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Highway History

Origins of the Interstate System

Origins of the Interstate Part 6 of 7


Hearings of the Subcommittee on Roads, Committee on Public Works, House of Representatives, 83rd. Congress - April and May 1953. The Chairman was J. Harry McGregor, Ohio.

The hearings were significant in that the Committee postulated twelve questions and asked all witnesses to respond to all of them. The questions ranged across Federal diversion of highway-user taxes, desirability of a Federal trust fund and whether the Federal government should get out of the program altogether and curtail BPR. These hearings set the stage for the need to fund and build the Interstate System, with emphasis on the urban portions, more than the 1955 hearings which accepted the need as a given and spent most of the time studying suitable funding and apportionment schemes. These hearings were named "The National Highway Study". The following list of selected witnesses and the positions taken by each has been greatly reduced, but even so it is long; however, it is quite informative and the information was critical to the future of the Interstate System.


  1. Proposal of the Governors' Conference that the Federal Government relinquish the tax on motor fuel in favor of the states.
  2. Proposal of the Governor's Conference that the activities of the Bureau of Public Roads be curtailed.
  3. Proposal that motor fuel taxes be deposited in a trust fund for highway purposes.
  4. Proposal for the extension of turnpikes and toll roads as well as transcontinental superhighways.
  5. Proposal to increase funds for the Interstate System of highways.
  6. Possible participation by the Federal Government in maintenance and repair costs.
  7. Comparison of administrative and engineering expenditures for highway purposes in the various States.
  8. Direct local effects of constructing highways which bypass urban areas-beneficial or detrimental?
  9. Proper allocation methods with respect to access roads. (Defense plants-timber access-mineral resources and the like.)
  10. The relationship of existing highways to military and civilian defense requirements necessary to meet an emergency.
  11. Coordination by Federal agencies in the planning and construction of roads through national parks, forests, Indian reservations, and other government owned land.
  12. The effect of heavy vehicle traffic on highway specifications and construction costs.


  1. Francis V. du Pont, Commissioner, Bureau of Public Roads accompanied by H. S. Fairbank and C. D. Curtiss, Deputy Commissioners. Mr. du Pont noted that legislation to create a highway trust fund had been introduced by Sen. Magnuson in S. 216 and by Mr. Kluczynski in H.R. 3637. He also noted that delay in funding the Interstate was contributing to the construction of toll roads.
  2. J.T. Sanders, Legislative counsel, the National Grange. He was for farm to market roads; Against toll roads; Against diversion; Against the Federal Government relinquishing the fuel tax; Against curtailment of BPR.
  3. Sinclair Weeks, Secretary of Commerce denied any plan to curtail BPR; Had no position on Federal diversion; Thought privately financed toll roads were O.K.
  4. Matt Triggs, American Farm Bureau opposed the Federal fuel tax; Opposed earmarking; Against toll roads; Against special funding for Interstate; For curtailing BPR's authority to set standards; Federal aid should continue without the fuel tax; Against Federal size and weight laws; For revenue sharing.
  5. Angus McDonald, National Farmer's Union was for more money earmarked for farm to market roads.
  6. W.R. Kellog, City Manager, Cincinnati wanted more money for urban expressways; Against bypasses and for BPR and earmarking.
  7. Thomas A. Burke, Mayor of Cleveland said that Federal financing should not be curtailed; BPR presence was required to insure that urban and rural segments of the Interstate connected and would be built to uniform standards; Against a trust fund on general principles; Against toll roads; Interstate should be 100% Federally funded; For Federal participation in maintenance on Interstate; Said bypasses were not the issue but whether highways were constructed in accordance with comprehensive planning; BPR should enforce uniform weight standards.
  8. V.E. Gunlock, Commissioner of Public Works, Chicago said the States are insensitive to urban highway problems; The leadership taken by the Federal Government in the 1944 Act was a great step but a strong Federal presence was necessary in the construction of the urban Interstate; Chicago gets back only 1/4 of user taxes paid in; Mandatory Federal aid to cities was absolutely essential.
  9. George G. Hyland, Commissioner of Public Works, Boston said States favor rural highways; The big problem was in the urban areas; There should be direct Federal aid to urban areas.
  10. Raleigh W. Gamble, Director of Expressways, Milwaukee was opposed to BPR curtailment, but said that BPR should become sensitized to urban needs; For a trust fund and increased Interstate funding; He said that the difference between the mayors and the governors was rooted in the fact that the Federal Government was the greatest diverter of highway user taxes; He said that the urban areas went through the diversion period with the States a few years back but that was solved.
  11. Chelsie Senerchia, Mayor of Miami and chairman of the roads committee of the American Municipal Association. He said that more than half of user revenue is earned on city streets and that the 1944 Act, great as it was, did not rectify the rural bias in the allocation of Federal resources; Traffic congestion was approaching crisis proportions in the cities; The Interstate would not be able to function as a system if it was constantly interrupted by unimproved city street systems; The Congress should get on with the urban Interstate and strengthen the urban features of the 1944 Act to insure that the funds actually get to the urban areas; The Federal Government should not relinquish the fuel tax; BPR should not be curtailed.
  12. Glenn C. Richards, Superintendent of Public Works, Detroit; A national master plan for highways should be prepared by BPR detailing the division of responsibility for all levels of government; O&D studies should be the basis for the master plans; Only a team effort could produce a rational highway system: Highway officials must realize that highway users are their customers; Highway users must not avoid paying their fair share; The highway program would languish until the interested groups could pull together; A national needs and fiscal requirements study needed to be done as a basis for any future tax or program revision; He opposed the Federal Government relinquishing the fuel tax; BPR should be strengthened; BPR consistently pointed out since 1939 that the big highway need was in the urban areas; The Federal Government should take care of the urban Interstate and it should be top priority; Interstate matching rate should be 75% Federal; Federal diversion should cease.
  13. Alex M. Clark, Mayor of Indianapolis was for Federal nondiversion; For a trust fund; Felt the power of BPR should be severely limited and that the Federal Government should not relinquish the fuel tax; Was for national size and weight standards; Under questioning, he did not know what BPR did. His curtailment position was based on a State's rights anti-Federal bias.
  14. John O. Broadway, President, City Council, Huntsville, Ala. He was pro-highway, pro urban, pro BPR and pro Federal fuel tax.
  15. Charles M. Ziegler, Commissioner of Highways, Mich. and President of AASHO, noted that 38,000 miles of Interstate had been designated, the remainder to be urban. He was against relinquishing the fuel tax, against BPR curtailment and Federal diversion. He felt that bypasses were neither good nor bad but it depended on the case; The Interstate cost estimate was $11 billion; The program should be at least $210 million per year; He was against Federal aid for maintenance and was neutral on toll roads; He felt that the road tests would settle the size and weight issues; He felt that the Federal share of the Interstate should be 75%.
  16. B.D. Tallamy, Superintendent of Public Works, N.Y., past President of AASHO and Chairman of the Executive Committee. He said that nationwide the country was falling behind in the highway program and that Federal aid must be increased; Interstate should be apportioned on a population basis.
  17. A.E. Johnson, Arkansas and Vice President of AASHO, referred to a General Motors essay contest titled "How are we going to finance the adequate and safe highways that we need?" (Which was won by Robert Moses.); Johnson felt that the upcoming AASHO Road Test would provide definitive answers to the size and weight, damage, and user tax questions; He said that traffic was increasing at a phenomenal rate.
  18. R. A. Harriss, Miss. and member of the Executive Committee of AASHO, advocated returning Federal highway user taxes to the States according to the current apportionment formulas.
  19. R.H. Baldock, Ore. and Past President of AASHO, said that the country was losing ground in the highway program and that heavy truck loads had increased tremendously, nevertheless the highway design standards were adequate for new construction but there was a tremendous amount of mileage that must be brought up to those standards. Congressman Brownson referred to a Gallup Poll conducted the week before asking whether the public would support a toll system with two East-West & two North-South routes. The results were 63% approval. Baldock opposed toll roads.
  20. D.C. Greer, Texas and Past President of AASHO, stated that the Federal Government should get out of the fuel tax since it was temporary and the traditional province of the states; He said that the highway program was falling behind travel growth and that the Interstate should be apportioned on a population basis.
  21. Jack Garrett Scott, National Association of Motor Bus Operators, opposed linking Federal user taxes to the highway program level; He said that highways belong to the States and taxes for them should be the exclusive purview of the States.
  22. Hugh Gregg, Governor of New Hampshire, said the Federal Government should relinquish the fuel tax to the states and that BPR should not be curtailed; He said that if the taxes were not relinquished, a trust fund should be established; He opposed paying for utility relocation with highway funds. He considered that a diversion of highway funds.
  23. There was discussion of Senate Resolution No. 44 offered by Senator Nichols, Mich., which was the so-called Hearst plan of returning the Federal user taxes to the states. It was publicized by the Hearst newspapers.
  24. Charles M. Upham, The Motor Transport Committee advocated 100% Federal funding for the Interstate and that it be built in 6 yrs. He testified that weight was not a factor in the deterioration of roads if they were properly designed in the first place.
  25. H.K. Griffith, Highway Commissioner, W.Va., said that Federal aid should be increased to match Federal revenues and that the cost of the Interstate should be 100% Federal or abandon the Federal fuel tax altogether.
  26. P.M. Thornton, Associated Gen. Contractors of America, advocated elimination of Federal diversion and that Interstate funds be delivered to the States through current channels; There should be uniform highway specifications for all States.
  27. George C. Koss, AGC and AASHO, said to continue requiring competitive bidding on highway projects; He was for highway authorizations to be available for longer than two years.
  28. E.L. Schmidt, Secretary of Highways, Penna., testified for no increase in Federal aid but that apportionment formulas should be more on population; No increase of Federal share; No earmarking by system; No Federal aid for rights-of-way, engineering, parking, etc; Federal Government should abandon the fuel tax and that minimum control should be exercised by BPR; There should be no special funding for the Interstate; There should be only one category of Federal aid and there should be only one Federal-aid system.
  29. William A. Stinchcomb, AAA, said that Congress should expedite completion of the Interstate; Half of Federal aid should go for Interstate and the Federal Government should bear 3/4 of cost of Interstate rights-of-way; This would end the rash of toll roads; He strongly supported BPR and advocated no Federal aid for maintenance; Apportionment of Interstate should be based on population; The Federal Government should relinquish the fuel tax to the States; Axle loads should be held to 18,000 and 32,000 lb; Trucks should pay more; Against toll roads and against tolls on the Interstate; Urban studies should be expedited to answer such questions as by-passes etc.; Urban areas were under funded; Anti diversion legislation should be strengthened.
  30. D. Hatfield, New Mex. Highway Commissioner, was for increased Federal aid; Against curtailing BPR; Against toll roads; Against apportionment of Interstate by population; Bypasses should be individually studied; For the Federal retention of the fuel tax.
  31. Ike Ashburn, Texas Good Roads Association, was for not curtailing BPR and for relinquishing the fuel tax and for more money for the Interstate.
  32. H.E. Nix, South Texas Chamber of Commerce said that the Federal Government should either relinquish the fuel tax or cease diverting.
  33. John B. Hulse, Truck Trailer Mfg. Ass., was for 102 in. truck width allowance and for getting the Federal Government out of fuel taxes but continue the highway program; BPR should be continued; Against toll roads; Truck weight was no problem for well designed roads; For truck weight uniformity.
  34. Robert Moses' winning essay of the GM better highways contest was inserted into the record. Moses advocated a 10-year program; Better research; For development of standards for plans, surveys, urban studies, education of engineers; He was very eloquent in support of BPR and a greater allocation of resources to urban areas; He debunked trust funds, pay as you go, and anti-diversion; He felt that all avenues of fiscal management should be prudently utilized to reach the ten-year goal; The Federal Government toll policy should be re-examined because tolls could help build parts of the Interstate; Excess condemnation should not be considered because there would be too much opportunity for skulduggery; Raise gas taxes in some states, raise truck taxes, raise the Federal gas tax 1 cent and stop diversion; Don't relinquish the Federal gas tax; These initiatives would allow doubling the highway program to provide $50 billion in ten years and increase the urban program because that was where the problem was; Pay for railroad grade crossing eliminations because it was the car that was causing the problem, not the trains: Parking was essential; He advocated a 60 mph speed limit and uniformity of size and weight; Billboard control and a good publicity program was necessary and the highway community must pull together instead of being divisive.
  35. H.A. Thomson, National Ass. of Township Officials, said to eliminate the 2 cent Federal gas tax; Eliminate the secondary program because the money wasn't getting to the townships and counties anyway and the Federal specifications were too high; BPR should be curtailed.
  36. Keith L. Seigmiller, National Ass. County Officials said to repeal the 2 cent gas tax provided that the States pick it up; There should be no trust fund; He was for BPR and no Federal aid for maintenance.
  37. Clem D. Johnson, U.S Chamber of Commerce was for BPR; No trust fund; Toll roads should be an individual local matter; For accelerating the Interstate system; For bypasses and against Federal aid for maintenance; For urban expressways.
  38. John V. Lawrence, American Trucking Ass. said to repeal the Federal fuel and excise taxes but continue the highway program and BPR; Against a trust fund; For accelerating the Interstate and against toll roads; Trucks already pay more than their fair share of the highway program.
  39. James Cope, Chrysler, representing the Automobile Mfg. Ass. testified that the program should continue and funding for highways should be increased; Opposed to curtailing BPR and the repeal of fuel and excise taxes; Against a trust fund; Against toll roads and strongly for the Interstate; Funds should be apportioned on a population basis; Interstate authorizations should be over a ten-year period; He favored bonding for the Interstate and no Federal aid for maintenance; Bypasses should be determined through local study.
  40. James C. Alban, Alban Tractor Co., said that the Interstate should be self liquidating toll roads; Bypasses were fine; He was anti-Federal Government in general.
  41. F.L. Inman, Chamber of Commerce, Topeka Kansas, said to continue the program as it existed but do away with Federal diversion.
  42. James D. Mann, National Council of Private Motor Truck Owners was for Federal aid and against diversion and excise taxes as being discriminatory; The highway system must be brought up to date.
  43. Several statements were taken from utility companies advocating reimbursement for utility relocation.
  44. Frank M. Porter, American Petroleum Inst., said to Repeal the fuel tax and continue Federal aid with no trust fund; There should be earmarking and increased funding for the Interstate.
  45. Gen. Paul F. Yount, U.S. Army, presented an extensive discussion of military access roads; He said that Interstate, both rural and urban should be accelerated and built to the highest possible standards; He was a strong supporter of BPR.
  46. Roland J. Lehman, Ass. of American Railroads, ttestifiedthat the Federal Government should abandon the fuel tax but should require the States to pick it up; Trucks were not paying their fair share; There should be a debate about what the purpose of superhighways was for, passenger cars or freight hauling? If for freight hauling, they should not be financed because the railroads which are vital and essential industries would go down; It would be even worse for the Federal Government to finance superhighways and then let the States regulate their use by heavy trucks.
  47. Robert M. Reindollar, President, American Road Builders' Ass., said the Federal aid program should be at least doubled; There was considerable discussion about size and weight and the results of the Maryland test road.

