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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Need for a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

June 09, 1966

Dear Mr. President: (Dear Mr. Speaker:)

This is the Congress which promised the citizens of the Nation's capital a new system of mass transportation. I hope it will also be the Congress which extends that promise to the citizens of the entire Washington metropolitan area.

The economic well-being of this region-and the efficient functioning of the Government itself--depend more and more each year on adequate mass transportation facilities. No system of freeways, no matter how extensive or well planned, can suffice much longer.

The Congress, of course, has recognized this. The first session of the 89th Congress:

--Authorized a 25-mile, $431 million rapid transit system, largely within the District of Columbia;

--Authorized the appropriation of $150 million in Federal and District funds toward the system's construction;

--Appropriated $6.2 million to begin final engineering of the system.

But that system, even when completed, will only begin to solve our transportation problems.

In 1950, nearly three-quarters of the area residents lived within the boundaries of the District of Columbia. By 1970, however, that situation will be almost totally reversed. At that time, there will be an estimated 1,688,000 citizens living in our Maryland and Virginia suburbs--67 percent of the area's swelling population.

Even today, this shifting population is creating massive traffic problems, with more than a million automobiles entering and leaving our city every 24 hours. Even with a full mass transit system-on a regional basis--that figure is expected to double by 1985. Without such a system, a complete breakdown in area transportation would be only a matter of time.

We simply cannot allow that to happen. Our goal--the goal of both the Congress and the Administration--must continue to be a regional system of rapid rail transit.

As a major first step toward achieving that goal, I am transmitting herewith legislation to authorize and approve an interstate agency with the power to plan and finance a region-wide system. When approved by the Congress, this legislation will:

--ratify for the District of Columbia the compact--already ratified by Maryland and Virginia--creating the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority;

--grant the consent to the compact which is required both by the Constitution and by Section 301(a) of the 1960 Transportation Act;

--transfer, on September 30, 1967, the responsibility for the mass transit system from the National Capital Transportation Agency to the Transit Authority. This legislation will not create a regional system. It will not build a mile of rail rapid transit. It does not impose on the United States, or on the District of Columbia, any financial obligation. But it is essential if we are to move ahead, for the Transit Authority will become the administrative framework within which further progress can be charted.

I believe such progress will be forthcoming. The legislatures of both Maryland and Virginia, by prompt ratification of the proposed compact, and by enactment of appropriate enabling legislation, have shown their determination to help meet the mass transit needs of the National Capital region. I urge the Congress, and at this session, to echo that determination.

A memorandum explaining the nature and background of the proposed legislation in more detail accompanies this letter.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Carl Hayden, President pro tempore of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The text of the draft bill and the memorandum, also made public by the White House, is printed in House Document 452 (89th Cong., 2d sess.). The memorandum is also printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 2, p. 751).

On November 6, 1966, the President approved a bill "to grant the consent of Congress for the States of Virginia and Maryland and the District of Columbia to amend the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact to establish an organization empowered to provide transit facilities in the National Capital Region" (Public Law 89-774, 80 Stat. 1324).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the Need for a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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