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Transportation Achievements of U.S. Presidents

By Admin

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

Lincoln - Railroad


1926 – Federal Regulation of Aviation Safety

Calvin Coolidge, Republican

coolidge - airplane


1956 – Creation of the National Highway System

Dwight Eisenhower, Republican

eisenhower - interstate


1964 – Launch of Mass Transit for Urban Populations

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Democrat

kennedy johnson transit


1970 – Creation of Amtrak

 Richard Nixon, Republican



1982 – Increased Gas Tax to Revive Transportation Investments

Ronald Reagan, Republican

Reagan-gas tax


1998 – Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)

Bill Clinton, Democrat

clinton - bridges