Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the National Capital Transportation Amendments of 1979

January 03, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Barry, you didn't come on the Metro, did you? [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE SPELLMAN. We Marylanders did.

REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS. Mr. President, there's a fare card if you'd use it. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS. When you come up for the State of the Union, could you do it then?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm going to give it to Mayor Barry after a while, so he'll be here on— [laughter] . Thank you very much, Herb.

This is a very good day, I believe, in the lives of the people who live in this entire Washington, D.C., region and also of those who work in the Federal Government, and I'm doubly grateful, as President, to be able to participate in this ceremony.

House Bill 3951 will complete the financial commitment of the Federal Government to the completion of the Metrorail system. This is a project that was undertaken a long time ago, because the officials of the Washington area, the officials of the State of Virginia and the State of Maryland, Members of Congress, private and government employers and employees, and various interest groups all felt that, for a wide range of reasons, we needed to have a rail system of transportation in this area.

The prospect of urban decay, the adverse impact on the quality of the air that we breathe, the excessive compacting of traffic during rush. hours on our highways, the need to conserve energy, all were factors many years ago in the making of a final decision about the construction of this rapid transit rail system. This is a good result of close cooperation between government at various levels and the private sector of the American economy.

I understand that now there are an average of about 300,000 passengers on the Metrorail system, and now with the opening of the Metro system on Saturdays and Sundays, this is very likely to increase. These are 300,000 people who would ordinarily have been using their automobiles, with a very heavy drain on the energy reserves of our country and with an adverse impact on the quality of our life.

I've heard that one or two private employers are already subsidizing employees' use of the Metrorail system. This is a practice that I hope will grow in the future as it proves to be advantageous to us all.

Now, of course, it's up to the local and State officials involved, most of whom are assembled around me in this room, to meet the requirements for additional funding that must be put forward for the operation and maintenance of the Metrorail system. The Federal obligation, as I say, will be fulfilled in the signing of this law.

I might add that this is not the limit of our effort. We will continue to enhance the carpool and vanpool program, and as you know, we have made a decision on parking fees that will have some beneficial effect, I think, for. the Metrorail system, causing some inconvenience for those who have in the past overly used automobiles.

My belief is, my conviction is that in the future every changing factor will make more valuable the Metrorail system that is in the process of being built. It would have been tragic to interrupt the completion of this system because of inadequate financing or inadequate commitment from the Federal, State, or local government agencies or governments. This is an important step forward.

On a nationwide basis we are continuing the same policy to serve other communities. I have already asked the Congress for authorization and financing of $16.1 billion in increased funds for rapid transit, almost all of which will come out of the windfall profits tax when it's passed, I hope very early this year, by the Congress.

So, we're working together as partners to save energy, to give us a better quality of life, to reduce air pollution, to prevent urban decay, and to improve the quality of the metropolitan area. And I'm very grateful to all those who are assembled around me who've played such an integral part in the evolution of this system. Thank you all very much.

And now I'll be glad to sign the bill on behalf of us all.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

I hesitate to choose the people who will make a comment.

REPRESENTATIVE SPELLMAN. I frankly think that Herb should [group agreement].

THE PRESIDENT. Everybody—there seems to be an acclamation.

REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS. I did give you the fare card, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. It's the first bribe I've had this year. [Laughter] Thank you, Herb. Will you say a word?

REPRESENTATIVE HARMS. Well, thank you very much. I speak for so many people that have worked for so many years to accomplish this. And so many of them know who they are—this obviously goes .back for 20 years of effort, of community effort—those that broke the bottleneck in '71 and those that helped us move it along this year to share the completion of a system that can mean so much in transportation and in environment, but also in community, Mr. President.

And I think Metro has brought us together, sometimes to get along and sometimes to fuss, but it's brought us together. And it has meant a great deal, I think, to all of us, to the community, and means a great deal to the future.

I want to just make a special word. We wanted this bill passed this year. I do not think this bill would have been passed this year if it had not been for the work and the effort of this administration and this President. They did it; they did it in a very real way.

I'd like for all of us that have just a special thing with regard to Metro, with what it will bring to our community, to say in unison, "Thank you, Mr. President."

THE GROUP. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Mac, would you like to say something?

SENATOR MATHIAS. Well, thank you, Mr. President. I think Herb has expressed the appreciation that all of us have. We know that it's a tough time to allocate $1.7 billion to a project which affects one city. But we felt that it did affect more than one city, one community, that this is a symbol of what this Nation is doing to improve life in urban America, to meet the crisis in energy, and that we have wrapped up in the act, which you have completed today, a piece of legislation which is important to all Americans everywhere. And we appreciate your very prompt action in making it a law.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Mac. Paul?

SENATOR SARBANES. Well, thank you, Mr. President. I want to pick up on one thing you said. This is for this metropolitan area, and it's an enormously important day for the people of the Washington metropolitan area. Metro, I think, is probably the single most significant project we have in this area, and we're very grateful to you and the administration for your support of this legislation, for pushing it through.

