Documentary History of the Creation of the U.S. Department of Transportation

Documentary History of the Creation of the U.S. Department of Transportation

October 13, 2015  | ENO CENTER FOR TRANSPORTATION

This history is organized into seven roughly chronological parts:

  • Part 1 – Proposals for a Department of Transportation Before Summer 1965
  • Part 2 – Preparation of the Administration Proposal
  • Part 3 – The President’s Transportation Message, Legislation, and Briefing Papers
  • Part 4 – Senate Consideration of the Proposal
  • Part 5 – House Consideration of the Proposal
  • Part 6 – House-Senate Conference Negotiations and Enactment
  • Part 7 – Reminiscences After the Fact

Part 1 – Proposals for a Department of Transportation Before Summer 1965

1874 report of the “Windom Committee” (Senate Select Committee on Transportation-Routes to the Seabord) which recommended, among many other things, that “a bureau of commerce, in one of the executive departments of the government, be charged with the duty of collecting and reporting to Congress information concerning our internal trade and commerce; and be clothed with authority of law…to require each and every railway and other transportation company engaged in interstate transportation [to make annual reports under oath of all rates, fares, receipts, expenditures, commodities transported, values, etc.].”

1937 report of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Executive Agencies of the Government (prepared by the Brookings Institution). This report recommended that federal agencies responsible for the promotion of transportation be consolidated, either into a new Department of Transportation, or else into a Division of Transportation within the Department of Commerce.

1942 Transportation and National Policy – report from the National Resources Planning Board to President Roosevelt recommending the creation of a National Transportation Agency “to coordinate all Federal development activity in transportation”.

1946 draft Reorganization Plan from the Truman White House creating a new Federal Transportation Agency to carry out all federal road, aviation, and maritime functions. This plan was never transmitted to Congress or made public.

1949 report of the Hoover Commission recommending that federal transportation agencies be consolidated within a new Transportation Service of the Department of Commerce, headed by an Under Secretary for Transportation. (The full Commission overrode the report of its Task Force on Transportation, prepared by the Brookings Institution, which had recommended that transportation get its own independent Department.) Some of these recommendations were implemented in Reorganization Plan No. 7 of 1949 and Reorganization Plan No. 21 of 1950.

1958 proposal from Nelson Rockefeller’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Government Organization to create a Department of Transportation. This was a broad outline version of what became the detailed 1959 proposal.

1959 proposal from the President’s Advisory Committee on Government Organization and the Bureau of the Budget to establish a new U.S. Department of Transportation. Together with memoranda of President Eisenhower’s decision not to endorse the proposal in November 1959.

1961 report of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Special Study Group on Transportation Policies in the United States (commonly referred to as the “Doyle Report”). Chapter 4 recommended the creation of a new U.S. Department of Transportation.

June 22, 1964 memo from Bureau of the Budget Director Kermit Gordon to White House aide Douglass Cater to prepare Cater for a meeting with Bill Moyers to discuss issues facing the 1964 transportation task force.

October 16, 1964 memo from Bureau of the Budget Assistant Director Gordon Murray summarizing the conclusions of the 1964 transportation task force as of its third meeting.

November 1964 final report of the President’s Task Force on Transportation, which recommended (among many other things) that a federal Department of Transportation be created.

February 1965 “Case bill” (text of the bill S. 1122 (89th Congress) introduced by Sen. Clifford P. Case (R-NJ) creating a U.S. Department of Transportation).

Part 2 – Preparation of the Administration Proposal

June 30, 1965 resignation letter from FAA Administrator Najeeb Halaby to President Johnson where Halaby recommends the creation of a new Department of Transportation to include the FAA.

July-August 1965 memos from White House aide Bill Moyers to agencies and other staff calling a meeting to discuss ideas for transportation policy and then directing the Under Secretary of Commerce to create an interagency task force.

August 18, 1965 letter from Commerce Secretary Connor to President Johnson proposing the creation of a National Transportation Council.

August 20, 1965 memo from Bureau of the Budget Director Charles Schultze to White House senior aide Joseph Califano responding to the points raised in Administrator Halaby’s June 30 letter to President Johnson.

September 2, 1965 letter transmitting  the first round of working papers prepared by the interagency Task Force on Transportation Legislation, which included a recommendation for a Department of Transportation.

September 9, 1965 Bureau of the Budget summary of the Transportation Task Force report’s recommendations.

September 11, 1965 memo from Council of Economic Advisers member Arthur Okun to CEA chairman Gardner Ackley complaining about the slow progress and small scope of the transportation program.

September 13, 1965 internal Bureau of the Budget memo entitled “Transportation Chaos” complaining about how Under Secretary Boyd’s Transportation Task Force was going off track.

