America needs a new transportation vision for the 21st century that adds capacity and is as "historic and far-reaching" as the one articulated by President Dwight Eisenhower more than 50 years ago when he created the Interstate Highway System, according to Gen. Colin L. Powell, U.S. (Ret.) as he spoke June 29 at the American Road and Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) dinner celebrating the golden anniversary of the Interstate System.
More than 600 transportation construction industry executives, members of Congress and their staffs and Bush administration officials attended the event, which was held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
Powell highlighted the enormous positive impacts of the Interstate System on America's economy and quality of life and its important role in military operations. He said expanded surface transportation investments were key to ensuring America remains globally competitive. Gen. Powell also saluted the transportation industry for its role in designing and building the System.
On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed the law authorizing construction of the Interstates and creating the Highway Trust Fund to finance it. It was the greatest domestic achievement of his presidency. It also represented the fulfillment of the 1901 vision of ARTBA founder Horatio Earle who had advocated for a federally built "Capital Connecting Government Highway System," which he said, "would connect every state capital with each other and the Nation's Capital--Washington, D.C."
The ARTBA dinner event also drew attention to the transportation and mobility challenges facing the nation in the future. ARTBA is already preparing for the next highway and transit reauthorization bill, scheduled for 2009.
Special awards were presented to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Secretary Mineta, as well as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in recognition of their leadership roles on the Interstates.
During the evening, the ARTBA-TDF recognized just some of the many transportation engineering and construction firms, suppliers and manufacturers, federal and state transportation departments, national associations and labor organizations in attendance with Interstate "Pioneer" awards.