But it ought not to stop here. And we want that windfall profits tax bill and the revenues that are in that legislation, which will help to make it possible to have comparable systems to Metro in other major metropolitan areas of the country. So, we see this as not the end of something, but the beginning of bringing mass transit across the country. We see the Secretary of Transportation here. We're very pleased that he's present. We assured our colleagues in the Senate, as a matter of fact, that this was not going to be the end, but the beginning, to try and solve their mass transit problems as well.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Paul. Gladys?

REPRESENTATIVE SPELLMAN. Mr. President, today is really a dream come true. As I said to some of my colleagues, many people who go into the stations see just beautiful, beautiful stations representing Metro, but those of us who worked on it from its very inception see it in all of its components, every little thing that had to go into place.

But the most remarkable thing of all was the fact we were able to get the States of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia all working together in a compact and all working together for the common good. We were able to sublimate our own little special pet projects in order to work together, in order to make the whole system jell.

And to have a President come in at this point who understands all that went on before and understands the need for making this project whole at a time when there was talk of truncating the system is, I think, the culminating aspect of it all. It's just a dream come true, and you've made that dream come true. We thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Knowing everything that had gone on before, it was not one of the most delightful experiences. [Laughter]

I'm particularly glad that—Joe, would you say a word? And then I'm going to call on local Washington officials. Joe Fisher.

REPRESENTATIVE FISHER. Thank you, Mr. President. This, of course, is a great day for more than 3 million people Who live in this region and many, many more Americans who come here every year to visit.

And I suppose the completion of this Metro, which you've now put on the track, is the biggest thing that can happen to this region since, well, since the Civil War, I guess; only this is a happy event, and that one wasn't. [Laughter] So, thank you very much, and all of us here are just delighted with the outcome.

THE PRESIDENT. I thought you were going to say since the 1976 election. [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE FISHER. That too; that too.

THE PRESIDENT. Mike?

REPRESENTATIVE BARNES. Thank you, Mr. President. I'm new to this. Unlike Gladys Spellman, I haven't been serving in public office for so many years. I came into this fight just a year ago when Herb called us together on the Hill, and it was a very depressing meeting. Really, I don't think anyone in that room, save perhaps Herb, thought that we were going to get this— [laughter] —thought that we were going to have this bill on your desk this
soon.

It was a remarkable victory, and what achieved it was the teamwork of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, committed to working together. And it was a very exciting thing for me in my first year in Congress to be a part of, and I am really honored to be here today to witness your signature on this bill.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.

I'm going to ask the Mayor to wait until last and let him sum it up, because he's the guest of honor and the man of honor today. But I'm very particularly grateful to have Walter Washington here. He was the Mayor when a lot of this work was done. Walter, thank you for coming.

MR. WASHINGTON. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. And Walter Fauntroy, would you say a word? I know how hard you've worked on this. You are welcome to come down if you like.

DELEGATE FAUNTROY. No. I simply want to reiterate the words of Herb Harris in gratitude to you and the administration for having brought to fruition the dream of the instructive example of what we have to do in our regions, working together, city and suburb together, black and white together, to fashion creative solutions to not only transportation problems but, as you pointed out in your statement, the problems of quality air and water. And for that we are eternally grateful to you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Chuck Robb, would you say a word?

LT. GOV. ROBB. Mr. President, I would just add our own congratulations to you and the administration and to Herb and to let you know that those of us who are going to be heading down to Richmond shortly know that we have our work cut out for us in terms of our component. [Laughter] I hope that this will add renewed enthusiasms to our efforts on behalf of this entire project in the General Assembly, which convenes next week.

REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS. Go and pass the bill. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Mayor Barry, would you come on down, so the mikes can pick it up better? And I would like for you to—is there anyone else that has an uncontrollable urge to say a few words? [Laughter.] There are so many people here who have worked so hard on this project and who deserve recognition, and I know that they would all like to speak and add their congratulations to those who've been successful in it.

But I'd like to close by asking Mayor Marion Barry to say a word representing this great city.

MAYOR BARRY. Thank you, Mr. President. Let me say this is a great day for all of us in terms of Metro and transportation. And the District is totally committed. In fact, we have transferred over a billion dollars of our own highway trust moneys into this system. We're prepared to transfer another three or four hundred million dollars that's left over from our freeway system. That's how committed we are to this.

Also, this project has enabled Herb Harris and myself to forget about our differences about the nonresident income tax— [laughter] . So now Herb can ride the Metro on over the Orange Line, and we can get back into our discussions about the nonresident income tax.

REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS. I heard you, Mayor. We forgot about that. [Laughter]

MAYOR BARRY. But it's really been great—the region working together, the State of Maryland, the Congress, the Governors, the local representatives. And this is really an example of what we can do, working with the Federal sector, the private sector, the local governments to make this region a better place for all of us to live.

So, I'm just delighted to be here. And I occasionally ride Metro myself, so that fare card was not new to me. So, Mr. President, thank you very much for your support and your help in making sure that we can complete our system. When businesses come here, they look at that as an example of what can happen. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, and congratulations.

Note: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 3951 is Public Law 96184, approved January 3.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the National Capital Transportation Amendments of 1979 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249627

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