In my judgement, these hearings caused the Congress to decide to stop diverting Federal highway-user taxes. Thus sufficient funds would then be available to consider a significantly increased highway program including the Interstate as a special and separate program. The problem remained, however, of the mechanics of funding, apportionment and Federal share for the Interstate.


At the annual meeting of AASHO late in 1953, Congressman George A. Dondero, Michigan addressed the members. He stressed the need for additional resources for highways and took note of suggestions to repeal the Federal tax on gasoline and to abolish BPR. He felt that either would result in less highways. He said that he had introduced legislation to increase the Federal program by ending Federal diversion. He even suggested reducing foreign aid by a billion dollars to compensate. He felt that limited access urban expressways were an excellent tool for reducing urban congestion, rebuilding decayed areas, increasing property values and to make shopping easier. He ended by saying that the Congress was fully aware of the crisis but that it would take the cooperation of all interests to find a solution. The highway industry as a whole supported an increased program strongly but the individual parts of the industry were opposed to increased costs that affected each directly.

BPR Commissioner du Pont also addressed the convention. He paid tribute to MacDonald and noted that he had brought in only one outsider, Mr. Kaltenbach, as Solicitor. (Mr. Kaltenbach later became counsel to the Bragdon Committee in the WWhite House) He said that he found that coordination between the deputies was lacking and that they did not share in decision making and he had instituted a new management process with weekly staff meetings to rectify that. He found that too many top personnel were serving past the age of 70 on special exceptions to the mandatory retirement age, and they had been removed. (MacDonald was one of those.) He said that he had drastically reduced the BPR overhead and would continue to do so. He reminded them that BPR was strictly an administrative agency and that policy was a matter for the Administration and the Congress which would be the determining elements in the future of the highway program.

du Pont occupied a unique and critical position in regard to the highway program at a critical time in its history. He was a solid member of the highway department community having been a Commissioner and Chairman of the Delaware Highway Commission for many years. He was politically influential and a key member of the Eisenhower Administration. He was well accepted and respected on Capitol Hill and he was equally respected and influential in the business community. I believe that he was the principal architect of Eisenhower's highway policy.

Charles M. Ziegler, outgoing President of AASHO thanked the press and industry for support in bringing the highway dilemma before the public. He noted a reversal of a longstanding AASHO policy of getting the Federal government out of highway user taxes altogether. It was replaced by a policy against Federal diversion. He said that he used the BPR Highway Statistics book as the source of his testimony before the Congress outlining the highway finance dilemma. He advocated increased State taxes, increased Federal aid, bond issues and tolls where appropriate. Over 1,000 miles of toll roads were under construction and 22 States had enacted toll legislation. 800 miles were in use. He felt that with the coalescing of all the interest groups, Congress, BPR and the public, behind the need for more highways, the future of the highway program looked bright.

Mr. A.(Alf) E. Johnson, the new President of AASHO addressed the Associated General Contractors of America in March of 1954 and said that the public and the transport industry had finally begun to demand better highways. He estimated the cost of bringing all highways up to standard as $50 billion, $35 billion being on the Federal-aid system. This would require a $3.5 billion annual program for 15 years. The annual expenditures in 1953 were $1.5 billion. He attributed the phenomenal rise in the construction of toll roads to the public's dissatisfaction with governmental financing. He noted that AASHO still had no policy on toll roads. He said that AASHO had recommended a $900 million annual program with $250 million of it for Interstate on a 75% Federal match. He reviewed the features of various bills being considered by Congress and concluded that a bigger program was in the offing.


In July of 1954, the President kicked off the campaign for a greatly expanded highway program with a speech given to the Governors' Conference at Bolton Landing, New York. The President's mother was seriously ill so the speech was delivered by Vice President Nixon speaking from the President's notes. The President asked for a "Grand Plan" for highways extending over a ten-year period and asked the governors for their help in how to do it. Shortly thereafter, he appointed General Clay to head a committee to work with the governors and other groups, to hold hearings and to develop highway legislation for the Administration.

It is not exactly clear what all of Eisenhower's motives were but some of the following factors were at work. The fear of the country lapsing back into economic depression after the Korean War was perceived as a real threat and memories of the Great Depression were still strong. Recession had begun to set in strongly in 1949, but the Korean war pulled the country out of it. Certainly the President's awareness of the criticality of highways to the national defense gained during his military experiences were a factor, including the famous trip west with the Army trucks after World War I. It is clear that a strong and real demand for better highways was rolling in high gear and any president would have had to pay attention to that. Lastly, I think that with the stage set with all of the above factors, Francis du Pont counseled the President that the time was right.


Mr. Johnson, the President, gave a detailed history of the Association and the highway program. He noted that the highway departments were no longer alone in telling of the decaying condition of the highway system. All highway interest groups and the public had begun to demand better highways. He gave as evidence the increased program in the 1954 Act, Congress' call for a comprehensive needs study, President Eisenhower's call for a 10-year program and the appointment of the Clay Committee to explore financing. He called for greater emphasis on research and planning data so that the highway departments could be ready for the gigantic program that he predicted was coming.

Representative George A. Dondero, Chairman, Committee on Public Works, U.S. House of Representatives, devoted his whole speech to the urban problem and the role that urban highways must play in it, especially the urban Interstate. The speech is heavily excerpted here because it is the most eloquent case made for the urban situation all wrapped up in one address. It was not coincidental that he, being the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works and a representative of urban Detroit, played a major role in the advent of the Interstate. He urged AASHO's support:

...Many important developments in the highway field have taken place since we last met together. Not the least of these was the successful enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1954, about which Commissioner F.V. du Pont has told you so much, and on which we of the Congress labored diligently, and to which you contributed so much. That Act was without doubt, the best piece of road legislation ever placed on the statue books by the Congress of the United States. And yet, the President's recent public statement on highways foreshadows even greater things to come.

I could speak at length on the over-all aspects of our highway problem but, coming as I do from the "automobile capitol of the world", you will understand, I am sure, if I direct most of my remarks to the urban or city side of the question. The urban and metropolitan aspects are becoming increasingly critical. In focusing on them, I, in no way attempt to minimize the importance of other challenging phases that exist nation-wide.

...I think we must admit that we - both the public and legislators - are somewhat tardy in recognizing that an equally deplorable situation faces the city dweller. For virtually every urban center of any size is in a traffic muddle. Everywhere a costly, nerve-wracking picture of congestion, collision and confusion. In time waste alone, the penalties are enormous. It is not uncommon for the urban car user to consume an hour or more in transit to his place of employment-battling with thousands of other motorists and pedestrians to beat the time-clock every working day of the year. Then there are the heavy losses to business and industry. A test made in one of the Michigan Congressional districts in the metropolitan area of Detroit showed that a majority of car owners refrain from going on the highways for pleasure trips because of the danger on the roads today. About one percent of the people of this Nation are injured or killed on the highways annually. Property damage amounts to 3 3/4 billion dollars.

