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A Journey Through American Transportation: 1776 – 2016

For fifty years the Department of Transportation has been working to ensure that the nation’s transportation system is safe, efficient, accessible, and environmentally friendly. From aircraft, trains, buses, cars, and ships, to roads, bridges, highways, pipelines, and canals, the men and women of the Department are dedicated to making sure all Americans enjoy the freedom to travel for business and pleasure. This timeline depicts important policies and individuals who have ensured that freedom. Scroll by decade and click on entries to learn more.
  • First Attempt to Build a Canal in North America - January 1, 1680

    Francois Dollier de Casson, Superior of the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal, begins building a 1.5 m. (5 feet) deep canal to bypass the Lachine Rapids between Lake St. Louis and Montreal; he completes the canal in 1824.

  • First Canals Built on the St. Lawrence River - January 1, 1779

    The Canadian Royal Army Engineers start work on four small canals on the north shore of the St. Lawrence at Montreal to connect Lake St. Louis to Lake St. Francis. The canals are completed in 1783. Only 0.76 m (2.5 feet) deep, they had a total of five locks, each 1.83 m (6 feet) wide � the first ever built on the St. Lawrence River, and possibly in North America

  • First U.S. Toll Road - January 1, 1794

    The Lancaster Turnpike opens connecting Lancaster and Philadelphia, PA, providing travelers an easier route to the Northwest territory.

  • First Steamboat - January 1, 1807

    Robert Fulton demonstrates the practicality of steamboats, which makes it easier to transport people and products. Steamboats soon became important in the western trade.

  • Casson Canal - January 1, 1824

    The Casson Canal (now known as the Lachine Canal) links Montreal with Lake St. Louis. At the time it was 1.52 m (5 feet) deep and had seven locks.

  • Erie Canal - January 1, 1825

    The Erie Canal opens, creating an efficient and less costly way ship goods. The water route, dug by hand, results in an economic boom for the country. A number of canals are built between 1825 and 1840.

  • John Stevens, the Father of American Railroads - January 1, 1825

    In Hoboken, NJ, Colonel John Stevens demonstrates the feasibility of steam locomotives on a half-mile circular track on his estate. Five years later, Stevens forms the Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company.

  • B&O Railroad - January 1, 1827

    On February 28, the State of Maryland charters the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company (B&O), the first freight and passenger railroad to serve the American public.

  • Welland Canal - January 1, 1829

    On November 30, the schooner Ann and Jane completes the first transit of the partially completed Welland Canal. In 1833, the Welland Canal Company completes the canal - it is 43.5 km (27 miles) long, with 40 wooden locks.

  • Cornwall Canal - January 1, 1842

    The Cornwall Canal opens, built to bypass the Long Sualt rapids on the St. Lawrence River.

  • Beauharnois Canal - January 1, 1845

    The original Beauharnois canal links Lake St. Louis with Lake St. Francis on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. The Soulanges Canal replaces it in 1899. The present day Beauharnois opens in 1932 and is enlarged in the 1950s as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system.

  • First Woman Telegraph Worker - January 1, 1846

    Sarah Bagely is the first known woman telegrapher. She begins operating a telegraph on February 21, at the Lowell Mill rail depot in Lowell, MA.

  • Civil War Railroads - January 1, 1861

    The Civil War becomes the first major conflict in which railroads play a major role, Both sides in the conflict use trains to move troops and supplies.

  • Transcontinental Railroad - January 1, 1862

    In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railroad Act, which authorizes the construction of a new railroad line extending from Council Bluffs, IA, to Sacramento, CA. Under the legislation, the Central Pacific Railroad of California is authorized to build a rail line east from Sacramento and the Union Pacific Railroad Company is authorized to begin building a rail line west from Council Bluffs.

  • First Successful Oil Pipeline - January 1, 1865

    Samuel Van Syckel opens the nation's first successful commercial pipeline in northwestern PA. The five-mile long iron pipeline connects the town of Pithole to the Oil Creek railroad. A pipeline boom follows.

  • Automatic Coupler - January 1, 1868

    Eli Janney patents the automatic or "knuckle" coupler for railway cars.

