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Letter to the Secretary of Commerce on the Need for Making the Highways More Attractive.

January 21, 1965

[ Released January 21, 1965. Dated January 8, 1965 ]

Dear Mr. Secretary:

In my State of the Union message I called for a new and substantial national effort to landscape our highways and provide places of relaxation and recreation wherever our roads run. We must now press forward with a program which will accomplish these objectives.

As you know, I believe the beauty of America is an important part of our heritage. For our own sake and for that of future generations, we must preserve and enhance the beauty of our countryside and provide facilities for relaxation and recreation.

An important part of this goal can be achieved through the resources of the Federal-aid highway program. We have 265,000 miles of Federal-aid interstate, primary and urban highways which handle 46 percent of all motor vehicle traffic. Expenditures of Federal funds on these highways in the next fiscal year will be about $3.5 billion. I want to make sure that the America we see from these major highways is a beautiful America.

Accordingly, as a first step, I am directing you to undertake the following program towards achieving these goals:

--Require that landscaping be made a part of all projects on the Federal-aid interstate, primary and urban highways. These requirements should be an addition to the usual measures now taken for erosion control.

--Encourage the States to acquire land or easements adjacent to highway rights-of-way where necessary to preserve and enhance the beauty of our countryside in both rural and urban areas.

--Request the States to provide more rest areas adjacent to the highways for convenience, safety, relaxation and recreation.

--Broaden the study now underway on the needs for scenic roads and parkways to include the goal of maintaining and enhancing the beauty of America.

I will also expect the Department of Commerce and its Bureau of Public Roads to take an active part in the White House Conference on Natural Beauty which I will soon call.

We must make every effort to see that the States and the cities are made full and fruitful partners in our highway beautification program. Accordingly, the Federal Highway Administrator should send the full details of our program to all State highway departments, so that they may participate fully in achieving these goals.

It is my hope that high priority will be given to landscape projects for screening junkyards, excavation scars, and other unsightly areas adjacent to highway rights-of-way.

The existing Federal highway law authorizes States to acquire strips of land or easements adjacent to highways to preserve and enhance natural beauty. The land or scenic easements to be acquired should involve areas of woodland, shores of bodies of water, vistas of scenic quality, and unusual topographic features.

In choosing the location of these areas, adequate consideration should be given to appropriate spacing between areas and safety requirements.

I believe these are the necessary first steps in our comprehensive program to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of our country. They can and should be undertaken immediately.

To the extent that you believe additional legislative authority is required to achieve this objective, you should prepare appropriate legislative proposals for my approval and subsequent submission to the Congress.



[The Honorable John T. Connor, The Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The plans for a White House Conference on Natural Beauty to be held in Washington May 24-25 were announced by the President on March 12.

Draft legislation on highway beautification was transmitted to the Congress by the President on May 26 (see Item 279).

On May 2 the White House released a summary of reports of State highway departments on preliminary steps planned or taken to implement the roadside beautification program. The reports were prepared in response to requests by Secretary Connor and Federal Highway Administrator Rex M. Whirton following receipt of the President's letter of January 8.

Also released on May 2 was a report to the White House from the Department of Commerce stating that over 17,500 automobile graveyards, junkyards, scrap metal heaps, and similar eyesores line America's main roads and streets. A State-by-State survey "to determine the extent of the roadside clutter" was made by the Bureau of Public Roads of the Department of Commerce, the release stated, as preparation for the beautification program. Included in the release was a listing, by State, of the number of junkyards of all types visible from interstate and other Federal-aid primary routes.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Secretary of Commerce on the Need for Making the Highways More Attractive. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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