Twenty-five percent of all gas consumed in metropolitan areas is burned waiting for traffic to move, and one billion man hours are lost going to and from work.

No question but that the metropolitan areas have become our major traffic bottlenecks. That's where the biggest traffic jams build up-in or near our cities. That's where the problem is complicated by countless intersections, with the perpetual stop-and-go that frays nerves and runs up vehicle-operating costs. It's in the cities we have the added conflicts caused by hordes of walkers and mass transportation vehicles. It's there, too, we have to contend with acute shortage of parking and truck-loading space.

...By and large, the traffic plight of our cities stems from lack of capacity to handle today's vast traffic volumes. It's a matter of simple arithmetic: Half of the nation's motor traffic is concentrated on urban streets, and those streets comprise only one-tenth of our total highway mileage.

...Very rarely has street layout, as originally planned in our communities proved well adapted to the Motor Age. One exception is Salt Lake City. Brigham Young, who led his Mormon followers to the West and founded the city, was farsighted in many ways, but in laying out that beautiful place, he unwittingly did something for which the present inhabitants should be deeply grateful. I am told that those wonderful wide streets in Salt Lake, which still handle motor traffic reasonably well, are the result of his instructions that "the streets should be sufficiently wide to turn a six-span team of oxen." Too bad that most of our other cities seem to have been laid out in an era of Shetland ponies.

Our Capitol City of Washington owes its wide streets and long, straight vistas, not to foresight as to future traffic demands but to military requirements as viewed by L'Enfant, who saw the French Revolution and who planned the broad radials so that they could easily be swept by cannon and musket fire in tactical defense.

When the great period of highway development in America started back in the Twenties, municipal streets were quite adequate for the relatively modest traffic then existing. The crying need at that time was for all-weather facilities to connect up centers of population, provide an integrated network. Hence the main emphasis of the Nation's road program, beginning with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1916, was on rural highway improvement.

That policy dominated for something like three decades. Street betterment remained almost static, despite the revolutionary growth of motor vehicle use in cities. The result is that major arteries are becoming crammed almost to the point of immobility. At peak hours, travel on some urban thoroughfares is actually slower than in the days of the horse and buggy.

It was not until 1944 that any real effort was launched to redress the balance between rural and urban highway development. In that year, you will recall, Congress for the first time earmarked matching funds for Federal-Aid projects in urban areas. Another milestone was the 1950 Act, in which the permissive ratio in defraying the costs of right-of-way was raised from one-third to one-half of the sums allocated. The liberalization was particularly beneficial from the standpoint of the cities, since the steep cost of right-of-way in densely built-up areas has been a major stumbling block in financing modern urban motorways.

Another forward step, of course, was the 1952 Act provision of specific funds for accelerating improvement of the Interstate System, with its 6,000-odd miles of urban extensions. Much of the latter will be reconstructed to high standards.

I believe we can confidently look for an even more comprehensive approach to the urban highway problem to grow out of Congressional deliberations on the President's bold proposal at the next session. The President's recommendations will doubtless reflect the findings now being compiled and evaluated by the Clay Committee.

...Every highway authority knows that a good deal of the traffic turmoil in our cities could be eliminated if higher-speed through traffic could be separated from slow local movements. Where the through traffic is very heavy, only limited-access facilities can handle it safely and efficiently. But facilities of this type come high. Expressways to accommodate 30, 40 and 50 thousand vehicles per day in congested metropolitan areas may, and do, run from 5 to 15 million dollars per mile. And rights-of-way often approximate half or two-thirds of the total project costs. You are familiar with these economic facts, so I will not burden you with statistics.

It is easy to say: "The city dweller has the money. Let him take care of himself." Let's remember that possibly half of our important highway revenues are generated in the urban areas, and that in the past the cities share has not always evidenced this fact. It has not reflected the relative volumes of traffic carried by urban facilities, or the social and economic functions that urban transportation performs for the general welfare.

Moreover, the cities, as we are well aware, have had a tough time in finding the money for all the public works and services they must provide - not only highways, but slum clearance, housing, sanitation, schools, recreational facilities, airport development, public safety, civil defense and so forth.

But beyond that, we must keep in mind that the highway systems of the cities, counties and states are interdependent. One system cannot function without the others. It's not only the city folk who will benefit from improved urban highways. They will help the farmer in getting his produce to market, and facilitate the social and cultural pursuits of his family. The whole business is a two-way street, economically and every other way, for every segment of our people.

All this emphasizes the need for cooperative thinking and planning - for a close working partnership between all levels of government. Every effort, therefore, should be made to strengthen laws and cooperative arrangements for joint action, so that we can get on with the job.

And so in closing, I urge you to give the urban phase of the highway problem your most capable attention. It merits high priority, because the very survival of our cities is involved. And I think we'd all agree that on the issue of highway development, as in other vital aspects of our American way of living, the old maxim still holds: United we stand, divided we fall...

BPR Commissioner du Pont challenged AASHO to get behind an accelerated Interstate program:

...And now let us have a look at the Interstate problem. Since the early 20s our efforts have been concentrated on the development of the primary system of highways. During the late 30s and early 40s secondary road aid became a part of the Federal-aid program. About 10 years ago the Interstate system was recognized by Congress, but it had no status. It was merely the designation of a certain portion of the primary system between certain control points. No funds were authorized specifically for this system until 1952 when 25 million dollars was made available. This amount was so small when divided between the 48 States it was not a factor. I have frequently heard it stated before the passing of the 1954 act, that if the Congress would not recognize the importance of this system by making substantial funds available, reference thereto should be eliminated from the Association's future recommendations.

In 1954, however, the Congress increased the authorization manyfold, namely, to 175 million and changed the matching basis to 60-40 in order to emphasize the importance and stimulate the construction of an Interstate System. Were this not the case, obviously the Congress would have merely increased the authorization for the primary system by a greater amount. Under the 1954 act we are for the first time confronted with converting the old, inadequate primary highway system and bringing it up to most modern standards commensurate with the needs of not only the present, but future traffic. It is a tough assignment for those of us who are familiar with the existing location and design of much of the Interstate System. There is a further complication. The expenditure of 175 million dollars a year, plus the State matching on a 60-40 basis, would not take care of the existing deficiencies in the Interstate System if continued for a half a century. How then can we discharge our responsibilities during this present period of transition? That is the question. Can you highway engineers with your superior knowledge, at this critical time, direct your actions and deeds in such a manner that we can get the support of Congress for a system of highways that could qualify as an interstate and urban highway system which can carry the load to which expanded economy will subject it? Can we be realistic in the challenge we have received? Can we capitalize on the opportunity, or are we going to muff the ball and make the same mistakes that we made 10, 20 or more years ago? Gentlemen, the answer to this question is up to you - not the Bureau of Public Roads. It is my conviction there never was a more opportune time to tackle this vital problem - there never has been a more cooperative administration.

Having been fortunate enough to have been born in the United States and witnessed the changes brought about by scientists and engineers through the development of electricity - internal combustion engines - radio, I am unwilling to believe the civil engineers who make up this Association are unable or unwilling to accept this challenge. Gentlemen never sell America short and in my judgement there is no single group who together with the support of Congress can contribute more to our country's economic future and security than those who are responsible for our highways. I entrust that future, and the future of Public Roads, to the Members of Congress and you gentlemen.

J. Harry McGregor, M.C., Chairman, Subcommittee on Roads, House of Representatives also spoke. He said that there was a strong role for the National Government to play in the Interstate System:

...While there are some States that undoubtedly are financially able to take care of their "State needs," I doubt if many of them would be willing, or able, to build the interstate mileage to the expensive and high standards which you have said they need to be, to care for our National defense needs and National economy needs, nor do I believe they should be expected to do that. This is an area where I fully endorse the philosophy that the Federal Government has an important financial and technical responsibility. In recent months you have had considerable, shall we say "discussion" about limited access and wide rights-of-way, etc., with regard to interstate mileage. Mr. du Pont may have heard some rumors about that, too! How many of your States would build to those standards, and your Association set them, if you were paying all, or even a substantial part, of the high costs of such construction, predicated on purely State needs? Not many, I'll bet you. We have promoted the interstate system on the theory of National Need and National Defense, and with justification, I believe, and on such grounds I also believe that the Federal responsibility for finance is great.

Being of somewhat Scotch descent, I also have some Scotch philosophy about money, and I also like to think I'm a realist, in some respects at least. I just doubt very much if the Congress is going to rush out of the Federal gas tax field in the near future, anyway; and I personally like the idea of putting that money back in needed road improvement, as long as we're getting it from the road user to start with.

Furthermore, there are those who say that the Federal Government should still make large contributions to road programs and also get out of the gas tax field because they did so back in 1920. That philosophy was put before General Clay's Advisory Committee to the President, in Washington, a few weeks ago. It was said by some, but not by the Clay Committee, Federal road contributions should come from a "broad" tax base. Just what is a "broad" tax base? The Federal Government now collects highway user taxes from something like 58,000,000 motor vehicle users. If the Federal gas tax was repealed and the Federal Government still continued Federal-aid for highways, where would the money come from? About the only possible source would be to increase personal income taxes. I think such taxes are now paid by some 30-odd million people. So, from 58 million vehicles we would go to some 30-odd million personal income taxpayers. To me that would be a funny "broadening" procedure. So, for the present let's say the theory is interesting but the practicality is questionable. I feel sure that when the Clay Committee reports to President Eisenhower - they will have an objective and constructive program to present.

Our road hearings of last year brought the almost unanimous demand for an enlarged highway program. The comments and statements of witnesses reflected a keen awareness of the problem and its national scope. And while there were divergent opinions about where the emphasis should fall and how funds should be supplied, everyone agreed that our highways should be made adequate.

Another large area of agreement concerned the national system of Interstate highways. Witness after witness urged that greater Federal funds be provided for this vital 40,000-mile network. Though it includes only a little more than 1 per cent of the total rural highway mileage, this system carries about 20 per cent of all rural traffic. The Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Roads described it as "an important link in the production facilities of this country, forming as it does part of a grand-scale industrial assembly line. Uninterrupted highway transport over this system is essential to our defense effort and to our peace time economy."

Charles M. Ziegler, Michigan's commissioner of highways, and past president of your association, declared that if the interstate system were brought to adequate standards such improvements would automatically take care of a great part of our present highway deficiencies.

...I was the author of, they say, one of the great Highway Bills (the 1954 Act) passed by any Congress, but let me give credit where credit is due....

He then named a long list of supporters of the bill which included industry, local government and the public. He reviewed the particulars of the Act which doubled Federal aid and provided $175 million for Interstate.

...Yes, the 1954 Act was a fine, constructive piece of legislation and I for one am proud of it. But viewed in the broad perspective of national needs and national capabilities it is only a beginning.

President Eisenhower put the problem in its true perspective in his message to the Governors Conference at Lake George which Vice President Nixon delivered on July 12.

Speaking for the President, Mr. Nixon said:

But more specifically, our highway net is inadequate locally, and obsolete as a national system.

