Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Highway Bill

August 13, 1964

Members of the Congress, the Cabinet, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a very welcome occasion for me. With this legislation, we are helping to do justice for the most important but often the most neglected member of our society--the American motorist.

For much too long, the man who owns and drives an automobile has been treated like a stepchild. We require him to pay for the highways he uses and we require him to pay in advance. We divert his taxes to other uses but we delay the building of the roads that he deserves. We denounce him for getting snarled in traffic jams not of his own making. We complain about what he costs us but we never thank him for what he adds to the worth and the wealth of our economy. We could not get along without him, but we often talk as though we can't live with him.

I hope and I believe that our attitudes are changing. Today, as never before, the Federal, State, and local governments are working together to meet the highway needs of this Nation on wheels.

They are working together largely because of the leadership of dedicated men of both parties whom you see around this Cabinet table this morning.

I hope you picture men get a good picture of everyone in this room because I think this is a red-letter day in the lives of a good many of us.

Eight years ago, in 1956, we set out on a 16-year program to catch up with ourselves-catch up through the Federal Interstate Highway System. This has been described as the most ambitious highway program since the days of ancient Rome. it was my privilege then to guide that program to passage as Senate majority leader. In every respect it has met our hopes. It has put more than one million Americans to work. It is already saving 3,000 lives a year and by 1972 it will be saving 8,000 lives a year.

It is saving dollars--$6 billion in user benefits last year; $11 billion a year 8 years from now; and the program is not costing the General Fund of the United States Treasury a single cent.

This legislation here today serves still another need. It helps to provide us better primary and secondary highways on a 50/ 50 basis with the States. In addition, it will support needed efforts to improve forest highways, public land roads and national park roads, and other such purposes.

The American people have never been compromised, have never been contaminated by riding over roads and highways that are partially financed by Federal aid.

This is one of our best investments, and I think most of the informed leaders of this country will agree on that point.

I might just mention this one additional point. If we add together all the tangible assets of this Government of the United States, including our share of investment in public highways and roads, that balance sheet would show that our assets far exceed our national liabilities.

Republicans as well as Democrats are working for and with a solvent, sound, and successful institution here at the seat of the Government of these United States.

I say this, this morning, because I want the American motorist to know that things aren't so bad that we must sell off our public roads to the highest bidder in order for Uncle Sam to stay liquid.

Note: The President spoke shortly after 10 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1964 is Public Law 88-423 (78 Slat. 397).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Highway Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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