November 1953 Commerce Department Plan to Restructure the Federal-Aid Highway Program

November 1953 Commerce Department Plan to Restructure the Federal-Aid Highway Program

March 08, 2020  | Jeff Davis

This is a document prepared by Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation Robert Murray dated November 19, 1953 entitled “Federal Highway Policy” and transmitted by Murray to the White House with a cover letter on December 1, 1953.

In the proposal, Murray notes that the association of state DOTs wanted a greatly expanded federal-aid program (from $575 million per year to at least $900 million per year), while the association of state governors wanted to abolish the existing federal-aid program in 39 of the 48 states, repeal all federal gasoline taxes, and have the federal-aid program for the remaining nine low-population-density states to be funded from general revenues.

Instead, Murray’s office recommended:

  1. “The abandonment of present Federal aid policy.
  2. “Limitation of Federal participation to those segments of the National System of Interstate Highways which are certified as essential for national defense by the Department of Defense. This is based on the premise that the Interstate System includes all mileage of interest to national defense and fully discharges Governmental responsibility for the free flow of Interstate commerce.”

As well as this: “It is recommended that as soon as the Federal fiscal program permits, the Federal Government withdraw from the gasoline tax field.”

Murray’s office proposed this for part of the Eisenhower Administration’s fiscal 1955 budget and the calendar 1954 legislative program, which was going to see the federal-aid highway program reauthorized, but this approach was rejected by the Budget of the Budget and others in favor of a two-year reauthorization of the ongoing program.

Document source: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Records as President, 1953-1961; Official File; Box 610, OF-141-B (2), Eisenhower Library.

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