To start to meet this problem at this session of the Congress, we have increased by approximately 500 million dollars the Federal moneys available to the States for road development. This seems like a very substantial sum. But the experts say that 5 billion dollars a year for ten years, in addition to all current, normal expenditures, will pay off in economic growth; and when we have spent 50 billion dollars in the next ten years, we shall only have made a good start on the highways the country will need for a population of 200 million people.

Mr. Nixon then went on to analyze the problem as the President sees it, citing the major deficiencies in our highway system which all of you are so familiar with. He pointed out what the President believes our highway requirements are. Namely, "A grand plan for a properly articulated system that solves the problems of speedy, safe, transcontinental travel - intercity communication - access highways and farm-to-market movement - metropolitan area congestion - bottlenecks and parking."

Mr. Nixon also referred to certain financial policies which the President mentioned and the need for close cooperation between the Federal Government and the States.

Then, as if to stress this point particularly, Mr. Nixon quoted verbatim this last sentence from the President's own notes:

I hope you will study the matter, and recommend to me the cooperative action you think the Federal Government and the 48 States should take to meet these requirements, so that I can submit positive proposals to the next session of the Congress.

Certainly President Eisenhower's message was an inspiring challenge to the Governors of each and every State. Just as it is a challenge to all who are directly concerned with highway transportation. But to me at least it seems regrettable that this statesmanlike approach to a national problem was in some quarters mistaken for a highway program. Actually I think the President's own words leave no doubt as to his real meaning. He has called upon the Governors, and other interested groups like AASHO, to come forward with a blue print for its grand design. As I see it, that is true leadership.

...Interstate mileage is for all of us - city, county, State and Nation. It is our responsibility as a Nation. We must develop it, find better and more equitable means to finance it, find faster and more efficient mmethodsof acquiring and protecting needed right-of-way and safer and more efficient means of using it when completed...


At that AASHO meeting, the following policy statement was issued:

The American Association of State Highway Officials, assembled at Seattle, Wash., on November 8, 1954, has carefully reviewed the suggestions of the President of the United States relative to an enlarged highway program. The Association wishes to extend to the President its sincere gratitude for this progressive proposal for the advancement of the highway improvement program to more nearly keep pace with expansion of the American economy, and that the President and his Highway Advisory Committee, the Governors' Conference Highway Committee, and the Congress be tendered the full cooperation of this Association in the assembling of data and information that may be necessary in the formulation of a program of action.

  1. We believe that Federal funds for the Federal-aid secondary, urban and primary highway systems, less the interstate portion thereof, should be continued in at least the same amounts as at present.
  2. A new program with the necessary capital expenditures substantially financed by the Federal Government, with the States responsible for the design and construction, and the States to assume the cost of the maintenance, operation and policing of the system, which is to be constructed to adequate standards as promulgated by the American Association of State Highway Officials. The program should be adopted so that the interstate system and its urban extensions may be completed within a period of 10 years to further the national defense and the peacetime economy.


In the April issue of American Highways, the following appeared:

At the 40th Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Highway Officials held in Seattle, Wash. last November 8, the Association adopted a Policy Statement which appeared in the January 1955 issue of American Highways. In light of subsequent developments (The emergence of the Administration bill), it was felt that this statement should be clarified, and on March 13, 1955, the member departments of the American Association of State Highway Officials met in Chicago. After due deliberation, the following policy statement was adopted:

To insure an expanding and sound national economy, the Federal-aid Highway Program should be continued and enlarged to more nearly meet the demands both current and future. The program should be administered and constructed by the Bureau of Public Roads and the State Highway Departments as in the past - a Federal-State relationship that has been highly efficient and outstandingly successful.

Should future Federal road legislation create a National Highway Corporation, Commission, or Authority, its duties should be fiscal only.

Considering the civil and the national defense, as well as the over-all economic well-being of the nation, the Interstate System of highways should be accorded priority treatment and its completion accomplished within a period of 10 years. A substantial, balanced construction program, however, must not be sacrificed on the other Federal-aid highway systems.

The Interstate System should be built to meet the anticipated traffic demands of 20 years hence, and constructed to design standards promulgated and approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials, and with the application of, and the provision for, access control features in accordance with warrants ppromulgatedand approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials. The location and design of the Interstate System should be the joint responsibility of the State Highway Departments and the Bureau of Public Roads. The actual determination of the location of the routes between control points should be based upon engineering studies, traffic analyses, and economic comparisons.

The building of the Interstate System would be jeopardized if it were redesignated or extended beyond its 40,000-mile statutory limitation.

The Interstate System program should be accelerated, and the Congress, in its good judgment, should determine the method of financing. If it is decided that it is necessary to finance the work by credit financing, the Association approves such action.

Because of the need for expediting the construction through all States simultaneously, provision should be made for the Federal Government, upon petition of the State and in the interest of national defense, to procure the necessary rights-of-way and access control on the Interstate System. Because of the heavy demands made upon the States for financing roads having more local interest than the Interstate System, and because of the national interest and responsibility of the Federal Government in the Interstate System, the Association recommends that the Federal contribution to the cost of the capital improvements on that system be between 90 and 95 per cent, and that these funds be apportioned to the States on the basis of need.

The State Highway Departments should be responsible for the design, letting of contracts, supervising construction, and upon completion, should have the sole responsibility, at State expense, of maintaining, policing, and operating the facility.

As a matter of equity and so as not to discriminate against the States that have already constructed a portion of the Interstate System, the Association recommends that a credit reimbursement should be allowed for any road that is properly located, designed, and constructed to be incorporated into and become a portion of the Interstate System, whether the road be free or toll, in accord with the following procedure:

  1. Existing free roads. Existing free highways measuring up to standards of the Interstate System should have the depreciated value determined from which would be deducted 10 per cent thereof and the total amount of any Federal-aid funds used in constructing the highway. The result then should be the credit to which the State is entitled.
  2. Existing toll roads. A State should be entitled to credit for an existing toll road, excluding the cost of financing thereof and of any facilities not of a highway character, that is properly located and constructed to meet the requirements of the Interstate System, and the amount of credit so allowed should be the depreciated value, not to exceed 40 per cent of the original cost where the road was completed prior to December 31, 1951, and not to exceed 70 per cent when completed between December 31, 1951, and December 31, 1955.
  3. Future toll roads. A State should be entitled to credit on a future toll road, when built to approved Interstate standards, in the amount of 90 per cent of the original cost, less the cost of financing thereof and of any facilities not of a highway character, provided the project has progressed to the point that its financing has been arranged and completed by December 31, 1955. There should be no credit reimbursement for future toll roads after that date.

In the continuation of the Federal-aid Highway Programs on the Primary, Secondary, Forest Highway, and Urban Systems, authorization should be for a period of at least six years to allow the States to adequately plan and staff the programs...

The subject of labor relations and requirements should not be included in Federal statute, but should be a matter to be determined at the State level.




Charles A. Buckley, N.Y., Chairman. April, 1955.


  1. Title: The National Interstate Highway Act.
  2. Complete the Interstate in ten years.
  3. Adequate for 20-year traffic demand.
  4. Establishment of a Federal Highway Corporation.
    1. Three public members appointed by the President and the Secretaries of Commerce and Treasury to be members.
    2. Empowered to receive and borrow funds.
    3. Authorized to issue $21 billion in bonds not backed by the Federal Government.
    4. Excess highway user taxes to be payed to the Corporation by the Treasury.
    5. The debts of the Corporation would not, by law, be counted in the national debt.
  5. Authorized and directed the Secretary of Commerce to designate the remaining urban Interstate segments to bring the system up to 40,000 miles.
  6. Secretary of Commerce to set standards after consultation with the States.
  7. Required an annual estimate of the remaining cost to complete the Interstate.
  8. Required an annual construction program with Secretary of Commerce having final authority in order to advance construction uniformly in all States.
  9. Allocation of funds on the basis of approved programs - moneys to be available for 2 years before lapse.
  10. Construction to be paid for by the Corporation - matching ratio to be the same as the 1954 Act (60-40).
  11. The States would receive credit for free roads and toll roads that met construction standards and were on the Interstate System.
  12. Secretary of Commerce empowered to acquire rights-of-way if the States could not and transfer tile to them.
  13. The regular Federal highway program to go on as it was then operating and at the same funding level.


The following critique by Senator Byrd illustrates some of the difficulties. His remarks were delivered in the Senate and placed in the record of the House hearings by Brady Gentry, a member of the Committee on Public Works and a former highway commissioner from Texas and a former President of AASHO. Gentry was a strong opponent of the bonding and reimbursement features of the Administration bill:

The pending ...(bill) embodies the recommendations of the President's Advisory Committee on a National Highway Program, known as the Clay Committee.

It provides for the establishment of a corporation known as the Federal Highway Corporation. The management of the Corporation would be vested in a Board of Directors composed of five members. Three of these would be public members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate without regard to party affiliation. The remaining two members would be the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Treasury, or their representatives.

This Corporation would be authorized to issue, upon the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, obligations in an amount not to exceed $21 billion. The bonds so issued are payable over a term of 30 years.

The interest, estimated by the Clay committee at 3 percent would be $11.5 billion. In other words interest would cost an amount equal to 55 percent of the bond issue.

The $21 billion borrowed would be paid directly into the fund of the Federal Highway Corporation. It would not go through the budget, nor would it go into the Federal Treasury. It would not be included as a public debt. It would not be subject to the debt limitation established by Congress.

None of this fund would be under the control of Congress and it would not be subject to appropriation control. It is predicated upon the collection and dedication of the 2-cent Federal gasoline tax over a 32-year period.

All of the funds would be expended in the first 10 years, and in the next 22 years no funds would be available from the Federal gasoline tax. All the receipts from this tax for that 22-year period would be required for repayment of bonds with interest. In other words, the gasoline tax would be dried up for 22 years - from 1966 to 1987, inclusive.

It is obvious, of course, that the need for road construction and improvement will be just as essential during that 22-year period as it is now. In our future growth the need for road improvement can never be regarded as stationary.

In fact, no Congress can obligate a subsequent Congress to a dedication of taxes. Here is the legal opinion of the head of the Senate Legislative Counsel.

It seems elementary that one Congress, or one law enacted by a Congress, cannot completely foreclose action by a subsequent Congress or by a subsequent law of the same Congress. To so hold would be to say that once a policy had been enunciated by the Congress it is not susceptible to change. That is not to say, however, that a subsequent Congress is always left with an unlimited realm of action. Rights may have accrued under a law which cannot be validly divested. But the power of each Congress to enact legislation for future application cannot be eliminated by action of a prior Congress...It should be noted that the bill does not appropriate the moneys in excess of $662,500,000 collected under sections 4081 and 4041 of the 1954 code, but an amount equal to the moneys collected in excess of such amount. While the obvious purpose is to earmark these revenue collections, the bill does not attempt to prescribe the tax rates under these sections of the 1954 code nor to foreclose a change in the rates.

I have searched the records and never before has such a proposal as this been seriously considered by Congress. In order to confirm this, I made inquiry of the Comptroller General of the United States..."Insofar as we are aware, such a financing arrangement for a Federal expenditure program of the scale and magnitude contemplated for the proposed Federal Highway Corporation has never been used by the Federal Government."

