Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act

September 30, 1965

Mr. Vice President, Members of the Congress, distinguished guests:

Last March I suggested to the Congress that the time has come to do something about improving the speed and the convenience of ground travel in this United States of ours. I requested authorization for the Commerce Department to undertake a program of research and development.

Many suggestions of this nature had emanated in the Congress itself and I had spent weeks reviewing and giving thought to these proposals.

The Congress responded to that suggestion by passing the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act, which I will sign this morning in the presence of the men who are really responsible for it.

I am pleased to observe that we are indebted for this bill to the hard working, intelligent Members of what is, in my opinion, one of the best Congresses in the history of this country. The names of those who devoted long hours and hard thought to this legislation are obviously too numerous to mention. But history could be recorded and preserved if the cameras would take pictures of all of them sitting out here this morning.

I do personally want to thank each and every one of you for your contribution in this field, particularly Senator Pell, who harassed me week after week until he got me to take some action.

In recent decades, we have achieved technological miracles in our transportation. But there is one great exception.

We have airplanes which fly three times faster than sound. We have television cameras that are orbiting Mars. But we have the same tired and inadequate mass transportation between our towns and cities that we had 30 years ago.

Today, as we meet here in this historic room where Abigail Adams hung out her washing, an astronaut can orbit the earth faster than a man on the ground can get from New York to Washington. Yet, the same science and technology which gave us our airplanes and our space probes, I believe, could also give us better and faster and more economical transportation on the ground. And a lot of us need it more on the ground than we need it orbiting the earth.

So I hope this meeting this morning will provide a platform for us to get that kind of transportation. We must do it. We must start getting it now. In the past 15 years, travel between our cities has more than doubled. By 1985--only 20 years away--we will have 75 million more Americans in this country. And those 75 million will be doing a great deal more traveling.

So, we must find ways to move more people, to move these people faster, and to move them with greater comfort and with more safety.

This bill is a first step toward accomplishing some of those objectives.

It will help us to determine what kind of high-speed ground transportation people want, what kind of transportation they will use if it is available. The Secretary of Commerce, in cooperation with private industry, is now authorized to test the public response by making trial improvements in existing passenger systems.

Today, I announce the first of those tests.

Secretary Connor informs me that he has already received scores of designs and operating suggestions for a new railroad passenger car which he wants to try out. These suggestions have come to him from private industry. They are produced at no cost to the Government. And as a result of the enthusiastic cooperation, the Department of Commerce and the participating railroads expect to have completed their final specifications sometime within the next 2 weeks.

Thus, we can begin taking bids for the construction of these new experimental rail passenger cars just as soon as we can make the funds available. The first of these cars are expected to be delivered by the fall of 1966. At that time, the Pennsylvania Railroad will begin providing rail service between New York and Washington, and between New York and Boston, at speeds up to 125 miles an hour.

Now, a similar experiment will be conducted on the New Haven Railroad, using gas turbine engines. That test will also begin in the fall of next year, or very shortly thereafter.

Research and development work under this program is not going to be limited to rail traffic alone. We will be investigating all the new and the promising concepts of high-speed ground travel. We may find that meeting the transportation needs of the coming decades requires some radical new techniques as yet unknown.

And I don't think that any of you who are participants in this Congress will ever earn the title of the "Status Quo Congress," because it hasn't been that kind of a body. You are thinking to the future, you are moving ahead, you are anticipating the problems of the 20th century, and you are finding solutions to them.

This High-Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 really gives us, for the first time in history, a coordinated program for improving the transportation system that we have today, and making it a better servant Of our people.

So we begin this morning to really plan the revolutionary advances of tomorrow.

And again, I think that each of you, members of both parties, Members of both Houses, who made your contribution to the passage of this legislation, in the years to come will be proud of the part you played.

I told Chairman Harris, who provided leadership in this movement, that we weren't going to let him leave the Congress and go back to put on the judicial robes in Arkansas until we had a rail system that would permit us to get to see him faster than we are now--and we are about to get it.

Note: The President spoke at 9:45 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. During his remarks he referred to Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, Secretary of Commerce John T. Connor, and Representative Oren Harris of Arkansas, Chairman of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee.

As enacted, the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 is Public Law 89-220 (79 Stat. 893).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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