In today’s backward political climate, commonsense proposals designed to fund our transportation system and advance large public works projects have been set aside by a dangerous austerity agenda in Washington, D.C. that stunts economic growth, harms American competitiveness and hurts working people. The result? America can no longer boast the world’s best transportation system and infrastructure, as its elected leaders are missing an opportunity to reverse course and along the way rebuild our shrinking middle class.
It didn’t always used to be this way. Throughout our history we’ve seen landmark transportation infrastructure investment achievements – under both Democratic and Republican presidents – that for more than two centuries defined American innovation and transportation leadership. Yes, there were plenty of political fights and often sitting presidents had to be dragged across the finish line. And yes, political foes had to cut deals as President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich did in 1998 to enact a record expansion of highway and transit investments. Throughout history, as shown below, big things got done that modernized our economy and simultaneously expanded America’s middle class.
In honor of President’s Day, we’re highlighting a few landmark achievements in transportation, over which both Republican and Democratic presidents presided.
1862 – Transcontinental Railroad
Abraham Lincoln, Republican
1926 – Federal Regulation of Aviation Safety
Calvin Coolidge, Republican
1956 – Creation of the National Highway System
Dwight Eisenhower, Republican
1964 – Launch of Mass Transit for Urban Populations
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Democrat
1970 – Creation of Amtrak
Richard Nixon, Republican
1982 – Increased Gas Tax to Revive Transportation Investments
Ronald Reagan, Republican
1998 – Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)
Bill Clinton, Democrat