpts From the October 1962 Issue of American Highways.

THE 1962 HIGHWAY ACT-An Editorial.

The 62 Act approved October 23, 1962, had several milestone developments. Section 5 provided payments for displaced families and businesses and required that the State give assurances that assistance will be provided for displaced persons and businesses as a condition of project approval for right-of-way acquisition.


Section 134, "Transportation Planning in Certain Urban Areas" was as follows:

"It is declared to be in the national interest to encourage and promote the development of transportation systems, embracing various modes of transport in a manner that will serve the States and local communities efficiently and effectively. To accomplish this objective the Secretary shall cooperate with the States, as authorized in this title, in the development of long-range highway plans and programs which are properly coordinated with plans for improvements in other affected forms of transportation and which are formulated with due consideration to their probable effect on the future development of urban areas of more than fifty thousand population. After July 1, 1965, the Secretary shall not approve under section 105 of this title any program for projects in any urban area of more than fifty thousand population unless he finds that such projects are based on a continuing comprehensive transportation planning process carried on cooperatively by States and local communities in conformance with the objectives stated in this section."

Section 11, "Highway Planning and Research Funds", made the use of the "1 1/2 %" funds mandatory for planning and research instead of optional. In the past, those funds could be used for construction projects if the State so elected.

JAMES S. BURCH, N.C., "Cooperative Urban Highway-Street Planning"

Mr. Burch reported on the rather unique urban planning program in North Carolina:

"...Since 1957, when Mr. W. F. Babcock became Director, great strides have been made in this important field. Among these have been the creation of the Planning Board, the Advance Planning Department, and the enactment of the statute in 1959 which requires in effect that:

'Each municipality shall, with the cooperation of the State Highway Commission, develop a comprehensive plan for a street system that will serve present and anticipated volumes of traffic in and around the municipality. The plan shall be based on-population growth, economic conditions and prospects, and patterns of land development. The State Highway Commission may provide financial and technical assistance in the preparation of such plans.'

'After completion-the plan may be adopted by both the municipality and the State Highway Commission as the basis for future street and highway improvements in and around the municipality-based on agreement of the parties-no change to be made effective until it is adopted by both the Commission and the municipality."

He described the successful operation of the process for the five preceding years:

"Thus, great progress has been made toward the goals, which are briefly as follows:

  1. Start with facts. Complete, unbiased, objective facts-related, and analyzed; in such fields as growth of population (in small segments); land use; traffic generation, traffic assignment, and street capacity; using Traffic Engineering principles based on research.

  2. Vision to break through the unknown future with the best predictions which logic, experience, judgement and research will permit. To locate the future population, to anticipate its traffic needs by volume, direction, and time. Difficult and inexact? Yes, but definitely necessary.

  3. Employ the technical abilities and disciplines of Engineers skilled and experienced in all applicable fields, Traffic, Construction, Water, Sewer, Power-and the overall vision of the Planner. It is our belief that bringing these viewpoints and abilities together portends the best approach to the projections of understanding of future need.

  4. For the state, and for each community, to develop an overall plan to provide for an ultimate, permanently protected, adequate, coordinated, and connected network of highways and streets in 1980.

  5. To follow the plan, in order that we may (a) guide all street-highway improvements, and (b) aid private and corporate development and re-development of land as related to transport.

  6. To acquire and preserve necessary space now, and until needed.

  7. To outline a continuing financial program to support progressive implementation toward the agreed goals.

  8. To review completed plans at about five year intervals, to check on original forecasts and then anticipated land developments and traffic assignments; and to jointly revise the plans in the light of the new knowledge."

"That the procedure has been complex, difficult and taxing is readily admitted. It has involved problems and questions so difficult as to be almost imponderable. Mutual agreement has often required much negotiation, discussion and joint effort. However, all worth-while objectives are difficult of attainment, usually varying in complexity with their importance. Problems deferred from year to year in the past have been attacked, and best apparent solutions have been found and agreed to. Real progress has been made, and the effort is being continued at even a faster rate. We are confident that future appraisal will show the present work to have been eminently worthwhile."


Engineering News Record- Nov. 20, 1962

At the annual convention of the American Association of State Highway Officials in Miami Beach next week, Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton and other Bureau of Public Roads officials will urge the states to step up their efforts to complete the $41-billion Interstate system on time.

