© 2003 SAGE Publications
Reframing American Highway Politics, 1956-1995
Mark H. Rose
Florida Atlantic University
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of Congress approved the Federal-Aid Highway Act, launching the nation on a vast and expensive program of highway building. As part of this legislation, the federal government would finance 90 percent of the cost of constructing a national system of freeways, known popularly as the Interstate system. Control of highway building rested exclusively in the hands of state and federal highway engineers. In 1991, however, President George H. W. Bush and members of Congress approved the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 (ISTEA). Although the federal government would still pay most of the cost of highway building, day-to-day control of projects devolved into the hands of local politicians located in Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). Moreover, leaders of those MPOs were authorized to spend money not only on highways but also on bicycle paths, buses, and on projects dubbed "intermodal." In great measure, approval of the ISTEA represented another triumph of suburban politicians seeking federal funds and local control over their use. Both in 1956 and in 1991, federal officials had framed the institutional relationship that guided transportation politics and subsequent land uses.
Key Words: George H. W. Bush • devolution • highway engineer • Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act • ISTEA • Daniel Moynihan • Samuel Skinner • U.S. Department of Transportation.