In Memory of President George H.W. Bush and His Transportation Legacy

Photo courtesy of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)

In December 1991, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) at a construction site on State Highway 360 in Euless, Texas. As Bush underscored in his remarks during the ceremony, ISTEA initiated the most sweeping and significant restructuring of U.S. surface transportation programs since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. The law strongly emphasized intermodalism and various means of transportation working efficiently together.

“This bill will launch the post-interstate era of America’s surface transportation system,” said Bush.” It will enable us to build and repair roads, fix bridges, and improve mass transit; keep Americans on the move, and help the economy in the process.”

After signing the bill into law, Bush continued to voice his strong support for ISTEA that same day at an afternoon meeting of the Policy Committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas. He also used the opportunity to underscore the day-to-day significance of transportation for Americans.

“This law will make a huge difference for all of us,” Bush proclaimed at that meeting of AASHTO officials. “It will help young fathers rush their wives to a delivery room. It will enable buses to ferry children safely and swiftly to school. It will help just-in-time manufacturers receive the parts they need when they need them. It will keep America where it belongs, in the passing lane.”

Bush had voiced a similar theme about six months earlier during a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden highlighting the provisions and priorities of ISTEA (still pending in Congress at the time). Others attending this ceremony included Hal Rives, AASHTO president and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation; and Francis B. Francois, AASHTO executive director.

During his remarks at that ceremony, Bush talked about AASHTO’s longtime efforts on behalf of a stronger nationwide transportation network. “No transportation partnership has endured so long or accomplished as much as the one between the federal government and AASHTO,” noted Bush. “Our organizations have worked together, I’m told, for 75 years now. We’ve helped turn a sprawling land knitted together by dusty back roads into a nation linked together by high-performance roads and highways.”

In 1992, Bush again cast a spotlight on the important role of transportation in his proclamation designating May 10 to 16 of that year as National Transportation Week. “Transportation is an essential part of America – its history, its culture, its security, and its progress,” he stated in the proclamation. “Our nation’s transportation system has not only enabled our citizens to enjoy unparalleled personal mobility but also encouraged the growth of industry and commerce, thereby strengthening our American heritage of freedom and prosperity.”

For more information on President George Bush’s signing of ISTEA into law in December 1991, please check out https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byday/fhbd1218.htm.

Additional information on Bush’s comments about AASHTO at the June 1991 White House Rose Garden ceremony is available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byday/fhbd0621.htm.

Bush’s proclamation for National Transportation Week in 1992 can be found in its entirety at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-6434-national-defense-transportation-day-and-national-transportation-week.

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