  • Compressed-Air Brakes - January 1, 1868

    George Westinghouse invents the compressed-air brake for use on railway trains.

  • The Golden Spike - January 1, 1869

    On May 10, the first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Summit, UT, when the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad join together just six years after construction began.

  • Pneumatic Subway - January 1, 1870

    Alfred Beach opens a pneumatic subway under Broadway in New York City.

  • U.S. Time Zones - January 1, 1883

    As railroads reduced travel time between cities, the existence of a unique time zone in each community became a scheduling nightmare. Railroads often had to publish timetables with dozens of local time zones for a single train. To end the growing confusion, American and Canadian railroads agree to divide North America into four major time zones - creating dividing lines very similar to the ones still in use today. At high noon on November 18, railroads begin using the new time zone system, and in 1918, Congress formally adopts the railroad time zones as the official time code system of the United States.

  • Federal Regulation of Railroads - January 1, 1887

    Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act, which established the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate railroads and ensure fair prices.

  • Electric Streetcars - January 1, 1888

    Frank Julian Sprague puts the first electric streetcar into operation in Richmond, VA. Streetcars are eventually used in 850 American towns and cities.

  • Good Roads Magazine - January 1, 1892

    The League of American Wheelman publish the first edition of Good Roads magazine

  • National League for Good Roads - January 1, 1892

    In Chicago, more than 1,000 attend an organizational meeting of National League for Good Roads, designed to lobby for national road legislation. General Roy Stone is elected general vice president and acting secretary.

  • Office of Road Inquiry - January 1, 1893

    Congress establishes the Office of Road Inquiry in the Department of Agriculture to monitor road conditions.

  • Railroad Safety Act - January 1, 1893

    Railroad Safety Appliance Act requires air brakes and automatic couplers on all trains. This greatly reduces railroad worker injuries and deaths.

  • U.S.-Canada Deep Waterways Commission - January 1, 1895

    The first joint U.S.-Canadian Deep Waterways Commission is formed to study the feasibility of a Seaway. It is followed by an International Joint Commission in 1909.

  • Mail Delivery - January 1, 1896

    The first experimental routes for rural free delivery of mail are established in West Virginia.

  • Object Lesson Road - January 1, 1897

    General E. G. Harrison builds the first Object Lesson Road at the entrance to the New Jersey Agricultural College and Experiment Station in Brunswick, NJ. He constructs the road using the macadamized technique with layers of crushed stone, mixed with tar. He went on to build such roads in nearly every State east of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Steel Road - January 1, 1898

    Engineers built a demonstration section of a steel road at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, NE

  • International Good Roads Congress - January 1, 1900

    The Office of Road Inquiry hosts the international road community at the International Good Roads Congress at Port Huron, MI. Logan Waller Page opens a laboratory designed to test road materials.

  • Office of Road Inquiry - January 1, 1903

    Congress increases the Office of Road Inquiry funding to $30,000, and Director Martin Dodge sets up the first formal field structure, dividing the country into four divisions with a special agent in charge of each.

  • Wright Brothers - January 1, 1903

    On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in a self-propelled airplane.

  • Office of Public Roads - January 1, 1905

    The Department of Agriculture Office of Road Inquiry becomes the Office of Public Roads with an annual budget of $50,000 and 10 employees.

  • Oil Pipeline Regulation - January 1, 1906

    The Hepburn Act gives the Interstate Commerce Commission the authority to regulate oil pipelines.

  • Road Survey - January 1, 1907

    The first national road inventory is published (for 1904).

  • Ford Model T - January 1, 1908

    Henry Ford begins selling his Model T. The automobile is the first to be built using an assembly line.

  • International Association of Good Roads Congresses - January 1, 1908

    Office of Public Roads Director Logan Page heads the U.S. delegation to the First International Road Congress and helps create the Permanent International Association of Road Congresses.

  • Division of Highway Bridges and Culverts - January 1, 1910

    The Department of Agriculture establishes the Division of Highway Bridges and Culverts (later changed to the Bridge Division).

