Celebrating 80 Years of Better Roads
Better Roads Staff
During his administration as Secretary of Transportation, Amtrak was created.
In the January 1970 issue of Better Roads, Volpe discussed the problems of urban transportation planning. “Urban planners are handicapped…by the absence of hardware—the necessary equipment to do the job. We don’t have the time to wait for the hardware to be developed. If our urban centers are to survive, we must move beyond the study stage and start doing something now.”
The challenge lies….for the quality of life
One of the great advocates for highway funding was Jennings Randolph (D-WV), who served in the Senate from 1958 to 1985. Randolph led the fight for funding in the 1970’s during a time when money for roads was sparse. In an op-ed piece in the January 1970 issue, Sen. Randolph, who was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Public Works at the time, wrote, “The challenge lies ahead in correctly analyzing the needs of Americans, as we move steadily toward the year 2000 to provide an imaginative, workable program that will ensure the quality of life which we now enjoy. Nothing less than the best will suffice.”
Work toward a better environment
The battle lines for environmental reform were well-set in the 1970s and Better Roads Editor Stan Boie was an early advocate of engineering environmental friendly highway and bridge projects at a time when the industry struggled with change. While the environmental movement among highway professionals had not yet gained wide-reaching support, in a February 1970 editorial Boie took a stance not embraced by the highway community at large for the time.
“Breathe there a highway engineer today with soul so insensitive that he is not concerned with the way that highways affect people and the environment? We hope not. For if there is, he is playing in the wrong ballgame in the wrong ballpark,” Boie opined.
“The transcendent word today is ‘environment’ and all highway people had better learn how to pronounce it and say it loud and clear—and believe it. Because the condition of the environment has become of prime importance to a growing portion of the population.”
“Certainly, it (the environmental movement) must grow if highways are to play any part in helping the nation achieve the goals of clean air, clean water, freedom of movement and the good life.”
Governor freezes Massachusetts road projects
In a move very typical of the times when highway money was being diverted to mass transportation, Massachusetts Republican Gov. Francis Sargent stated a new policy calling for “placing less emphasis on highways and more on rapid-transit facilities.”
The governor said that “we (once) felt that new highways were the answer to our transportation problems. We were wrong. We need a more balanced system of transportation.”
Interstate progress…from the April 1970 issue
Better Roads reported on the progress of the interstate program, which was to be completed by June 30, 1970.
Citing massive delays in projects and inadequate funding for projects engineered 15 to 20 years prior, it was reported that “As of December 31, 1969, almost 29,640 miles of the 42,500-mile national system of interstate and defense highways were open to traffic and construction was under way on another 4,782 miles.”
It would be six years before the core interstate roads would be completed.
What next Mr. President…
Newly appointed Better Roads Editor Frank Reid took a shot at the Nixon Administration for diverting as much as half of the highway trust fund to mass transit.
In an editorial in the April 1973 issue, Reid wrote, “Once again, Mr. Nixon, we find ‘Alice in Wonderland’ thinking running rampant in your Federal Highway Administration. Evidentially charged with supporting your raid on the Highway Trust Fund, they have come up with a new twist…The Trust Fund is not really a trust. Why not? Because a long while ago, before 1956, that is, no trust fund existed and there was a gas tax! Not only was the gas tax not earmarked, it went directly into the General Fund.”
“Perhaps if every highway department would send the White House pictures of the accidents that have occurred on roads and streets that have been designated for improvement and haven’t been improved due to fund impoundment, perhaps then, Mr. President, some understanding of the great need for the Trust Fund to be honored might be generated.”
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