Last September, Mr. Whitton said:

"During the 12 months ending June 30, 1,675 miles of the Interstate system were completed to full standards. At that rate, we were completing 4.6 miles a day. But if we continue at that rate, the system won't be completed until 1981".

"We cannot afford that leisurely pace...Between now and 1973, we must sustain a completion rate of 7.8 miles per day...This is 70% faster than the progress rate of the last 12 months".

State highway officials, on their part, stoutly deny that the program is in trouble and is behind schedule, except in a mere handful of relatively small roadbuilding states...

Highway officials say there are three main reasons why federal-aid contract activity dropped during the first half of 1962.

  • Because of the highway scandals and resultant tightening-up of contract control procedures, it's harder to get decisions from both BPR and the state highway departments.

  • Many states are concentrating on urban work. Great controversies arise over these routes, and the work is more complex and slow. Therefore, although important projects are in the works, progress reports don't reflect big advances.

  • Many states are trying to acquire their urban ROWs now and this, too, is a slow and tedious process fraught with controversy...

The Bureau feels it is important for the states to show more progress in the form of completed pavement because:

  • The benefits promised to the public in safer, cheaper and more efficient transportation cannot be fully realized unless the maximum rate of construction is maintained consistent with available financial and other capabilities.

  • Visible progress is the best possible answer to the assorted criticisms being aimed at the program, since complaints have a way of disappearing once a completed highway materializes.

BPR is suggesting, and will reiterate at the AASHO meeting, that the states orient their programs to:

  • Develop long, usable sections of completed highway as "demonstrators" of the benefits of the Interstate system.

  • Concentrate on providing continuous stretches, rather than individual segments, of completed highway between principal cities, both within individual states and between neighboring states.

  • Otherwise, concentrate on deficient or hazardous sections. (The rest of the article gave a run-down by state of progress.)


The Wall Street Journal-Dec. 3, 1962




Federal road planners are launching a major effort to speed laggard construction of the vast interstate highway network in hope of completing it on schedule by 1972.

Nearly half the states are well behind schedule with Montana, West Virginia and Indiana at the very bottom. Unless present lags are reduced, the 41,000-mile system, now one third built, won't be entirely open to traffic until sometime in 1975. This would mean growing traffic snarls and possibly needless loss of lives on overburdened older highways. And there would be significant delay in the full economic benefits expected to flow from completion of the new system...

(The rest of the article gave a run-down of progress by state.)


Eng.News Record- Dec. 13, 1962

To the casual eye the 48th annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway Officials in Miami Beach last week looked like the standard convention with committee meetings, pleas for progress and integrity, and discussions of technical developments.

But close inspection of behind the scenes developments made it clear that drastic changes are taking place in the federal-state partnership that has characterized the federal-aid highway program in the United States for more than 40 years.

Orders apparently have gone out from the Secretary of Commerce (and others in the Kennedy Administration) for the Bureau of Public Roads to withdraw to arm's length in its dealings with the state highway departments. These actions at Miami Beach are symptomatic:

  • Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton resigned his membership on AASHO's executive committee.

  • Bureau of Public Roads personnel have been withdrawn as secretaries of nine of 18 AASHO committees on which they filled these positions, some of them over periods of many years.

  • The Bureau of Public Roads made, but did not announce, extensive shifts in its division engineers, the federal agency's state representatives.

These actions apparently reflect a growing desire on the part of federal officials to make BPR the "senior partner" in the federal-aid program, particularly in matters pertaining to the Interstate system. And, some believe, they portend an eventual attempt to federalize some portion of the country's vast highway system.

(The rest of the lengthy article reported on the other activities that occurred at the annual AASHO meeting.)


Roads and Streets-January 1963

The Bureau of Public Roads, presumably under pressure from the Department of Commerce, took two actions last month which captured headlines at the AASHO convention. In an apparent attempt to divorce itself from the state highway fraternity, the BPR withdrew from key positions in the organization. Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton resigned from the Executive Committee of AASHO and a number of BPR officials who have served as secretaries of committees were pulled out of these highly responsible posts. The move is being widely interpreted as a decision of the Department to "get out of bed" with state highway departments and put itself in a position where it can "lay down the law."