  • Federal road aid program - January 1, 1912

    Congress approves an experimental federal-aid program for post roads.

  • American Association of State Highway Officials - January 1, 1914

    The American Association of State Highway Officials begins operations

  • First Electric Traffic Signal - January 1, 1914

    The first electric traffic signal, invented by Garrett Morgan, begins operating in Cleveland, OH.

  • First Scheduled Airline - January 1, 1914

    On January 1, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line becomes the world's first scheduled airline. A one way fare costs $5.00. The airline closes on March 30.

  • Coast Guard - January 1, 1915

    President Woodrow Wilson signs the Act to Create the Coast Guard on January 28. The legislation combined the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service. The Coast Guard became part of the Treasury Department.

  • Federal Aid Road Act - January 1, 1916

    The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 establishes a federal-aid highway program with a 50 percent-50 percent, federal-state matching share.

  • United States Shipping Act - January 1, 1916

    The Shipping Act of 1916 creates the Shipping Board to protect American exporters and importers.

  • Coast Guard Transferred - January 1, 1917

    On April 6, the day the U.S. declared war on Germany, the Coast Guard was transferred to the U.S. Navy by Executive Order. The Coast Guard returned to the Treasury Department on August 28, 1919.

  • Railroads Nationalized - January 1, 1917

    President Woodrow Wilson nationalizes the railroads shortly after U.S. entry into World War I. The United States Railroad Administration manages the system until 1920, when Congress returns control to the railroad companies. The Railroad Administration ceases to exist on March 1, 1920.

  • Advisory Board on Highway Research - January 1, 1920

    The Bureau of Public Roads establishes an Advisory Board on Highway Research, which becomes the Highway Research Board in 1924, and then the Transportation Research Board in 1974.

  • Interstate Commerce Commission Expands Duties - January 1, 1920

    The Esch-Cummins Act (Railroad Transportation Act), signed into law in February 1920, substantially increases the Interstate Commerce Commission's powers over the railroads. The Commission now has powers to approve or reject railroad mergers, to set rates, to approve or reject abandonments of service, and additional oversight responsibilities.

  • Merchant Marine Act - January 1, 1920

    The Merchant Marine Act charges the United States Shipping Board with monitoring and responding to foreign laws, regulations, or practices that create conditions unfavorable to shipping in the foreign trade.

  • Federal Aid Highway Act - January 1, 1921

    The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1921 adds the system concept to the federal-aid highway program. Dr. L.I. Hewes opens the Western Headquarters Office of the Bureau of Public Roads to administer federal aid to highways and direct federal highway construction programs in 11 western states (and Alaska and Hawaii). At the Bureau's request, U.S. Army produces "Pershing Map," first map of roads of prime importance in event of war.

  • Transportation of Explosives Act - January 1, 1921

    The Transportation of Explosives Act of 1921 directed the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate shipments in interstate and foreign commerce. It was a railroad provision at first, but the Commission adopted regulations for transporting explosives by truck in the late 1930's.

  • Numbered Highway System - January 1, 1924

    The Bureau of Public Roads works with the states to create a U.S. numbered highway system for marking the main interstate highways.

  • Air Mail Act - January 1, 1925

    On February 2, the Air Mail Act, commonly known as the Kelly Act, becomes law. It provides for transportation of mail on the basis of contracts between the Post Office Department and individual air carriers, a system that helped stimulate America's fledgling airlines.

  • Air Commerce Act - January 1, 1926

    On May 20, President Calvin Coolidge signs the Air Commerce Act, which establishes federal control over civil aviation. The act instructs the Secretary of Commerce to foster air commerce, designate and establish airways, establish, operate, and maintain aids to air navigation (but not airports), arrange for research and development to improve such aids, license pilots, issue airworthiness certificates for aircraft and major aircraft components, and investigate accidents.

  • Railway Labor Act - January 1, 1926

    Congress passes the Railway Labor Act to settle disputes and avoid strikes.

  • Airline Certificate of Authority - January 1, 1930

    On May 15, in regulations effective on this date, the Department of Commerce requires airlines to obtain a certificate of authority to operate if they engage in interstate passenger service.

