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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
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|Publication Number: Date: Winter 1997|
Issue No: Vol. 60 No. 3
Date: Winter 1997
Much has been said and written recently about the 21st century. The word "revolution" has been used often to describe the potential for change -- a revolution in medicine, in science, in technology, in communications, and in transportation. There have also been stories about the quirks of changing centuries, such as the glitch in computer two-digit date codes that won't recognize the year 00 in 2000 and whether the new millennium begins on Jan. 1, 2000, or Jan. 1, 2001. You may be getting tired of hearing about the 21st century, but there is no denying that the turn of the century is near and that the promise of a better life is great.
I wonder about how different the world will be in just 25 years. A lot has happened in the last 25 years, including such now-common things as cable television, VCRs, fax, e-mail, and the World Wide Web. A few years ago, I was uncomfortable using a computer/word processor; now, I don't think clearly unless I'm staring at a computer screen.
As I wrote in the Federal Highway Administration's 1996 Research and Technology Highlights report:
When FHWA began on Oct. 3, 1893, as the Office of Road Inquiry with a staff of two people working within the Department of Agriculture, the nation's transportation system consisted of coal-powered railroads, steamboats and barges, and a quasi-network of dirt roads built for horses and horse-pulled vehicles. No one could have imagined the total scope of today's system moving people and goods through the air; underground; and on the surface in modern automobiles, buses, trucks, and trains. And the transportation changes of the next century will be every bit as dramatic, and the challenges are just as massive. ...
Today, we (FHWA) have 3,500 employees and an annual budget of $20 billion dedicated to the FHWA vision to create for the American people the best transportation system in the world through proactive leadership, innovation, and excellence in service.
And the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 (ISTEA) is essential to our ability to create the best transportation system in the world. In this issue of Public Roads, there are five articles directly related to ISTEA, which expires in September 1997, and the effort to compose the post-ISTEA legislation, or ISTEA II, that will literally shape the future of transportation development and infrastructure in the United States.
In 1997, you will hear a lot about ISTEA II. Soon, the FHWA proposal will be submitted to Congress, and then Congress will take up the debate on specific provisions. "But the intensity of the debate will reflect, as it did in 1991, a central premise that all agree on: transportation is the core of our society," Administrator Slater writes in his article. "We must emerge from reauthorization with a nation strengthened by the promise of a 21st century transportation network that is second to none and that will support economic growth, enhance our international competitiveness, and increase the mobility and freedom of our people."
The promise of the 21st century -- I can hardly wait!