Thus, the 90% responsibility for financing the Interstate System which almost everyone urged upon the federal government in 1956, has led to changes in state-federal relationships which many believed could not happen. The traditional prerogatives of the states-in highway matters-might be threatened but never usurped. Throughout the long history of federal-aid for highways, every effort has been made to keep federal officials and the AASHO working as closely together as possible. Yet, within just six years after passage of the 1956 Act, giving the federal government more financial responsibility for highway system development, the inevitable has happened.

From this new position, the BPR told the states they must step up construction on the multi- billion-dollar Interstate System. Setting a deadline of 50 percent completion by 1964, the half-way mark in the long-range program, Federal Highway Administrator Rex Whitton spelled out the terms. This means a completion rate of eight miles a day, a big step from the present 4.8 miles. Also, BPR wants a shift in emphasis from the tediously slow, extremely complex urban projects to long, continuous stretches through open country. Such a showing will take the steam out of public criticism of the highway program, the federal officials feel...

Excerpts From the January, 1963 Issue of American Highways-the Record of the 48th Annual Meeting-Dec. 1962.

J.C. WOMACK, Cal., the President's Address.

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida. He stepped through the functions and progress of each of the AASHO Committees.


"...It is regrettable that this year has also seen a continuation, in fact a worsening, of irresponsible attacks on the morals of the entire highway engineering profession, based on a tiny segment of the highway program in which wrongdoing took place. I am not sure why these attempts to discredit a remarkably successful highway program before millions of readers and television viewers are continuing, but if they are a necessary part of getting good highways built, we will just have to go ahead and get the job done anyway. After all, the fortunately rare sensation-peddling journalist is responsible to no one but his publisher or his network, and is concerned only with today's headline or show. The Bureau of Public Roads and the state highway departments are responsible to all the people and for all time; the successful discharge of that responsibility in the form of safe, adequate, efficient highways is a public record which will remain on the books long after the new pencil marks have worn away..."

SEN. PAT McNAMARA, Mich., Chmn. Subcommittee on Roads.

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida. It was presented for the Senator by his assistant Robert Perrin.

The Senator complimented AASHO on the progress of the Interstate System and expressed alarm at some of the anti-automobile initiatives that were taking place in urban areas. At least half the speech was devoted to the Public Works Acceleration Act of 1962 which was designed to provide employment and stimulate economic growth.

REP. GEORGE FALLON, Md., Chm., House Subcommittee on Roads.

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida.

"...Despite this fine accomplishment (progress on the Interstate), highway officials have been unduly criticized, and undoubtedly are going to be subjected to more abuse as time goes on."

"Of course, this is not entirely a new feature of public office, and, as Harry Truman once remarked, 'If you can't stand the heat you ought to stay out of the kitchen.' Public officials have to expect criticism."


"However, it is a frustrating thing to be subjected to continual criticism when you know there is nothing in the world that you can do to satisfy the critics."

"...You've found some shady operators and you have exposed them. But every time you expose some shenanigans, the situation is held up as an example of what is claimed to be the typical state of affairs."

"...What's the argument all about?"

"Two things."

"First, a program as big as the highway program has an impact on practically everything else. You are displacing families, and the families have to have some place to go. You are disturbing farms, schools, churches, park lands, and forest lands. You are bypassing filling stations, motels, and restaurants."

"Highway officials have been saying for years that the Interstate system was a tremendous economic force that would remake the face of America. Some people believed you 100 percent, while others thought you were overstating the case, and discounted your statements accordingly. Now those claims are proving out. The highway program is changing America. Whenever you have change, you will have people who are opposed to it, because, no matter how desirable the change may be, it is sure to bring some problems with it."

"The fact that the road program has an impact on every American is sufficient to make it the center of innumerable controversies. You cannot avoid these controversies. You can prepare yourself for them, and you may be able to minimize the controversies by telling your side of the story in a convincing manner, but you cannot eliminate the controversies."

"That's one of the things the argument is all about."


"The other thing I want to mention today is the fact that a 90-10 Federal-aid program stirs up more watchdogs of the Treasury than a 50-50 program."

"There seems to be no more than the usual amount of controversy over the ABC program. The 50-50 matching ratio fits in with the generally accepted concept of what a partnership ought to be..."