Nothing has been proposed during my 22 years in the United States Senate that would do more to wreck our fiscal budget system than the adoption of the measures embodied in this substitute. If it is possible to issue bonds on so-called capitalization of a tax not to be collected in full for 30 years, with a declaration that the bonds will not be a legal debt of the United States Government, then it would be possible to earmark in similar fashion other taxes, such as the tobacco tax, for some specific purpose and borrow money on it outside of the budget and debt limitation. I could name hundreds of other taxes that could be treated in this manner. The result would be the end of honest bookkeeping and confusion as to the liabilities of our Government, making it impossible to ascertain what our bona fide indebtedness is.

Every sensible person knows that a Government corporation without assets or income cannot sell $21 billion of bonds unless actually it is Federal debt...It is by these devious methods that this debt would be created and its advocates claim it would not be a Federal debt. We must remember that we cannot avoid financial responsibility by legerdemain nor can we evade debt by definition...

The substitute...turns over to the Federal Government absolute control over 40,000 miles of our most important roads heretofore under the control of the 48 states. This plan would be the greatest single step yet taken toward Federal paternalism....

This legislation specifically provides that, in cases of dispute between the State and Federal authorities, the Corporation would decide in the nature of a supreme court. Absolute Federal authority over the vital roads in all the States is a serious matter...

I especially call the Senate's attention to the language of sections 207 (B) and (C). These sections provide that, for toll roads completed prior to December 31, 1951, there would be credited to States an amount not exceeding 40 percent of the original cost, providing such roads comply with Federal standards. For toll roads completed during the period between December 31, 1951 and December 31, 1955, the State would receive a credit not exceeding 70 percent of the original cost. For a toll highway constructed after December 31, 1955, the State would receive 90 percent of the cost of construction.

This would constitute a windfall to the States in the sense that they could then decide whether to apply this refund to the payment of bonds existing on toll turnpikes or to use the money on other roads not in the Interstate System. In 99 cases out of 100 a State would choose the latter course; that is, it would continue the tolls in order to pay the revenue bonds while using the money for other road construction on a nonmatching basis...

Section 207 (C) is an invitation to every State to construct more and more toll roads, which would not be paid for out of State funds but by revenue bonds secured on the revenue of the turnpike...

I agree with the American Automobile Association when it called these refunds a reimbursement bonanza which would practically force the States to go into the toll business.

In addition to the refunds for the toll roads the substitute bill would also provide refunds for freeways constructed by the States on the Interstate system which meet the Federal standards. No estimate of these refunds has been made.

When you consider that $11.5 billion goes directly to interest and to this are added billions of dollars in refunds, one wonders how much will be left for actual new road construction...

He then suggested that repeal of the 2-cent Federal gas tax in favor of the States and continuation of the regular Federal-aid program at the same level out of the general fund with judicious use of toll roads in congested areas would get the same job done without loss of State sovereignty.


  1. Sinclair Weeks, Secretary of. Commerce, accompanied by du Pont and Curtiss noted that the President had talked with the governors the year before. The governors appointed a committee under Governor Kohler, Wis., to study the highway matter. The result was the appointment, by the President of the Clay Committee.

    The funds for the regular urban highway program (extensions of the primary system) were to be reduced by the amount of the urban Interstate System cost. The estimated cost for the then designated Interstate System was $23 billion with 2,400 miles of urban Interstate remaining to be designated at an estimated cost of $4 billion bringing the total Interstate System estimated cost to $27 billion. States were to contribute $2 billion. The matching ratio to be 95% Federal and 5% State funds (average, it varied by State) instead of 60% Federal as provided in the 1954 Act for Interstate.

    Full or partial control of access was to be required and the Interstate routes would revert to the primary system after construction was completed.

    The proceeds from all Federal highway user taxes were to be paid to the Corporation by the Treasury upon passage of the Act which would constitute both the authorization and appropriation of the funds. The Corporation bonds would accrue about $11 billion in interest during their 30-year life. Under questioning by the Committee, Weeks admitted that it would cost less to finance the Interstate on a pay-as-you-go basis because the Federal government would have to borrow to make up the deficit created by the payments to the Corporation and the Government could borrow at a lower interest rate than the Corporation.

    There was lots of discussion about why the regular program would be handled one way and the Interstate another and why not raise user taxes and pay-as-you-go? (Which ultimately happened.) There was discussion contrasting Social Security and other funds that carried the full faith and credit of U.S. behind them and why the Corporation bonds would not. There was discussion about the wisdom of putting the Interstate program at the mercy of bonding attorneys.

    Under questioning, the Secretary admitted that the Corporation would have veto power over BPR and the States but that there was no intention that this would apply to other than fiscal matters. The bond issue would not count in the national debt according to Weeks. Many Congressmen disagreed and felt that the bonds would, in fact, be an obligation of the people of the United States. Many Committee members expressed opposition to the Corporation and the bonding concept.

  2. C.D. Curtiss, Commissioner, BPR, made a prepared statement giving the status of the highway program and the results of the needs study required by Sec. 13 of the 1954 Act. The total needs were $101 billion. There was extensive questioning on trucks and truck damage. He avoided any questions on the Administration bill leaving those to du Pont.

  3. Francis V. du Pont, Consultant to the Secretary of Commerce (formerly Commissioner of Public Roads), accompanied by F.C. Turner. He opened by stating that he resigned from BPR so that he could devote full time to the Administration bill which was the recommendations of the Clay Committee. There were many questions about the Corporation's power of veto over BPR and the States on Interstate matters. He felt that the Administration bill would eliminate starts and stops of the program by committing a ten year program at one time. The legislation would allow immediate aacquisitionof Interstate rights-of-way. He described the urban segments of the Interstate as radials to bring the urban traffic out to the beltways. He went through the bill section-by-section and explained each.

    The reimbursement feature to States that had built Interstate roads, toll or free, to Interstate standards with their was controversial and sparked lots of discussion. He envisioned that Congress might have to step in and build segments that some State might not wish to build. He was very eloquent, very persuasive, and quieted many of the misgivings about the program.

  4. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Chairman, President's Advisory Committee on a National Highway Program, noted that Eisenhower appointed the five-man committee the previous September. He said that 7,000 miles of the Interstate should be 2-lane, the rest should be 4-lane or more and have limited access.

    He said that an increase in the fuel tax was considered and rejected primarily because of the States' strong objections to the Federal fuel tax, and the unevenness of the amount of State fuel taxes throughout the country. He said that the Administration proposal was that Congress would make available to the Corporation the proceeds of the fuel tax less the amount appropriated for the regular Federal aid program.

    He estimated that 2,100 miles of toll roads would be incorporated into the Interstate System. The reimbursement to the States for toll roads already built meeting Interstate standards would be 40% for those built between 1947-1951 and 70% 1951-1955. The States were not to receive any money from the Corporation to build Interstate until they had fully matched the regular Federal aid program. Limited access would be required only where traffic volumes warranted and that decision would be reserved to BPR. The funds were to be distributed by the Corporation on an as needed basis. He said the Committee worked on the problem about 4 months.

    There was extended discussion of the power that the Corporation would possess. General Clay felt that it would have no more power than then-existed in BPR, but he conceded that the proposal, if enacted, would be the greatest delegation of fiscal power in United States history. He used a $101 billion highway needs figure in his presentation which derived from a nation-wide study mandated by the 1954 Act. That figure got misinterpreted by the Congress and the press as being the total size of the Administration proposal and contributed to the defeat of the proposal. General Clay tried to explain it this way: $47 billion would be devoted to the non-Interstate program in 10 years. The Interstate would take $27 billion during that time, leaving another $27 billion to be provided by local funding, totalling $101 billion.

    He said that the Senate's Gore Bill would require increased State funds to match the expanded program and some State legislatures would not provide them, so passage of the Gore bill would not create a completed Interstate System in a fixed period of time.

  5. Maj. General Paul F. Yount, Chief of Transportation, Department of the Army, stated that the Interstate was the principal routes for national defense and supported the Administration bill to improve them by a certain date. He said that only 15% of the Interstate then met the geometric standards required by the military. He declined to make any statement about methods of funding. He testified that the military recommended that the entire Interstate System be built as limited access whereas the Administration bill would require it only where traffic volumes warranted. He said that the Autobahn was of great strategic importance to Germany during the war.

  6. General Clay testified on a second day. He said he didn't feel that the high Federal matching share of the cost of the Interstate System would destroy the balance in the Federal-State partnership. He felt that the existing Federal fuel tax of 2 cents would finance the entire program over 30 years but bonding would produce the highways in ten. He admitted reluctantly that, in providing reimbursement for toll roads already on the Interstate System meeting approved standards, that two bond issues would be extant for the same segments of road. First, the toll authority had already issued bonds for the initial construction, then the Corporation would issue bonds to reimburse the State, but the State would be permitted to use the money to build other roads. Some Congressmen felt that the Corporation bonds were a way of avoiding increasing the National debt by the Administration.

  7. Keith L. Seegmiller, Executive Secretary of the National Association of Counties (NACO), testified against the Administration bill because NACO felt the bonding feature would preempt revenues from the fuel tax for 30 years or more, tending to freeze the Federal contribution to secondary roads.

  8. William R. MacDougal, General Manager of the County Supervisors Association of California, was for the Interstate program but feared that the Administration proposal would either cut into the size of the rest of the Federal-aid program or freeze the levels indefinitely because of the bonding connection to the two-cent fuel tax.

  9. Allan B. Gorman, President, Private Truck Council, felt that out of the $25 billion to be spent by the Federal Government for the Interstate System, $15 billion of it was to be spent in urban areas. He felt that this was an imbalance in favor of urban. He favored the Interstate but disagreed with bonding in favor of pay-as-you-go. He felt that the Federal Government should vacate the excise taxes on vehicles and get out of the fuel tax. He also spoke against Federal standards or specifications that work against trucks.

  10. E.J. Lucas, Chairman, Legislative Committee, Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, testified generally in favor of the Administration bill except for the reimbursement for toll roads feature and was against bonding outside the national debt.

  11. John Harper, Chairman, Toll Roads Committee, National Oil Jobbers Council, testified against the bill on the grounds that the Federal Government should get out of the fuel tax and rely on general revenues. He was for the Federal Government taking over the Interstate. He was primarily against toll roads and private industry having to collect fuel taxes for the Federal Government.

  12. Matt Triggs, Assistant Legislative Director of the American Farm Bureau, objected to the Federal Government exercising the power of eminent domain for highway rights-of-way and the dominance of the Federal government that the Administration bill would provide and he advocated that the Federal fuel tax should be terminated. He was against the bond issue, the Corporation and any increase in Federal expenditures.

  13. George D. Riley, National Legislative Committee, American Federation of Labor, supported the acceleration of the Interstate program but opposed the Administration's bonding proposal as being fiscally irresponsible. He advocated Federal funding and the application of prevailing wage legislation.