  • Gas Tax - January 1, 1932

    The first federal gas tax goes into effect at 1 percent per gallon.

  • Welland Canal - January 1, 1932

    Engineers complete the fourth Welland Canal: It is 43.5 km (27 miles) long, 7.62 m (25 feet) minimum depth. Eight locks raise ships a total of 99.36 m (326 feet). This is the first step in the completion of the modern Seaway.

  • Emergency Railroad Transportation Act - January 1, 1933

    President Franklin Roosevelt signs into law the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act. In addition to revising the ratemaking powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Act creates the Office of Federal Coordinator of Transportation, a post to which Joseph B. Eastman is appointed. It is a precursor of the wartime Office of Defense Transportation.

  • U.S. Shipping Board Bureau - January 1, 1933

    President Franklin Roosevelt signs an executive order that transfers the United States Shipping Board's function to the new Shipping Board Bureau in the Department of Commerce.

  • Bureau of Air Commerce - January 1, 1934

    On July 1, the name of the Aeronautics Branch changes to the Bureau of Air Commerce. At the same time, the title of the director of aeronautics is changed to director of air commerce. The new name more accurately reflects the duties of the organization, which enjoys the status of a bureau, but had not been so designated.

  • Pioneer Zephyer - January 1, 1934

    The first successful modern, streamlined, all stainless-steel train, the Pioneer Zephyr, begins service with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q).

  • Motor Carrier Act - January 1, 1935

    The Motor Carrier Act requires interstate, for-hire motor carriers to obtain a Federal license to operate ("operating authority"). The license creates a quasi-monopoly; it is limited to specific routes and commodities and it gives the holder the right to object if someone else applies for a license to offer competing service. Under the act, the Interstate Commerce Commission has authority set minimum and maximum rates for trucking services; it is illegal to charge less than the published rate.

  • Bureau of Motor Carriers - January 1, 1936

    The Interstate Commerce Commission establishes the Bureau of Motor Carriers to write and enforce truck safety rules. The new Bureau issues the first federal truck safety rules on December 23.

  • Federal Air Traffic Control - January 1, 1936

    On July 6, federal air traffic control begins as the Bureau of Air Commerce takes over operation of the three airway traffic control stations at Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland. When the Bureau assumes control of the centers, it hires fifteen center employees to become the original federal corps of airway controllers.

  • Maritime Commission - January 1, 1936

    Congress separates the Shipping Board Bureau from the Commerce Department,and creates the new United States Maritime Commission.

  • Civil Aeronautics Act - January 1, 1938

    On June 23, President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 into law. The act transfers federal responsibilities for non-military aviation from the Bureau of Air Commerce to a new, independent agency, the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The new organization includes the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). The CAB is responsible for issuing and overseeing aircraft and pilot certification and suspension, and the CAA is responsible for air traffic control, safety programs, and airway development.

  • Motor Carrier Act - January 1, 1938

    The Motor Carrier Act gives the Interstate Commerce Commission responsibility for trucking regulation.

  • Natural Gas Act - January 1, 1938

    The Natural Gas Act empowers the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with authority to conduct the review of proposed interstate natural gas pipelines, coordinate environmental and land use permitting with other federal and state agencies, and determine when a proposed pipeline meets the "public convenience and necessity."

  • Bureau of Lighthouses - January 1, 1939

    On July 1, 1939, under the President's Reorganization Plan No. 11, the Bureau of Lighthouses moved from the Department of Commerce to the Coast Guard.

  • Civilian Pilot Training Program - January 1, 1939

    On June 27, President Roosevelt signs the Civilian Pilot Training Act of 1939 into law. The act authorizes the CAA to conduct a program for the training of civilian pilots through educational institutions with the objective of providing sufficient training to prepare a student for a private pilot certificate. In what proves to be an important development for African Americans in aviation, the act contains a provision introduced by Representative Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) stipulating that "none of the benefits of training or programs shall be denied on account of race, creed, or color."