He spoke at some length about standards and specifications and degrees of tolerance and how auditors look at such things as contrasted with engineers.

"The source of growing controversy- unfortunately, and, in my opinion, unnecessarily is a resurgence of the age-old argument summed up in three words-rail versus rubber."


"...The argument is going on in Washington now, and the rail transit advocates have succeeded in bringing the District of Columbia freeway program almost to a complete halt. The National Capital Transportation Agency has presented a report to the President recommending that a large part of the District of Columbia's Interstate program be scrapped, and that, instead, the National Capital Region should embark on a $793 million program of rail transit construction."

"It seems to be generally agreed that Washington needs an improved mass transit system, principally to serve commuter traffic. Some say rail transit is needed, while others seem to think that buses could do the job if they were favored with reserved lanes and other special provisions to keep them moving during the peak traffic hours."

"I can agree that a mass transit system may be needed, but I cannot see the necessity of cutting down the Interstate program in the District of Columbia. The Interstate links are required to handle highway traffic moving throughout the Washington area. There is no chance that local truck traffic will be diverted to the rail transit system, and I believe that the millions of tourists who visit Washington each year will prefer to drive their own automobiles around the area rather than attempt to go sightseeing on an underground rail transit system..."

REP. WILLIAM CRAMER, Fla., House Subcommitte on Roads

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida. He reviewed the highway problems confronting the 87th Congress from funding to relocation of displaced people. He was disappointed that stronger laws were not passed on fraud and conflicts of interest.

He spoke at length against the proliferation of toll roads on the Interstate and advocated stronger measures to prevent it. He spoke of the double standard in Florida where the Florida Turnpike Authority had entered into agreements with the bonding houses not to complete I-95 before 1972 while at the same time Florida was representing to BPR that I-95 would proceed on schedule.

He noted that extensive hearings on the truck size and weight issue would be coming up the next year.

REX M. WHITTON, Federal Highway Administrator

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida. The title was "R.I.P.: Relations, Integrity, and Progress."

He discussed integrity first and used the Boy Scout Oath as his recommendation of how the highway administrators should conduct themselves.


In discussing relations, he pointed out all the relationships that exist in the highway field and the need for cooperation among all of the players. As far as public relations were concerned, he urged the highway departments to take advantage of every event, no matter how minor, to develop a story for the public. He felt that in that way public relations could be built in a steady way through accomplishment and that that would have a greater effect than the big splashes of sensational journalism that had been happening.

His third subject, "Planning for Progress":

"Nothing succeeds like success, someone said. Which brings me to my third subject, planning for progress. The Interstate System is its own best advertisement. Every mile that we put into service is another demonstrator of the benefits of freeways. A new highway is like a new automobile. No salesman can offer a more convincing argument than a trial ride."

"So building good highways as fast as we can is the best means we have to combat the carping critics and mud-slingers. Two years from now, 1964, AASHO will be 50 years old. Let's set our sights, as a 50th anniversary present to the public, on 50 per cent of the Interstate System in service."


"This is an entirely reasonable goal. By the end of 1964, more than 50 per cent of the funds covering the estimated cost of the system will have been apportioned. Fifty per cent of the time allotted for completion of the system will have elapsed."

"It is an entirely practical goal, too, for the position where we now stand. At the end of September, over 13,100 miles of the Interstate System were open to traffic. But 2,300 miles were toll facilities, so we can claim credit for only 10,800 of the miles open to traffic."

"There are 4,900 miles under construction on the Interstate. It is not unreasonable to suppose that all or most of that construction can and will be completed and opened to traffic by the end of 1964."


"To meet our objective, then, we must get that done and also put under construction and open to traffic an additional 4,800 miles during the next two years. This will reach the goal of half the system in service."

"...Particularly important are those projects that will link up continuous, long route sections, especially those connecting the larger cities. It is such completed Interstate highways that best demonstrate to the public the benefits of the system-time saving, travel ease, and safety.

"...I look forward eagerly, a few years from now, to the opening of a route clear across the country."

"What an impact that will have on the public! While we won't drive a gold spike, perhaps we can erect a gold sign-conforming with the Interstate sign manual, of course."