  14. Paul O. Larson, International Union of Operating Engineers testified against the wage rates being set in the Department of Commerce. He advocated that the Department of Labor should have that function. He was for the Interstate as a means for providing employment.

  15. Governor Kohler, Wisc.and Chairman of the Governors Conference Committee on Highways. He cited the President's Speech to the Governors the summer before (delivered by Nixon) and the request to the Governors that they advise the President on what to do about highways. The Governors reported to the President in December of 1954 recommending that the highway program be doubled over 20 years with emphasis on the Interstate System and the Federal Government assuming primary responsibility for it with reimbursement to the States that had already built portions, whether toll or free. The governors advocated general revenues, bonding and a Federal Corporation. The regular program should proceed at undiminished levels. They favored a fixed time period for completion of the Interstate System. They advocated the continuance of the BPR-State partnership as it then operated. They felt that not all of the Interstate should be limited access. They were against any highway user tax increases. They were very much for the Administration's Clay proposal as opposed to the Senate Gore bill which would require a 25% State match. They felt that the BPR standards were so high that the States would not be able to come up with the money, therefore they felt that the Interstate would suffer. He noted that the Governors had reversed their position on the Federal Government getting out of the fuel tax after the Congress seemed committed to non-diversion of highway-user revenues as the Administration bill advocated.

  16. Governor Meyner, N.J., supported the Administration bill as opposed to Gore bill as being the best advantage to his State. He received kudos on the N.J. Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

  17. Gov. Langlie, Washington, supported the Clay Plan strongly.

  18. Governor Ribicoff, Conn., represented 6 New England Governors. They were unanimously in favor of the Clay Plan. His only reservation was that the Clay report was silent on the non Interstate portion of the program, and they did not want that to suffer.

  19. Gov. Kennon, Louisiana, said the President was for the Clay Plan, the Governors were for it, BPR was for it, the State highway departments were for it so why the delay?

  20. Governor Anderson, Neb,. testified for the Interstate System in general.

  21. Governor Simms, New Mex., put the first priority on the Interstate System at 90% Federal share with no change in the partnership and limited access throughout in order to prevent loss of investment.

  22. George Koss, President, Associated General Contractors of America, assured the committee that the contracting industry had the capacity to handle the proposed program and emphasized that the Corporation should be concerned with funding only and not take over any of the functions of BPR.

  23. Robert Moses, New York, strongly favored bonding as being the only way that completion dates could be firmly established. He felt that pay-as-you-go would insure long delays and stretch-outs. He felt that there had been so much procrastination in the urban highway situation that the time was very, very late. He also felt that acquisition of rights-of-way by the Federal Government was a pipe dream and would never happen. Funds for relocating people would be a necessity. He felt that time had almost run out for acquiring rights of way in central city areas. He felt that acquiring the rights-of-way should be the first priority of the Interstate program. He opposed reimbursement for routes already built to standards. He likened it to buying a dead horse. He opposed the National Corporation as being useless, since it would not possess the full faith and credit of the United States, nor would it have a guaranteed source of revenue, nor would it own any facilities. He felt the bonding could better be done at the local level and the facilities tolled. He felt that the 2,400 miles reserved for urban was not enough.

  24. Mayor Hofheinz, Houston, supported the Interstate generally.

  25. George T. McCoy, President of the American Association of State Highway Officials, accompanied by Rex Whitton, Mo. Whitton presented the AASHO Policy developed in Chicago in March of 1955. He emphasized that the highway departments were falling far behind demand because of the Depression, the War and the slow postwar start-up, and inflation. The presentation and the questioning stuck closely to the Policy statement. He did not take a position on the financing or a particular bill.

  26. D.C. Greer, State Highway Engineer, Texas, used prepared charts to show the progress of the program and the use of the highways. He felt that if toll roads were to be reimbursed, they should be made free. In fact, he opposed reimbursement at all since it would not contribute to building any highways.

  27. General Frank Merrill, Commissioner of Highways, New Hampshire, introduced the AASHO Policy statement into the record and answered the standard set of questions asked by the Committee. He avoided taking a position on a method of funding, stating only that the Interstate should be completed in 10 years. He felt that complete access control was the best way to protect the investment in the new facilities. He was questioned intensely about the AASHO recommendation that toll roads should be reimbursed. There was concern expressed that provision for limited access on the Interstate System would cause the creation of service monopolies such as existed on toll roads. The Congress wanted no part of monopolies even though they might be operated by the States. That concern probably accounts for the prohibition to this day of all commercial activity on the Interstate System.

  28. R.H. Baldock, State Highway Engineer, Oregon, reviewed the Gore Bill, The Case Bill and the Administration Bill. The Case Bill would take 19 years to complete and would provide for Federal truck permits. He said that the 1954 Highway Act if continued would take 100 years to complete the Interstate. He endorsed the Administration bill. He admitted under questioning that AASHO had a big hand in drafting the Administration Bill. Bonding came in for criticism because the interest of $11.5 billion was not counted in the $27 billion cost of the Interstate when it would have indeed been a cost. He said that AASHO did not support either the Gore Bill or the Case Bill. There was also testimony that the Administration bill pretended to not deal in deficit financing when indeed it would create a deficit with the bond issue.

  29. Rex M. Whitton, Chief Engineer, Mo., restated the AASHO policy and advocated that acquisition of rights-of-way should proceed immediately for the whole Interstate based on need.

  30. Lloyd C. Halvorson, National Grange, supported the expanded program strongly and referred to the Interstate not as a new program but as "rebuilding the Interstate". He expressed fear that the regular program level would be frozen for 30 years because the bill called for all Federal highway user revenues over $622 million, which was the level of the non-Interstate program in 1955, would be dedicated to the financing of the Corporation's 30-year bonds, thus, leaving the regular program frozen at a fixed level.

  31. John V. Lawrence, American Trucking Associations, testified for the Administration bill but against the toll reimbursement feature as being double taxation and against any rise in taxes for the trucking industry.

  32. William A. Bresnahan, American Trucking Associations, testified and was cross-examined at great length on truck taxes, size and weight laws, and regulations and proper methods for determining the costs each highway user should pay. In general, he advocated higher weights, less truck taxes, and that the Interstate System should be built.

  33. George M. Humphrey, Secretary of the Treasury, testified down-the-line for the Administration bill. He felt that it was important that the bonds would not contribute to the National debt and that the Corporation's debt limit would be set by statute. He said that the program would not work against the Administration's committment to lowering the National debt and taxes. He did not, however, have any objections to Congress raising the highway user taxes and paying for the expanded highway program out of current revenue. He further said that he would not object if Congress chose to change the law such that all such bond issuances were included in the National debt. He advocated the dedicating of revenues from generating resources to new construction either by bonding or pay-as-you-go. He felt that the highway program was one of a very few public programs that had a revenue generating base. In this interchange, he all but advocated a trust fund. Congressman Gentry, a member of the Committee and former president of AASHO was the strongest critic of the bonding plan. In fact, there were some vitriolic interchanges between Gentry and Humphrey.

  34. Joseph Campbell, Comptroller General, said that the Corporation and the method of financing was inadvisable because the debt would not be counted in the National debt but would, in fact, be part of it. Also, the specification that the bonds would not be obligations of the U.S. was misleading because in reality they would be. The Corporation would not be self-sustaining because it would have no assured income in that it would depend on payments from the Treasury. In general he felt that..."the Government should not enter into financing arrangements which have the effect of obscuring financial facts of the Government's debt position." He advocated direct appropriation instead with perhaps an increase in the fuel tax which would require borrowing to the extent that the appropriations exceeded income. In that way, full facts would be disclosed and the interest rate would be lower, thus saving the public money and in that way, Congress would retain control and be able to review progress and stewardship. He further pointed out that the bill was in conflict with the Trust Fund Acts, implying that perhaps a highway trust fund should be set up, and if the Congress did, the Government could borrow surplus revenues from it and pay interest into it. Also, a completion date could be set and the whole program authorized up front. Also, pay-as-you-go would not be inflationary.

  35. Allen C. Thompson, Mayor of Jackson, Miss. and President of the American Municipal Association, testified strongly for the Administration bill and advocated that the urban segments be given the highest priority because that was where the congestion was.

  36. Mayor Albert E. Cobo, Detroit, supported the American Municipal Association statement and the Administration bill. His ttestimonyrevealed one of the reasons the urban areas were such strong supporters of the Administration bill was that Interstate money would flow immediately on passage whereas the regular Federal-aid program, which was rural oriented, would be frozen at the $622 million level with all revenues over that amount being dedicated to the liquidation of the Corporation's 30-year bonds under the Administration bill. He strongly advocated bonding.

  37. Jim Wright, President of the League of Texas Municipalities, advanced the position that cities already pay a disproportionately large share of highway user taxes with very little return. The Interstate would inevitably require a further increase of the fuel tax which would worsen the situation for the 75% of the municipalities that would not be located on the Interstate System.

  38. Mayor Celebrezze, Cleveland, supported the Administration bill and linked the program with urban renewal as the only hope for the larger cities.

  39. Ezra C. Knowlton, National Sand and Gravel Association, strongly supported the advancement of the Interstate program but did not support the Corporation. He advocated raising the fuel tax to 3 cents and authorizing the program far enough in advance to insure completion.

  40. R. R. Bartelsmeyer, Chief Highway Engineer of the State of Illinois, testified strongly for the Administration bill and against the Gore Bill.

  41. James J. Nance, Automobile Manufacturers' Association, supported a 10-year Interstate improvement program and increased highway user revenues to the extent necessary so that the rest of the program could also be accelerated and not frozen. He presented extensive charts to make his case. There was discussion about the press and the public's misconception that the Congress was considering a $101 billion program. An ex-newpaperman in the Congress defended the media saying that Nixon started it all by using the $101 billion number in the President's speech to the Governors kicking off the whole idea.

  42. William A. Stinchcomb, AAA testified for a stepped up Interstate program without freezing the rest of the program and against reimbursement of already built Interstate routes, toll or free. He was for a completely toll free Interstate with emphasis on the urban portions and equitable user taxes.


An editorial in the October 1955 issue of American Highways payed tribute to President Eisenhower for taking cognizance of the highway problem and the formulation of legislation to build the Interstate System. The editorial is strange in that it talked of the program as though passage would be automatic. In reality, a great debate took place in Congress and delayed passage two years.

Whether or not his illness will permit him to be active again at the helm of our Government, President Eisenhower, in taking official cognizance of our critical highway problem, has performed an outstanding service to the Nation. He planted the seed in the right place to spark the largest highway construction and modernization the world has ever known. His action will go down in history as one of the most progressive and greatest contributions made by a Chief Executive to the overall welfare of our country.

For the matter to be considered by the Congress in a non-partisan manner will, however, hasten the day that the authorization of a greatly expanded Federal-aid highway program becomes a reality.

The Federal Government, by admitting prime responsibility in financing a modern Interstate System of highways, will be setting an example that will in turn create a public demand that will activate a nationwide highway and street modernization program at all levels of government and on all road systems. The same comprehensive program could not be simultaneously sparked and activated if attempted at the State level in the 48 State Legislatures. It would be impossible.

