Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the Urban Mass Transportation Act

July 09, 1964

Ladies and gentlemen:

I am very pleased to be able to sign today the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964.

This is by any standard one of the most profoundly significant domestic measures to be enacted by the Congress during the 1960's.

I very especially want to congratulate all of you who have done so much to assure the passage of this long-needed, long-awaited, landmark legislation.

Our Constitution empowered Congress to provide for post roads. Since that time, congressional support of transportation has been a major constructive influence on the progress and development of our American society and our American economy.

In the last century, such support of transcontinental railroads and canals and river navigation gave immeasurable impetus to our expansion. Now, in this century, sound congressional policies in support of both highways and airways for automobile and airplane travel has given incalculable momentum to American progress.

This new act that all of you have contributed to passing remains faithful to this tradition of vision.

Only a very short time ago, six out of ten Americans lived in rural areas--six out of ten Americans in rural areas. As we meet here today, seven out of ten live in urban areas. The change has come rapidly and has come dramatically, and today urban congestion is an unpleasant fact of everyday life for too many millions of Americans.

All of us recognize that the curses of congestion in commuting cannot be wiped away with the single stroke of a pen, or 50 pens that we have here. But we do know that this legislation that we are coming to grips with faces the realities of American life and attempts to put in motion a movement to do something about it.

It is symbolic of the challenge facing us that most Americans today travel to and from work over city street patterns that were originally laid out by the horses which pulled our grandfathers' carriages.

We face a great task, publicly and privately, of catching up with our full potential and making life as good as it can be and making life as good as it should be for this generation of Americans.

This is a many sided challenge. We cannot and we do not rely upon massive spending programs as cure-alls. We must instead look to closer cooperation among all levels of government and between both public and private sectors to achieve the prudent progress that Americans deserve and that they expect.

I am very proud this morning to see some of America's most progressive mayors, who speak for large segments of our population, sufficiently interested and determined to provide vision and leadership in this field to come from faraway to participate in these ceremonies.

It is inspiring to me to know that some of the ablest chief executives of some of our best States have joined those mayors to come here in a local State-Federal undertaking that will provide leadership and provide vision for the people who have entrusted us with these responsibilities. I hope and I expect that this milestone measure will serve us as a beneficial forerunner of many other steps forward in meeting the present challenges of metropolitan life in America.

I remember regularly in the Congress we had an anniversary when we celebrated the first signing of the highway act. We brought rural free delivery to our people. I think in the years to come that you and your descendants will be very proud that you were part of the vision that provided this legislation.

For the fine work that the Congress has done, I want to commend them all. I especially want to commend Senator Sparkman and Congressman Rains and Senator Williams and Congressman Widnall of New Jersey. All of you have earned the special gratitude of your countrymen, especially those who live in urban areas, large or small, and I just want to make this prediction that when we sign this act today we will be taking one step--but only one of several-that this administration is prepared to take in the days ahead to face up to the problems of the urban areas of this country. We are determined that we will provide the vision and the leadership necessary and that they will no longer be a stepchild and be neglected by their Government in Washington.

Thank you for coming, and I hope we have enough pens here to serve you all.

Note: The President spoke shortly before noon in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his closing remarks he referred to Senators John Sparkman of Alabama and Harrison A. Williams. jr., of New Jersey, and to Representatives Albert Rains of Alabama and William B. Widnall of New Jersey.

The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 is Public Law 88-365 (78 Stat. 302).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the Urban Mass Transportation Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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