"...I have been talking of an objective that lies only two years away. But we have an even more important objective. It lies a full decade ahead- completion of the entire Interstate System."

"...Every one of us must face up to the existing situation. It isn't enough for us to just say we're honest. We have to clean up, not only all possibilities of wrongdoings, but all possibilities of adverse criticism."


"I ask you, please don't take any of our (BPR) actions as a personal affront. Let's get our homes in order, remembering that we have to live in glass houses. And remember that what the public sees or suspects it sees in one house, it will assume is happening in all our homes."

"I want to be reasonable about controls. I don't want or intend to impede progress. Nor am I going to ask for anything I don't believe is necessary. But the public has to be convinced both that we are making progress and that we are doing it efficiently and honestly..."


(I believe that I detect the beginnings of a change in policy in the above speech. Before the passage of the 56 Act, MacDonald advocated the building of the Interstate from the city centers, where the congestion was, outward. For the first time, building long rural segments is being advocated in this speech. The reasons given are to get more miles open to traffic quicker in order to speed up the completion rate in order to stay on schedule. It is also apparent that another reason was that long stretches created good publicity and it was felt that the public image of the highway program was in need of repair. A third, but unstated, reason was the growing controversy over urban Interstate projects. The issue being continually discussed was the integration of urban Interstate projects into comprehensive city and metropolitan plans and how that would be done, even down to the details of techniques, but the unstated reasons, in my judgement, were really contests of authority. Who would ultimately decide what would be built in urban areas?)

REP. JOHN A. BLATNIK, House Public Works & Special Investigations

This speech was given at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida.

"...Most assuredly, I do not intend to review the work of our Subcommittee. This already is self-evident in the reports we have issued and in the verbatim transcripts of our hearings on several aspects of the highway program in a number of states. The important thing I would like to emphasize again is what I said in Boston in 1959 and have repeatedly stated since then: We have always tried, and I have made it a personal point of responsibility, to stress the fact that while we were going to be objective and fair, we were also going to be thorough and firm..."

"I believe we all remember that in 1959 the highway program ran into financial difficulties and there was a decline in the rate of highway construction because the necessary funds were getting short. This was three years after we had passed the necessary legislation and the program had really not gotten off the ground. When the bill to increase the gasoline tax came to the floor of the House the roof literally caved in on us. All kinds of wild charges were made about graft, corruption, inefficiency, extravagance, overdesign and operation under footloose and fancy free conditions. This Special Subcommittee was established because the House leadership decided that there should be a systematic and responsible way of determining if these allegations had substance."


"...To be perfectly frank about it, I thought that when we started the hearings and our inquiry into the highway program we would find a very minimum of so-called inefficiency or work not up to proper standard. We had no idea whatsoever about some of the things we have run into. At first I was inclined to believe that some of the conditions and some of the situations were peculiar to a given State or locality or area, but as we moved from one State to another and examined different aspects of the program, we began to find out things that we want very much to prevent from happening elsewhere."

"The most significant thing to my mind is that almost uniformly the responsible people, the officials in the highway departments and those who are in charge at both the Federal and State levels, did not know that these things were going on. They were shocked and surprised, as shocked and surprised as we were."


"..None of us likes to be criticized, but there is such a thing as being too sensitive about it. We all get criticized at one time or another. Those of us who are in the political field get it constantly. I like to think of it this way: That anyone who does anything is subject to criticism no matter what the field of activity..."

"I think it is most important that we view criticism in proper perspective. I may be wrong in my opinion, but I want to be candid. I do feel that to some extent the very fine organization you have has been a little overly sensitive about some of the criticism that has come from the press, radio and TV commentators. I do not mean to lecture. I came here as a friend, as an associate and as a colleague of yours in this great undertaking in which I share the same pride that each and every one of you do in what has been accomplished. If there is one suggestion I might make it is this: Face the facts squarely and the people will support you and Congress will support you. Take whatever corrective measures are necessary and do it promptly."