Highway officials, of course, were responsible for gathering the factual data used to apprise Federal officials and members of Congress of the critical need for adequate and safe highways to insure an expanding economy and the defense of the United States.

The highway official must sell the program at the local level next. This assignment can, and in many instances will, be much more difficult than at the Congressional level. We must present the facts to the public in such a way that the public will know modern traffic demands will require certain modern design, traffic control measures and some relocations to satisfy modern traffic needs, and that such things are progress in the motor transportation picture.

With a large Interstate Program authorized, the Congress will be placing first things first and the construction of a modern Interstate and Defense system will automatically eliminate our most stagnant traffic congestion problems, but let us not lose sight of the importance of our other roads and streets. The economy of the Nation is so dependent upon satisfactory highway facilities, commensurate with the need, on all systems of rural highways and city streets. We must be on the alert and be reasonable. We must spread our design standards between the local road and the Interstate route extremes. We must gear our thinking to the respective present and future demands that will be made on each of the measures of the deficiency that exists on each...

The editorial went on to predict that the Interstate System would carry 25 to 30 per cent of the travel when completed, and it advocated that designs should not be limited to 1974 traffic.

...Building "too little," just as building "too much," can be squandering funds entrusted to the highway official, and there is little or no evidence of "too much" ever being built to date. We have the advantages of traffic studies and trends that were not available in past years. Highway officials should study these trends and design for the traffic demands that are indicated. Do not compromise with what we know the public will need. Let us help shape that public opinion so it will be an aid and not a block, and do it in the same honest sincere and ethical manner that highway officials have always used.

The individual property owner, who believes a road improvement will jeopardize his investment, or the community that believes it has a vested right in the highway location, will apply strong pressures on highway authorities to make exceptions in their respective interests. Yielding to exceptions can, and will, create strong precedents and further complicate the job for the highway official.

The total mileage that will represent relocations, access control, by-passes, and the like, is an extremely small percentage of the total mileage, but it will be an extremely important percentage and it will take a good public relations and selling job to get it constructed. After it is constructed, it will sell itself.

The following excerpts from the AASHO "Golden Anniversary" book published in 1964 summarize what happened: "A modified version of the Gore Bill was passed by the Senate on May 25, 1955, providing for $7.75 billion for the Interstate System, split over five years - 1957 through 1961 - with the Federal share of the cost to be 90 percent. Numerous other significant provisions were included, but there were none regarding revenue.

In the House of Representatives, consideration was given to the Administration Bill, the Senate Bill, and a bill proposed by Representative George Fallon, of Maryland, Chairman of the House Roads Subcommittee. For the Interstate System, the latter bill offered $24 billion Federal funds over a 12-year period, 90 percent of the cost supplied as the Senate Bill and the apportioning of funds between the States on the basis of need. The bill also proposed increases in the Federal motor fuel and rubber taxes to provide the needed revenue.

A modified Fallon Bill came before the House in the last days of the session, but went down to defeat. So did the Administration Bill. With adjournment of the first session of the 84th congress, the Gore Bill, passed by the Senate, remained alive but dormant for the rest of 1955.


George T. McCoy, 41st President of the American Association of State Highway Officials, gave the convention, in December 1955, a comprehensive report on the failure of the Congress to pass the expanded highway program as recommended by the Administration:

In the annals of American transportation, the year 1955 will probably prove to have seen more constructive talk and less constructive action than any comparable period in our modern highway history. The past year has been momentous from the standpoint of proposals, public interest, research, information, hearings and programs. From the standpoint of immediate results, however, there is very little of a positive nature to report. No positive program has emerged as yet; costly indecision has complicated the picture. In a nation where congestion and hazards are already intolerable and where we expect to have another 20 million vehicles on the roads within the next ten years, it is perfectly clear that to stand still now in highway modernization is to fall farther backwards.

The most important single activity of your Association during the past year has been in connection with and in support of the proposed Federal aid highway program considered by the 84th Congress at its first session in 1955. From all indication, this same program, now legislatively dormant but certain to spring to life very soon, will occupy a major share of our attention in 1956.

At the same time, your Association has been alert to its other legislative concerns. Highway officials and the various State highway departments, in conjunction with the untiring efforts of our past president, Congressman Brady Gentry, worked together effectively to defeat the attempt of the utilities to obtain reimbursement from public funds for the expense of relocating or adjusting their facilities on highway rights of way.

Plans for the Association's test road project in Illinois, a plan originating in 1951, have now progressed to the point where the State of Illinois has started acquiring rights-of-way and the Highway Research Board has had crews on the site for some time making preliminary investigations and arrangements. Agreements have been executed or are in process between 47 States, the District of Columbia, the Territories of Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the Bureau of Public Roads and the automotive industry to provide the necessary funds and authorization for the Highway Research Board to proceed further with the project. One State was unable to secure legislative authority to participate.

Let us review briefly where we stand with respect to the Federal aid program and how we got there.

This program is the largest highway program ever conceived in the world, as indeed it has to be to catch up and keep pace with our growing population and expanding economy.

The program originated with President Eisenhower's message to the Governors' Conference at Bolton Landing, N.Y., on July 12, 1954. It envisioned a grand plan for a properly articulated system of highways which would solve the problems of speedy, safe, transcontinental travel, intercity communication, access highways and farm-to-market movements as well as metropolitan congestion.

Six months later, on January 11, 1955, the Clay Committee report was published. This report became the basis for most of the bills which were considered by the Congress during the ensuing six months.

In the meantime, your Association had swung into action. a brief policy statement was drafted at the meeting in Seattle in November, 1954, to serve as a general guide for legislative testimony which our Association officials were certain to be called on to give. This policy statement was developed further in March, 1955, at a meeting of the Chief Administrative Officers held in Chicago. No changes have been made in that policy to the present time.

...Into the six months between the issuance of the Clay Committee report and the defeat of the road program on July 27, 1955, there were crowded many days of research, deliberation and testimony. The element of haste, considering the magnitude of the program, was very much in evidence. There were sincere differences of opinion within the Congress on how best to finance the program. There was also politics. It is particularly unfortunate that the solution to the problems of traffic congestion and hazard, which respect neither party labels nor influence, should have become bogged down in political considerations.

It is unfortunate that the figure of 101 billion dollars should have caught the public eye and been misunderstood. This was an estimate of the amount required to correct the deficiencies on the entire nation's network of 3,360,000 miles of roads and streets. This estimate was never intended as a proposed Federal-aid program, but it was so termed. It was never clearly understood that by the time the States contributed 10 per cent of the construction cost of the Interstate System and continue to pay for its maintenance and operation; by the time the States continued to carry on their normal programs, with only about one-fifth as much financing coming from Federal-aid as the States themselves raised, the States would indeed be full partners in this grand venture.

These circumstances and misunderstandings proved too strong for your Association and the other supporters of an enlarged highway program to overcome. It was gratifying, however, to have had the constructive and statesmanlike efforts of such legislators as Senators Gore, Case, Chavez and Martin, and Congressmen Buckley, Dondero, McGregor, Gentry, Fallon, George, Davis and others.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that when the House of Representatives defeated the road bill, it was not voting down the program; it was voting down the tax feature.

As for the program itself, there is no doubt that the need has been thoroughly established. As Commissioner Curtiss said last month, "the basic elements of the highway problem have come into much sharper focus." He also expressed confidence "that this broader, clearer comprehension will lead to early action on a scale far exceeding anything we have known in the past."

The fact is that as a result of all the work that has been done and the testimony that has been spread upon the record, the seeds are in the ground; if we tend them and do not let them wither or rot, they will bring fruit in due season in the form of an expanded highway program.

These stumbling blocks of haste, politics and disagreement over financing are bound to give way before long in the face of the recognized urgent need for modern highways. When that time comes, highway officials will be immediately confronted with the task of speeding up the construction of a nationwide network of modern roads, with the Federal Government setting the pace by assuming responsibility for the Interstate System in accordance with the authority and designation of responsibility provided in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Congressional leaders know that the nation must have a limited mileage of modern controlled-access highways joining the great centers of population. They also know that such a program must originate at the Federal level. This was the thinking behind the designation in 1944 of an Interstate System of Highways 40,000 miles in length, a system which comprises only one and one-quarter per cent of our total public road and street mileage but which joins the major centers of population and connects with the main transcontinental routes in Mexico and Canada.

For all practical purposes, this magnificent dream of a network of superhighways is still a dream. Only 8 per cent of this key road system is built to reasonable standards for modern traffic needs...

...What is the outlook for the coming year of decision? The term is not used lightly. Congress must take some affirmative action on highways in 1956, or there will be no Federal-aid program at all. The 1954 Federal-Aid Act was for a period of two years only.

Furthermore, unless Congress takes affirmative action not only on Federal aid to highways in general but also on the expanded program, the damage that has been done by the failure to act in 1955 will be compounded. The mere propounding of a national highway program on a grand scale has caused States, cities and counties to defer action on programs of their own which must necessarily be coordinated with the Federal program. Further indecision on the part of the smaller agencies of government, understandable though it may be, will do positive harm to our people.

It is to be hoped that this realization, coupled with the established need for a comprehensive highway program on the Federal level, will help to counteract the unfavorable factor of an election year. In view of the partisan consideration which befell the highway program in Congress in 1955, there are grounds for a very real fear that election year politics might add fuel to this dangerous fire...

...Finally and perhaps most important, the question of financing has emerged as the largest single obstacle to the enactment of the program. It is here that Congress faces its greatest challenge.

In the face of the multi-billion-dollar national need for safe and adequate roads, it is paradoxically evident that almost any specific financing proposal will meet with opposition from the individual user groups and factions affected by proposed tax increases.

To call on any group of composite users or on any group of elected State public officials to recommend methods of financing the expanded highway program will serve no constructive purpose. Such groups will, as they have repeatedly done, endorse the program in general but dodge the specifics of financing.

It is apparent that compromise will be called for - compromise as between bond financing and levying of new taxes, and compromise as between the groups of highway users who will pay the new taxes...


The Honorable Albert Gore, U.S. Senator, Tenn., also addressed the AASHO convention in December of 1955.

...I was complimented with an invitation to come and speak to this convention. I felt that it was an opportunity to contribute in a small way to the development of the policy of this great organization on the important subject of highway legislation. I confess I was a bit chagrined to discover the statement of your policy already determined and printed before I had an opportunity to say anything. Maybe that isn't the final action, however.

I have read this policy statement, and with one exception, I would say it could be interpreted as an endorsement of the Gore Bill. I will not place that interpretation upon it; however, I will come later to this one exception with which I find myself in disagreement. I congratulate you on the progress you have made on the approach you have developed in this policy statement that indicates that there is more nearly a meeting of minds on highway legislation than was the case before.

Now I must express a mild disagreement with one thing your president said a moment ago, though I agree with a great many things he said, when he indicated that 1955 has seen no significant progress in highway legislation. I think a very significant step was made: a bill is half-way through the Congress. The U. S. Senate passed a far-reaching highway bill.