September 22, 1965 decision memo approved by President Johnson for the 1966 transportation legislative agenda, including creation of a Department of Transportation. Includes Bureau of the Budget recommendations on the ideas of the 1965 interagency transportation task force.

October 22, 1965 memo from Under Secretary Alan Boyd to Joseph Califano transmitting two papers – one recommending creation of a Department of Transportation, the other discussing transportation regulatory agency reform.

November 9, 1965 memo from Bureau of the Budget Director Schultze warning the White House that the introduction of legislation in Congress making the Maritime Administration an independent agency was an attempt to undermine the creation of a separate Department of Transportation.

November 24, 1965 memo from the Bureau of the Budget transmitting BoB’s comments on the three parts of the proposed FY 1966 transportation legislative agenda – transportation reorganization, regulatory reorganization, and highway safety reorganization.

Early December, 1965 memos from Lee White detailing the results of outreach to trucking, railroad, inland waterway and airline stakeholders on the Administration’s draft 1966 transportation agenda.

December 17, 1965 memos from Under Secretary Alan Boyd to the White House presenting the update summary memos of the transportation regulation, Department of Transportation, and highway safety agenda items for the upcoming year.

December 20, 1965 memo from FAA Administrator William “Bozo” McKee in opposition to the creation of a Department of Transportation.

December 22, 1965 memo from Commerce Secretary John Connor expressing concerns about certain aspects of the creation of a Department of Transportation.

January 10, 1966 memo from Commerce Under Secretary Alan Boyd to Joseph Califano responding, point-by-point, to the criticisms made in FAA Administrator McKee’s December 20, 1965 memo.

Series of memos beginning January 10, 1966 from White House staff to President Johnson detailing outreach to key committee chairmen on the transportation agenda.

January 12, 1966 State of the Union address by President Johnson announcing a proposal for a new Department of Transportation (video).

January 21, 1966 memo from Commerce Secretary John Connor to Joseph Califano suggesting a blue-ribbon panel be formed to endorse the establishment of a new Transportation Department, together with a January 22 cover memo to President Johnson and LBJ’s hand-written response.

January 28, 1966 memo to President Johnson from Joe Califano and Lee White recommending specific components of a new Department of Transportation and asking the President to side with them in disputes over the treatment of the Coast Guard and Civil Aeronautics Board. Together with LBJ’s hand-written response at the end of the memo.

February 1, 1966 memo to President Johnson from Joe Califano and Lee White asking the President to make the final decisions on the transportation message and recommended legislation – LBJ decided to go ahead with making the ICC chairman a Presidential appointee but to back down from proposing reform of transportation economic regulations.

February 4, 1966 letter from FAA Administrator William “Bozo” McKee to White House Budget Director Charles Schultze expressing the views of the Federal Aviation Administration on the draft bill creating a new Department of Transportation.

February 15, 1966 memo from the Commerce Department to the White House indicating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was laying the groundwork to oppose giving the new Secretary of Transportation any say over water navigation projects.

February 15, 1966 memo from the Bureau of the Budget to White House counsel Lawrence Levinson detailing the BoB’s final set of proposed changes to the draft Presidential message on transportation.

White House outreach to Congress on the elements of the proposed transportation message was conducted throughout February 1966 – memos listing the contacts with individual members of Congress are here in two parts – from February 7 through 17 and February 18 through 28.

Part 3 – The President’s Transportation Message, Legislation, and Briefing Papers

March 2, 1966 text of the President’s message to Congress on transportation.

Legislative text of the proposed Department of Transportation Act transmitted to Congress on March 2, 1966 and introduced in the House and Senate on that date.

Briefing book prepared by the White House explaining the proposed Department of Transportation bill in detail for the members of the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations.

Digest of a conference held March 16, 1966 by the Transportation Association of America to discuss the Administration’s DOT proposal.

Article by Alan Boyd in the July 1966 issue of Traffic Quarterly (published by the Eno Foundation) advocating the creation of a Department of Transportation.

March 29, 1966 summary of evolving Corps of Engineers standards for the cost-benefit analysis of water projects that would become a controversy relating to section 7 of the bill.

Part 4 – Senate Consideration of the Proposal

Senator Warren Magnuson’s (D-WA) speech on March 2, 1966 upon his introduction of S. 3010, the Department of Transportation Act.

Senate Committee on Government Operations  staff memo dated March 25, 1966 summarizing S. 3010.

Senate Appropriations Committee memo to Government Operations chairman McClellan (D-AR) dated March 28, 1966 notifying him of the negative effects that the investment standards in section 7 of the bill would have on water projects in Arkansas.

Senate Public Works Committee memo to the Government Operations Committee dated March 28, 1966 transmitting the Public Works analysis of section 7 of the Administration bill.

