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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Concerning the Inter-American Highway.

April 01, 1955

[Released April 1, 1955. Dated March 31, 1955]


For some time I have had under consideration the desirability of accelerating the completion of the Inter-American Highway which extends from the United States to the Canal Zone via the Central American countries.

The early completion of the Inter-American Highway in close cooperation with the affected countries is a clearly established objective of United States policy.

Although this project has been under construction sporadically since 1934 and the Congress has appropriated funds in the amount of $53,723,000 to date for its completion, the incompleted state of the project prevents realization of maximum benefits.

Recently I have sought the advice of interested agencies of the Government and I am convinced that for economic and political reasons now is the appropriate time to speed completion of the Inter-American Highway. I believe this would be the most significant single action which the United States can take in Central America and Panama to bring about the most mutually advantageous results.

Among the considerations which make me feel that an accelerated construction program on the highway is essential are these:

1. A completed highway will provide a very important contribution to the economic development of the countries through which it passes.

2. There will be an opportunity for increased trade and improved political relations among these countries and the United States.

3. The resultant increase in tourist traffic would not only improve cultural relations but also serve as a very important element in the development of their economies through earnings of foreign exchange.

4. The existence of such an all-weather highway would be of substantial security importance, both in providing overland contact and communication as far southward as the Panama Canal, and in bringing an important physical link between these countries in our common defense of the Western Hemisphere against aggression from without and subversion from within.

The stabilizing effect of these factors will tend to bar any possible return of communism which was so recently and successfully defeated in this area.

It is estimated that the amount needed to complete the Inter-American Highway in a three-year period is $112,470,000, of which $74,980,000 would be the share of the United States, leaving $37,490,000 as the combined share of the several cooperating countries on the usual 2:1 matching basis.

In the Federal-Aid Highway Acts of 1952 and 1954 Congress authorized the expenditure of $56,000,000 for this project. Funds actually appropriated against these authorizations have totaled $6,750,000, leaving a balance of $49,250,000 yet to be appropriated. Of this amount $5,750,000 is currently included in budget estimates now pending before the Congress. In order to accelerate the highway work sufficiently to permit its completion within the next three years, an additional authorization of $25,730,000 will be needed. It will also be necessary to increase our 1956 appropriation request from $5,750,000 to $74,980,000.

In the near future I shall transmit to the Congress the necessary budget request to carry out this program, and I trust that the Congress will give this proposal for accelerated completion of the Inter-American Highway its most favorable consideration.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Richard M. Nixon, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On April 12 the President submitted to Congress a request for a supplemental appropriation for completing the highway (H. Doc. 126, 84th Cong., 1st sess.). H.R. 5923, authorizing the appropriation, was approved July 1, 1955 (69 Stat. 244).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Concerning the Inter-American Highway. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234078

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