The Web of Union

A year after launching the conservation initiative, President Johnson announced in his State of the Union Address in January 1966 that a U.S. Department of Transportation was needed. With 35 government agencies spending $5 billion a year on transportation, he said, the "present structure makes it almost impossible to serve either the growing demands of this great Nation or the needs of the industry, or the right of the taxpayer to full efficiency and frugality."

On March 2, President Johnson submitted legislation to Congress. "In a Nation that spans a continent," he wrote in an accompanying message, "transportation is the web of union." The "tenuous skein of rough trails and primitive roads" of the Nation's early years had become "a powerful network on which the prosperity and convenience of our society depend." He urged creation of a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) "to serve the growing demands of this great Nation, to satisfy the needs of our expanding industry, and to fulfill the right of our taxpayers to maximum efficiency and frugality in Government operations."

BPR would be part of the new Department, but the Housing and Home Finance Agency, which administered the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, would remain in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), its home since September 1965. The President said that after creation of USDOT, he would ask the new Secretary of Transportation to work with the HUD Secretary to submit proposals on "a unified Federal approach to urban problems."

President Johnson signed the U.S. Department of Transportation Act in October 1966 before about 200 guests at the White House. The new law brought together 31 agencies and bureaus; BPR had by far the largest budget, $4.4 billion, in a Department with a total budget of $6.6 billion. "In large measure," the President said, " America's history is a history of her transportation." Although the transportation system "is the greatest in the world," he added, "we must face facts. It is no longer adequate." He described his vision that "a day will come in America, when people and freight will move through this land of ours speedily, efficiently, safely, and dependably."

The President selected Alan S. Boyd to serve as the first Transportation Secretary. A 44-year-old lawyer, Boyd had been general counsel of the Florida Turnpike Authority and chairman of the Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission before President Eisenhower appointed him to serve on the Civil Aeronautics Board. Boyd became chairman of the board in 1961 and was appointed Under Secretary of Commerce in 1965. President and Mrs. Johnson watched on January 16, 1967, as Boyd took the oath of office as Transportation Secretary in the East Room of the White House. The President explained that Boyd would "coordinate a national transportation policy for this great land of ours...and give the kind of results that the American people would like to point to with pride."