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Statement on Signing a Highway and Mass Transit Bill.

August 13, 1973

THE Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973, which I sign into law today, represents a significant extension and reform of the Federal highway program. As a consistent supporter of that program over the years and as a strong proponent of improvements in that program which are embodied in S. 502, I am particularly pleased to sign this legislation.

S. 502 continues the strong tradition of Federal-State cooperation in building American highways. But this act is not only a highway act. One of its most significant features is that it allows the Highway Trust Fund to be used for mass transit capital improvements. This landmark provision is one that I have urged for some time and one that I recommended with special emphasis in four different messages to the Congress earlier this year. Under this act, for the first time, States and localities will have the flexibility they need to set their own transportation priorities. The law will enable them at last to relieve congestion and pollution problems by developing more balanced transportation systems where that is appropriate rather than locking them into further highway expenditures which can sometimes make such problems even worse.

In addition to using the Highway Trust Fund to achieve these purposes, the act also allows State and local officials to substitute mass transit projects for certain urban interstate highway segments which are controversial and nonessential. The legislation also provides the $3 billion I requested for funding the Urban Mass Transportation Act.

S. 502 contains several other features which accord with important Administration objectives. It provides a new 3-year authorization for Federal-aid highways; it earmarks a portion of urban highway funding for areas with populations of more than 200,000; it cuts red tape and improves efficiency by giving more authority to the States and by increasing planning funds. I am pleased that the bill also designates several links of the interstate network forming a coast to coast route as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway, a fitting tribute to the father of the interstate highway system.

I regret that the Congress has exceeded my budget proposals in this bill and has included a number of special narrow categorical grant programs at a time when it is particularly important for us to trim back on the budget and the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, I am aware that funding levels have been cut back considerably from earlier versions of the bill, and i am gratified that certain other elements, particularly an anti-impoundment provision and mass transit operating subsidies, were eliminated from the final version. Altogether, I believe this act reflects a spirit of constructive cooperation between the Congress and the Administration, and I am confident that the act can be properly administered so as to not violate my commitment to a noninflationary budget.

The legislation I sign today represents an important forward step for our country, not only in providing for better and more balanced transportation but also in related fields such as environmental protection, highway safety, energy conservation, and community development. I am gratified that it includes important proposals to which I have long given high priority. I sign S. 502 with confidence that it will contribute significantly to the strength of our American economy and the quality of American life.

Note: The President signed the bill in a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House.

As enacted, S. 502, which includes the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 and the Highway Safety Act of 1973, is Public Law 93-87 (87 Stat. 250).

On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet and the transcript of a news briefing on provisions of the act by Claude S. Brinegar, Secretary of Transportation, and Melvin R. Laird, Counsellor to the President for Domestic Affairs.

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing a Highway and Mass Transit Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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