  • Indianapolis Experimental Station - January 1, 1939

    On May 29, CAA's Indianapolis Experimental Station opens with the mission of seeking improvements in ultra-high-frequency radio ranges, transmitters, receivers, instrument landing systems, airport lighting methods, and other air navigation aids.

  • Toll Roads and Free Roads Report - January 1, 1939

    A report to Congress on "Toll Roads and Free Roads" contains the first formal concept of the Interstate Highway System.

  • Civil Aeronautics Authority Split - January 1, 1940

    On June 30, President Roosevelt splits the Civil Aeronautic Authority into two agencies, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). The CAA is responsible for air traffic control, safety programs, and airway development. The CAB is entrusted with safety rulemaking, accident investigation, and economic regulation of the airlines.

  • Pennsylvania Turnpike - January 1, 1940

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike Opens

  • Coast Guard Transfer - January 1, 1941

    On November 1, 1941, by Executive Order, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Navy.

  • First Women Air Traffic Controllers - January 1, 1941

    The Civil Aeronautics Administration begins hiring and training women to be air traffic controllers. By late 1942 women comprise approximately 40 percent of the controller trainees.

  • Washington National Airport - January 1, 1941

    On June 16, CAA officially opens Washington National Airport for full-time operations.

  • Coast Guard Women's Reserve - January 1, 1942

    Legislation signed on November 23, creates the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Auxiliary.

  • Federal Aid Highway Act - January 1, 1944

    The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 approves the 64,000-kilometer "National System of Interstate Highways" and establishes a federal-aid secondary system of principal secondary and feeder roads.

  • CAA Aeronautical Center - January 1, 1946

    On March 15, CAA announces the selection of Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, OK, for the location of its new aeronautical center for training and maintenance. The agency relocates the Standardization Center in Houston, TX, the general aircraft maintenance base for the Midwest, and the Signals Division School, and plans eventually to move all federal airways schools and similar agency activities to this central location.

  • Coast Guard Returned to Treasury Department - January 1, 1946

    An Executive Order signed on January 1, returned the Coast Guard to the control of the Treasury Department.

  • Philippine Roads - January 1, 1946

    The Bureau of Public Roads establishes an office in Manila to begin improving war-damaged roads in the Philippine Islands.

  • St. Lawrence Seaway - January 1, 1949

    Public interest in a deeper waterway on the St. Lawrence River and increased trade pressures lead to a joint Canadian-U.S. Deep Waterways Commission to again study the feasibility of what will eventually become the St. Lawrence Seaway.

  • Federal Highway Act - January 1, 1950

    The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1950 requires states to hold public hearings for projects bypassing cities or towns.

  • Federal Maritime Board - January 1, 1950

    The regulatory programs of the Maritime Commission transfer to the new Federal Maritime Board within the Department of Commerce.

  • Highway Capacity - January 1, 1950

    The Bureau of Public Roads publishes the first edition of the Highway Capacity Manual.

  • St. Lawrence Seaway Authority Act - January 1, 1951

    The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority Act and the International Rapids Power Development Act allow Canada to begin navigation work on the Canadian side of the river from Montreal to Lake Ontario, as well as in the Welland Canal. At the same time, a joint U.S. Canadian project begins power work in the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence. The U.S. also begins work on the Wiley-Dondero Canal that will bypass the International Rapids.

  • Federal Aid Highway Act - January 1, 1952

    The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 authorizes the first funding specifically for an interstate highway system.

  • The Seaway Act - January 1, 1954

    Parliament establishes the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, with the mandate to acquire lands for, construct, operate, and maintain a deep draft waterway between the port of Montreal and Lake Erie, along with the international bridges that cross it and other lands and structures. The United States joins Canada on the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway with the passage of the Wiley-Dondero Act (or Seaway Act) on May 13. The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) is also created by the law.

    The cost of the navigation project is $470.3 million, of which Canada will pay $336.5 million and the U.S. $133.8 million. Work on the Seaway begins in September. Four Montreal-area bridges are modified without disrupting traffic, new channels are dug, and existing ones dredged. Excavators uncover rock formations so tough that new methods and stronger machinery are needed. The related power development will flood 259 square km (100 square miles); land is expropriated and entire communities resettled. Some 6,500 people are moved to new homes and some 550 dwellings are transported to waiting foundations in the new Ontario towns of Long Sault, Ingleside, and Iroquois.