"...I see no reason why the people in the highway industry should be on the defensive. As far as criticism is concerned, be realistic about it. Pay less attention to what is written about some of these situations, or what is said about them, but give more attention to what you do about them, and the support you have in Congress. Insofar as Congress is concerned, I am not too concerned with what is written in the newspaper or what is said on TV and radio about the highway program. Believe me, when I tell you that we Congressmen are close to the people, particularly the people that support us. I think it is highly significant and most important for you to realize that the feeling in Congress today differs greatly from that which prevailed in 1959. During the last session of Congress I do not think any speech- certainly not any major speech-was made by a Congressman criticizing the program. The measure of confidence in you men and in the program was best exemplified in the overwhelming vote by which the multibillion dollar tax structure was up-graded last year to insure the completion of the program on schedule."

"This brings me to another point which I feel I must give particular emphasis to at this time. You have already heard from Rex Whitton that the Interstate program must be stepped up if we are to complete this tremendous road network as scheduled in 1972. He has already told you that the completion rate in 1962 was averaging 4.6 miles per day. Unless this is increased to 7.8 miles per day, this job will not be finished as Congress intended."

"...The responsibility and the major burden continues to rest on your shoulders, but I think it would be wrong for any of us to pretend that some of the things we have encountered do not exist. You must continue to be on the alert against these insidious little cancers. Just as the doctors do, you must detect them in the early stages, because if you wait until you start feeling pain, it is too late. That is why I keep saying that the need for effective controls is extremely important."

"I am confident that the Interstate program will be stepped up as the responsible people say that it should be. We will have more problems as we go along, but we will work them out together. In spite of the criticism that has occurred, I am completely confident that when this is all over, we will have achieved the greatest public works project in the history of mankind, greater than the Chinese wall and the pyramids and the Roman roads all combined..."


Chicago Sun Times-Feb.28, 1963

Two Kennedy administration officials urged Congress Wednesday to approve a $500 million mass transit program but neither could estimate the eventual cost to the government in solving the commuters problem.

Federal Housing Administrator Robert C. Weaver and Highway Administrator Rex M. Whitton testified in favor of the administration's three-year program at the start of five days of hearings by the House Banking Committee...


Sommerset (N.J.) Journal 4/25/63

Buried in the text of a speech made last Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii, is an indication that Massachusetts may be facing trouble from Washington because of delays in constructing the master highway system.

The address was made by H.E. Humphreys, Jr., chairman of the National Highway Users Conference, one of the most influential organizations in the country.

In a speech before the Western Highway Institute, Humphreys noted there is an "aggressive attack" underway in some states to "throw obstacles in the way of planned development" of the Federal government's blueprint for a network of superhighways.

"In some places," he declared "it is still in the propaganda stage. In others it has reached the point of Legislative threats and even enactments" to create the obstacles.

Massachusetts has caught attention from the national capital for its law which gives certain communities the power to veto any proposed route of a highway.

Several communities have invoked the state- given right.

The Humphreys statement forecasts a crackdown. The Highway users conference works closely with the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, grand overseer of the country's pattern of expressways.

In addition, there has been much speculation that Washington will take steps to erase Massachusetts' veto power law, on the ground it interferes with the national defense and welfare...

Meanwhile, some factions in Congress are seeking a drastic cut-back in the highway program in favor of rail rapid transit. Reportedly, a Federal agency is engineering the move.

Humphreys made mention of the feud in his statement saying, "eager rail transit hands may try to reach into the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and many members of congress currently seem inclined to subsidize rail transit."...

Excerpts From the April 1963 Issue of American Highways.

REX M. WHITTON, Federal Highway Administrator.

This speech was given to the Committee on Administration at the annual meeting in December of 1962 in Miami Beach, Florida.


This was generally a progress report on the status of Interstate construction but it was also a warning that unless progress was stepped up, the program would fall behind schedule. He called for early completion of long rural sections on coast-to-coast routes in order to add large mileage quickly and to rebuild public confidence in the program.

He had asked each State to analyze its position relative to completion and to report on what action was needed to finish on schedule. He gave a summary of the results. Forty six percent was expected to be open to traffic by the end of 1964. Inclusion of the toll sections brought that up to 49 percent at the half way point in time. He said that this progress was made because some States had progressed at a much faster rate than the rest and the inclusion of the already existing toll segments. Some States, about 20 percent, were lagging having only opened 10 to 20 miles per year. The problems seemed to center on planning, right- of-way, design, construction and financing. He discussed each of these problems in detail.