Since adjournment of Congress, I have visited several States, and have travelled extensively, of course, in my own State. I found overwhelming popular support for a vigorous highway improvement program. It is so popular that it is rather paradoxical that Congress did not take final action on this important subject...

...No one can say that the failure of Congress to finally enact a highway bill was due to the devotion of insufficient time and attention to the problem. The Public Works Committee of the Senate conducted the most exhaustive hearings ever conducted on highway legislation. Our hearings lasted three months. We had more than one hundred persons and organizations who wished to be heard. Further exhaustive hearings were also held by the House Public Works Committee. We had a few days' debate on the floor of the Senate. So exhaustive consideration was given to the subject.

There was disagreement on the manner of doing the job that resulted in inaction on the part of the Congress as a whole. I have heard it said that the three bills which were considered by the Congress - one advocated by the Administration, one passed by the Senate, and the one recommended to the House by the House Public Works Committee - all had the same objective, and that they differed only in the method of financing. Some have characterized the bills this way. They characterized the Administration Bill as a "pay-as-you-use" plan; the House Bill as a "pay-as-you-go" bill; and the Senate Bill as one having no financing plan at all.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I know the American penchant, particularly the press, with its limitation of space, to over-simplify, but such characterizations as these are not only over-simplification, they are entirely misleading. At best, we need to understand what these proposals are.

In the first place, in some respects the so-called differences in financing are more apparent than real. In the final analysis, under either of these three plans or suggested bills, the road would be paid for out of the general fund of the United States Treasury. That is true of all three bills. In the second place, the three bills pose fundamental differences in approach entirely apart from the question of financing. We have read and heard most of our differences are differences of finances, and I repeat those differences are more apparent than real.

I believe that the United States Congress must decide basic formula and basic policy - the Congress of the United States, representing all the people, the same Congress which must levy taxes and must also appropriate the money, must decide the scope of the program, how far and how fast we shall go on the over-all basis. This does not mean - I do not want you to think that I mean - that Congress must undertake to dictate the location of our highways. Such an attempt was made on the floor of the Senate. I opposed it. The Senate turned it down. It does not mean that Congress should determine the method of constructing and engineering design. That is not the role of Congress. Basic policy, however, is the role of Congress.

Governor Kennon referred to the Appian Way. During the course of the hearing, I asked a representative - I believe one of your organization; maybe it was an engineer - anyway, I asked one of the witnesses if he felt the American highway departments and highway engineers would ever learn to build roads as good as the Romans did. That question brought a chuckle from the audience. I asked the question half-way facetiously, but also half seriously, because not long ago I rode over the Appian Way and found it still a fine road after these centuries of use. I didn't find any crusts or slabs rocking and breaking up, with the consequent expensive necessity of removing them...I won't go further into that subject...

All those familiar with highway legislation know how difficult it is to arrive at an equitable apportionment formula. Yet I say to you, right in the beginning of my talk, that an imperfect apportionment formula as between the States is better than no formula at all. This, too, is the role of Congress to determine.

Some say that Congress should merely fix the over-all national financial limits and then leave to the determination of the Department of Commerce as to how when, where, and in what amounts Federal funds shall be expended. With this I specifically disagree.

Throughout the history of federal legislation Congress has written into the law an apportionment formula. To me, this is a necessary part of highway legislation...

...Now, I would like to point out how these three bills differ. I appreciate the opportunity of doing so, and if you detect a hint now and then which indicates that I favor the bill that passed the Senate, you may be entirely justified, because I think it is best, not only because I sponsored it in the Senate, but because I think it is based upon the soundest approach, and it alone of the three bills embodies a balanced highway program.. I think it fair to say that from the standpoint of Federal money involved, the three bills are roughly comparable. Of course, in the beginning, there was a good deal of radio and newspaper talk about the "Grand Plan" of 101 billion dollars. Well, no such plan was ever submitted to Congress, whether by design or inadvertence I do not know, but the impression was allowed to get abroad that the Administration Bill would provide an expenditure of 101 billion dollars on highways. Of course, you people know that nothing like that was ever presented.

Actually, the Administration Bill proposed the expenditure of $25 billion of Federal money, all of which would be spent on the Interstate System alone. In addition, the Administration indicated an addition to support authorizations of $600,000,000 a year for use on all other Federal-Aid roads. If effectuated, this would have provided a total of $31 billion in Federal funds for the next ten years.

In order to implement this so-called "Grand Plan" of 101 billions, the States themselves would have to provide independent of matching formulas $70 billion within the next ten years. This would be equivalent to just about the doubling of your present State programs. No suggestion was made to our committee as to just how this would be accomplished.

In terms of total outlay, the Senate Bill provided for the first five-year installment, $12 1/4 billion; a second five-year installment as contemplated by the Senate Bill would bring in ten years the total amount to $26 3/4 billion; then the House Bill, the House Committee Bill, provided for $35 billion on a thirteen year basis. So you see, that though they vary, roughly the amount of money involved in each of the three bills did not differ too much.

...If we undertook a crash program, we might very well inflate the cost of highway construction until the taxpayers would not get the proper mileage of roads for which their dollars were appropriated. A gradual acceleration makes sense, if we want a dollar's worth of road for each dollar of tax money. Now, this particular aspect is not particularly different in either of the three bills. It was not spelled out in the Administration Bill, but those who presented the Administration Bill indicated that they too recognized the necessity for and favored a gradual stepping up of the program. It was spelled out in the Senate Bill...

...I do not know why we should discriminate against the highway program by saying that it alone, of all the activities of the Federal Government must be accompanied with new taxes. We do not do that for any of the other things:...Well, I am willing to vote for increased taxes. I want first to close some loopholes in the present tax law:..What I am apprehensive about now is that instead of a five or a ten-year bill, we may wind up with another two-year extension of the present law, which is wholly inadequate to meet our needs. I hear some discussion that because this is an election year and because of the controversy over road legislation this year, various reasons, that perhaps it would be best to pass a two year extension of the present program.

...I want to express in all frankness, disagreement with one particular phrase of your policy statement. It reads "Funds for the construction of the Interstate System should be initially apportioned on the basis of need as indicated by Section 13 Study as reported by the Bureau of Public Roads." Now, I don't quite understand what could be meant by "initially apportioned." Congress either apportions, or it doesn't. Who do you mean by "initially apportioned"?...Now, this paragraph goes on and says "and as indicated by future successive needs estimates". Well, that would again indicate that further needs estimates would be made, which would modify the apportionment, taking from some, giving to others...The House Bill would have actually apportioned dollars, so many dollars, to respective States in accordance with the so-called needs table, and it would have been highly inequitable...

(Senator Gore was concerned that the Executive Branch might be empowered to alter Interstate apportionments based on needs studies with no involvement of the Congress.)


Addressing the AASHO Convention,the Honorable Edward Martin, U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania, paid tribute to President Eisenhower for his leadership in highways and predicted that the public would demand the expanded highway program. He spoke of the stalemate over financing and the President's regret over the defeat in the House and his appeal for compromise so that the program could proceed. Martin cited statistics to show how many expensive urban projects had been put on hold because of the failure of the legislation. He noted that he supported the President's bonding proposal but would listen to any reasonable financing scheme. He recounted several ways that revenues could be increased to pay for the program and predicted that the next session of Congress would find a way.

...It is no exaggeration to say that President Eisenhower's call for bold new steps to solve the highway problem has made the Nation highway conscious. The President performed an outstanding service to the Nation when he centered attention on this vital problem. I am convinced that when the next session of Congress convenes it will be bombarded from all sections of the country with demands for prompt action.

We need the roads. There is no question about that. We must have them if we are to have an expanding economy.

We need them for our industrial, cultural and spiritual advancement.

We need them for national and civilian defense.

We need them to reduce the frightful toll of lives taken each year by accidents on our highways.

We need them to bring the people of every section closer together and thus provide the means for a better understanding of our great country and its problems. My study of the War Between the States convinces me that if we had had a good system of highways and better means of communication the war might have been avoided.

The big decisions we must now make are how the highways shall be financed, where they will be built; how they will be built; how they will be policed; and how they will be maintained.

...The President's proposal was, of course, the most ambitious highway construction program ever visualized for this country or any other country. At no time were its broad objectives the subject of controversy.

...The principal area of disagreement (in the Congress) was the method for financing the program. That is the big problem before us today.

At this point I would like to recall the statement of President Eisenhower issued on July 28, the day following the defeat of the Fallon bill in the House.

Expressing disappointment over the rejection of the legislation the President said, and I quote:

The nation badly needs new highways. The good of our people, of our economy and of our defense, requires that construction of these highways be undertaken at once.

There is a difference of conviction, I realize, over means of financing this construction. I have proposed one plan of financing which I consider sound. Others have proposed other methods.

"Adequate financing there must be," the President continued, "but," he added, and this is the important part, "contention over the method of financing should not be permitted to deny our people these critically needed roads."

You are all aware, of course, that I supported the corporation bond plan (the Administration bill) regardless of the fact that for a half century in public life I have favored the pay-as-you-go principle. In order to get the roads built I would again support a bond plan. However, in view of the opposition to that plan, particularly among many fine conservative people who stand against deficit financing of any kind, I would give my support to any reasonable compromise that will assure prompt action.

...Recently I received a brochure prepared by the American Municipal Association which disclosed some startling facts. It stated that the failure of Congress to enact an expanded Federal aid program for highways has delayed up to ten years the construction of expressways, arterials and by-pass routes that are needed now to alleviate the traffic strangulation of existing city streets.

A survey by the Association revealed that in 85 cities representing 38 States and the District of Columbia, 129 projects, with a total estimated cost of 5 1/2 billion dollars, are or will be adversely affected by the absence of a national highway program.

Here are a few examples:

Detroit is holding up the construction of six expressways involving more than $363 million pending Federal action.

New York City has plans for a $600,000,000 network of roads and bridges but cannot proceed without assurance of expanded Federal aid.

Chicago wants to complete 33 1/2 miles of expressways which will cost over $350 million.

...I have mentioned only a few samples. There are many more. They point out very clearly that the longer the accelerated highway program is delayed the more it will cost in higher prices for right-of-way and construction as well as economic losses from traffic congestion.

...There is no doubt in my mind that the financing problem related to highway development can be solved in a way that will distribute the costs on a fair and equitable basis.

...There is general agreement that the National System of Interstate Highways is a prime responsibility of the Federal government.

...How can this expenditure be financed?...An additional one cent Federal tax on gasoline which would yield annually more than $500,000,000...The present tax on rubber might be increased to yield an annual total of $300,000,000...A federal license fee on trucks and buses using the interstate system to yield $30,000,000...Increased appropriations from the general fund and some matching funds from the States...The collection of tolls on tunnels, bridges and perhaps some sections of road on the interstate system, could yield $300,000,000...

...It now appears that we will have a balanced budget through increased revenues and economics in government departments and agencies. That means that highway money can be taken from the general fund provided the present level of taxes is maintained.

The completion of the Interstate highways will be a monumental achievement. Our first objective must be to get the job started. I am confident that the next session of Congress will clear the way.

Updated: 06/27/2017
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