  • AASHO Road Test - January 1, 1955

    The Bureau of Public Roads endorses the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) Road Test. The test, a $27 million investment, studies the performance of highway pavement structures of known thickness under moving loads. The test studies both portland cement concrete and asphaltic concrete pavements and is completed in 1961.

  • Federal Aid Highway Act - January 1, 1956

    President Eisenhower signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act and Highway Revenue Act of 1956, creating the Highway Trust Fund and providing a mechanism for financing the interstate system.

  • Grand Canyon Mid-Air Collision - January 1, 1956

    On June 30, a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation and a United Air Lines DC-7 collide over the Grand Canyon, AZ, killing all 128 occupants of the two airplanes. The collision occurs while the transports are flying under visual flight rules in uncongested airspace. The accident dramatizes the fact that, even though U.S. air traffic had more than doubled since the end of World War II, little had been done to expand the capacity of the air traffic control system or to increase safeguards against midair collisions. The accident leads directly to legislation creating the Federal Aviation Agency.

  • Intermodal Containers - January 1, 1956

    Malcolm McLean launched the world's first intermodal container service between Newark, NJ, and Houston, TX.

  • Federal Aviation Act - January 1, 1958

    On August 23, President Eisenhower signs the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 into law, creating the independent Federal Aviation Agency. Retired Air Force General Elwood "Pete" Quesada becomes the first head of the new agency on November 1, and the agency begins operations on December 31.

  • St. Lawrence Seaway - January 1, 1958

    The new Iroquois Lock is in regular use by May. On July 4, the Snell and Eisenhower Locks built by the U.S. at Massena, NY, are opened and the power is switched on at the international Moses-Saunders generating station. The four-year construction deadline has been met almost to the day.

  • St. Lawrence Seaway Complete - January 1, 1959

    The St. Lawrence Seaway opens along the Canada and U.S. borders, allowing increased ship traffic between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. On April 25, the icebreaker "D'Iberville" begins the first through transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway, officially opened by Queen Elizabeth and President Eisenhower on June 26. Dedication ceremonies are held June 27 in Massena, New York, and involve the Queen and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.

  • Armed Guards on Civil Airliners - January 1, 1961

    On August 10, for the first time, the Federal government employs armed guards on civilian planes to deter hijackings. The guards are border patrolmen from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

  • Independent Maritime Commission and Maritime Administration - January 1, 1961

    President John F. Kennedy, under Reorganization Plan No. 7, establishes the independent Maritime Administration to promote America's merchant marine and oversee an emergency reserve of cargo ships for use in times of conflict. The Maritime Commission has the lead in updating the nation's transportation regulations

  • Urban Mass Transit Act - January 1, 1964

    The Urban Mass Transit Act, creates the Urban Mass Transit Administration, and for the first time, provides federal subsidies to public transit agencies for mass transit projects.

  • Department of Transportation Act - January 1, 1967

    On October 15, President Johnson signs the Department of Transportation Act, which creates the new cabinet-level department with five operating elements: the Federal Aviation Administration (previously the independent Federal Aviation Agency); the Federal Highway Administration; the Federal Railroad Administration; the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation; and the U.S. Coast Guard. The DOT Act also created within the new Department a five-member National Transportation Safety Board. The new Department began full operations on April 1, 1967.

  • First Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1967

    President Lyndon B. Johnson selects Alan S. Boyd as the first Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 16, 1967 to January 20, 1969.

  • Office of Pipeline Safety - January 1, 1968

    Congress creates the Office of Pipeline Safety to oversee and implement pipeline safety regulations. The office originally reports to the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration and, in 2004, it reports to the Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

  • Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization - January 1, 1968

    In January, a group of air traffic controllers in the New York area formed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). By the end of June, PATCO had a national membership of well over 5,000 FAA employees.