Senate Public Works Committee memo to the Government Operations Committee dated April 5, 2016 summarizing the effects that the Administration bill might have on the federal-aid highway program.

Hearings of the Senate Committee on Government Operations on S. 3010:

White House memos from May-June 1966 relating to Senate consideration of the bill.

White House memos from July-September 1966 relating to Senate consideration of the bill.

Senate Government Operations Committee staff memos dated August 11, 1966 and August 18, 1966 summarizing amendments agreed to during markup sessions of the DOT bill.

Text of S. 3010 as reported from the Government Operations Committee on September 27, 1966.

Committee report of the Government Operations Committee to accompany S. 3010 (Senate Report 89-1659). Filed September 27, 1966.

Congressional Record of Senate floor debate, amendment and passage of S. 3010 and H.R. 15963 on September 28 and 29, 1966.

Part 5 – House Consideration of the Proposal

Congressional Record excerpt from March 2, 1966 showing the receipt by the House of Representatives of the President’s message on transportation and remarks thereon by Majority Leader Carl Albert (D-OK), Rep. Chet Holifeld (D-CA) (the lead sponsor of H.R. 13200, the Department of Transportation Act), and others.

House Committee on Government Operations internal staff memo dated March 25, 1966 giving background information on previous DOT proposals and industry reaction.

House Committee on Government Operations memo to the subcommittee chairman dated March 31, 1966 summarizing the issues raised by the bill and giving background on proposals to create a Department of Transportation.

Hearings of the House Committee on Government Operations on H.R. 13200:

Transcript of the Government Operations subcommittee markup of H.R. 13200 on June 22, 1966.

Text of the bill as approved in subcommittee (this text was then introduced in the House on June 28 as a “clean bill,” H.R. 15963.

Summary of the “clean bill” (H.R. 15963) introduced on June 28, 1966 consisting of the text of H.R. 13200 as modified in subcommittee.

Committee print of H.R. 15963 showing all amendments adopted during the full Government Operations Committee markup of the bill on June 29, 1966.

White House memos from May-June 1966 relating to House consideration of the bill.

Committee report of the Government Operations Committee to accompany H.R. 15963 (House Report 89-1701). Filed July 15, 1966.

House Democratic Study Group memo explaining H.R. 15963.

“Dear Colleague” letter from Rep. Holifield explaining the provisions of H.R. 15963.

White House memos from July-August 1966 relating to the House of Representatives consideration of the bill.

Congressional Record of House floor debate, amendment, and passage of H.R. 15963 on August 24, 29 and 30, 1966.

Part 6 – House-Senate Conference Negotiations and Enactment

White House memos relating to the House-Senate conference committee on H.R.15963.

House staff summary of differences between the House and Senate versions of H.R. 15963.

Senate staff summary of differences between the House and Senate versions of H.R. 15963.

Agenda for the House-Senate conference committee meeting on H.R. 15963.

Conference report to accompany H.R. 15963. (House Report 89-2236, filed October 12, 1966)

Congressional Record of House floor debate on the conference report on October 13, 1966.

Congressional Record of Senate floor debate on the conference report on October 13, 1966.

White House enrolled bill file on H.R. 15963 recommending signature and collecting the views of affected federal agencies.

President Johnson’s remarks at the bill signing.

List of attendees at the bill signing ceremony.

Text of Public Law 89-670, enacted October 15, 1966.

Part 7 – Reminiscences After the Fact

Oral history transcripts from the LBJ Presidential Library (courtesy of the Miller Center):

  • Alan S. Boyd – Civil Aeronautics Board chairman, Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation, co-chair of 1965 interagency Task Force on Transportation, and first U.S. Secretary of Transportation – Nov. 20, 1968Dec. 18, 1968Jan. 11, 1969May 15, 1969
  • Charles J. Zwick – Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget and co-chair of 1965 interagency Task Force on Transportation – April 25, 1969 – see pp. 8 through 23.
  • Charles L. Schultze – Director of the Bureau of the Budget – Mar. 28, 1969 – see starting on p. 21
  • Alan L. Dean – Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Administration – Feb. 28, 1969Apr. 3, 1969
  • Everett Hutchinson – Under Secretary of Transportation – Oct. 28, 1969
  • Gen. William “Bozo” McKee – Federal Aviation Administrator – Oct. 28, 1968Nov. 8, 1969
  • Lowell Bridwell – Federal Highway Administrator – Oct. 17, 1968
  • Adm. Willard Smith – Commandant of the Coast Guard – Dec. 10, 1968
  • A. Scheffer Lang – Federal Railroad Administrator – Nov. 1, 1968
  • Robert C. Weaver – Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Nov. 19, 1968
Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks