The development of America transportation infrastructure has formed the basis of our economic, political and social way of life.
Former Senator Robert Bennett has been an interested and astute witness to the history of the modern interstate highway system. In an engaging narrative at the UDOT Annual Conference, Bennett told how he began his political career working for President Lyndon B. Johnson as the Director of the office of Congressional Relations. The Department of Transportation was a “tinker toy box” of various components. His job was to put the office together.
During the time he worked in the Johnson Administration, he met Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would later become the Senator from New York. Moynihan was a great thinker, writer, statesman and historian. While some people believe the core changes in the modern American way of life were facilitated by later presidential administrations, Moynihan gave the credit for change to Eisenhower, said Bennett. By developing the interstate highway system, “Eisenhower changed America more fundamentally” than did Johnson or Kennedy.
Before the interstate highways, travel from state to state was largely accomplished on trains. “Wonderful four-lane highways” replaced train travel as people saw car travel as more convenient. As highways spread across the nation, goods became more readily available, people could be more mobile and the economy blossomed.
Bennett expressed his optimism for the economic and political future. He is looking forward to economic recovery and noted that transportation will be a part of the eventual economic upswing.
“One of the keys to recovery will be the economic contribution made by a good transportation system — intelligently planned, soundly built and properly maintained,” according to Bennett. “And that is the business you are in and I salute you for it.”