He stressed that the Congress had reiterated the urgency of completing on time and that they had readjusted the financing in order to achieve that.


"Backing into the schedule, as we have just done (in this speech), will point up the urgency of the present situation to those States that are now lagging."

"In hearings on the highway legislation, the Congress has been given repeated assurance by the State highway departments, the Bureau of Public Roads, and the construction industry that we could accomplish this task. We can, and it's our responsibility to do so. I ask for full effort by every State, toward this end, and I offer my wholehearted support in that effort."

JOHN C. MACKIE, Mich., President of AASHO

This speech was given at the Mississippi Valley Conference of AASHO in Chicago, March 14, 1963. He spoke of the magnitude of the expanded highway program and the "regeneration" of the highway system that was taking place.


"...I suggest to you today that there needs to be a concurrent improvement in the attitude of highway departments in giving the public the information needed to make wise and proper decisions on highway programs-not only in relation to a specific highway route, but also in relation to the larger question of highways and other means of transportation."

"A public which forms opinions without adequate information can prove to be the biggest barrier to the future of our highway programs. If the public does not have adequate information on the highway effort under way, I think it is the fault of the highway industry and the highway agency involved; in other words, it's our own fault. We should blame nobody but ourselves."

He advocated the free flow of information and noted that highway developments were big news to the public.

"A constant flow of straight factual information from the agency to the news media is the best and most effective way to be sure that public information is playing its full and proper role in the formation of public policy..."


"There is a third level of public information and this involves the question of whether an agency should reply to misinformation issued by persons attacking the highway industry, or by people who simply do not understand what the facts are."

"...I submit that a governmental agency has the right to keep the public record straight and that it should do so promptly and consistently. If we do not correct errors of fact, who is going to do it? If an accurately informed public is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy, who is going to make sure that accurate facts replace errors if we don't do it? I think we will wait a very long time if we wait for the mythical 'someone' to do it for us."

He gave an example where the Michigan highway department was criticized in the press for not providing commercial services along the Interstate. A letter to the editor pointing out that such services were prohibited by Federal law was sent to the editor and it was printed.

"A question can be raised as to whether a governmental agency has the right to influence the public opinion which it needs to support the programs it is carrying on. In other words, how is the danger that the agency may become a propaganda organ for its own programs to be averted?"

"It has been my experience that it has been the press itself is the best guarantee that this will not happen since the press is quite able to distinguish between news and propaganda. There is, however, a responsibility that the agency act with integrity and honesty in its handling of public information and if it does this, it will not become a propaganda device."

"When we move from the simple correction of fact to the involved charges which arise in the political arena-charges of corruption and similar wrongdoing, the question of setting the record straight becomes more difficult."


"In congressional or legislative investigations, we should cooperate fully to provide complete information on any subject or area under review. We should at the same time present documented summaries of the facts to all the media. I think we need also to have statements issued by national highway organizations-American Association of State Highway Officials itself as well as groups like the Better Highways Information Foundation."

"...we must be aware that serious charges require serious answers and that failure to answer is often taken as an admission of guilt."

"...I suggest that every highway department should review its public information programs to see to it that no barriers are put in the way of the free flow of public information to the citizens at large."

"We are spending public money, we are making public policy, we are changing public habits of transportation. We have a tremendous record of achievement in the highway industry-both public and private-but this record of achievement cannot be maintained without the continuing support of the general public."

"The highway facts need no dressing up to be exciting and interesting. The great highway building program under way today is as important to the economic growth of America in the second half of the 20th Century as the building of the railroads was to the second half of the 19th Century."

In the rest of his speech, he recounted the achievements and progress of the highway program and said that the public should know about them.


Engineering News Record- July 11, 1963

"Comprehensive, Cooperative and Continuing" were the words used to describe adequate urban transportation planning processes by representatives of federal, state and local governments at a regional conference staged in Albany N.Y., last week.

The conference was the tenth and last of a series of regional meetings sponsored by the American Association of State Highway Officials, the American Municipal Association and the National Association of Counties. Conferees came from the six New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware....

Main purpose of the meeting was to explain and discuss the portion of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962 that requires cooperative transportation planning in urban areas of more than 50,000 population as a condition of federal aid to highways in such areas after July 1, 1965...

Updated: 06/27/2017
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