  • Second Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1969

    Richard Nixon selects John A. Volpe as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 22, 1969 to February 2, 1973

  • Federal Railroad Safety Act - January 1, 1970

    President Nixon signs into law the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, which extends DOT's role in fostering the safe operation of railroads, gives the Secretary authority over previously excluded areas such as track maintenance and equipment standards, and makes it possible for the Federal Railroad Administration to play a safety role more comparable to the FAA and the Coast Guard.

  • National Railroad Passenger Service Act - January 1, 1970

    By 1970, multiple forces had put pressure on the continued operation of passenger rail in the United States, including public subsidies for federal highways and outdated regulations on railroads. With numerous railroads facing bankruptcy, President Nixon signs the National Railroad Passenger Service Act. This legislation establishes the National Railroad Passenger Corporation to assume operation of inter-city passenger rail service that had been operated by private railroads. Amtrak begins service on May 1, 1971, serving 43 states with a total of 21 routes.

  • Passenger Screening - January 1, 1970

    On July 17, New Orleans' Moisant International Airport becomes the first U.S. airport to subject all passengers to the FAA-developed antihijacking screening system. The system is based on a behavioral profile used in conjunction with weapons detection by magnatometer.

  • Urban Mass Transit Assistance Act - January 1, 1970

    The Urban Mass Transit Assistance Act provides additional funding and new regulations on local governments for environmental impact analyses, public hearings, etc.

  • Transportation Safety Institute - January 1, 1971

    The Department of Transportation created the Transportation Safety Institute to assiist DOT modal administrations in accomplishing their mission-related training requirements.

  • Federal-Aid Highway Act - January 1, 1973

    President Nixon signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which provided funding for existing interstate and new urban and rural primary and secondary roads in the United States. It also funded a highway safety improvement program and allowed, for the first time, states to use Highway Trust Fund money for mass transit.

  • Third Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1973

    Richard Nixon selects Claude S. Brinegar as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from February 2, 1973 to February 1, 1975

  • White House Taping System Exposed - January 1, 1973

    On July 16, in public testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, FAA Administrator Alexander P. Butterfield discloses the existence of a White House audio taping system, a revelation that becomes instrumental in implicating President Nixon in the Watergate coverup.

  • Women Accepted into Coast Guard - January 1, 1973

    Legislation ended the Coast Guard's Women's Reserve as a separate entity, allowing women to be eligible for active duty in both the regular Coast Guard and the reserves. The Coast Guard also opened up its officer candidate program to women, the first service to do so.

  • Conrail - January 1, 1974

    President Nixon signs into law the Shoup-Adams bill, the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, which establishes a semipublic corporation, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), maintaining it with subsidies and loan guarantees.

  • National Speed Limit - January 1, 1974

    Congress imposes a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour by threatening to cut highway aid to state that do not comply. The regulation is repealed in 1995.

  • Fourth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1975

    President Gerald Ford selects William T. Coleman, Jr., as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from March 7, 1975 to January 20, 1977.

  • Hazardous Materials Transportation Act - January 1, 1975

    The 1975 Hazardous Materials Transportation Act greatly expands the range of hazmat regulation. Unlike most of safety regulations, hazmat rules apply to intra- as well as inter-state commerce.

  • Women Admitted to Coast Guard - January 1, 1975

    Legislation signed by President Gerald Ford required that women be admitted to the service academies. The Coast Guard Academy accepted its first women for the class entering in July 1975.

  • Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act - January 1, 1976

    The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act establishes zones of freedom, where the railroads could raise or lower their fares without ICC review.

  • Fifth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1977

    President Jimmy Carter selects Brock Adams as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 23, 1977 to July 20, 1979

  • Research and Special Programs Administration - January 1, 1977

    DOT established the Research and Special Programs Adminsitration to oversee hazardous materials transportation and pipeline safety, transportation emergency preparedness, safety training, and transportation research and development activities. The organization received statuatory authority on October 24, 1992.

  • Airline Deregulation - January 1, 1978

    On October 24, President Carter signs the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 allowing immediate fare reductions of up to 70 percent without CAB approval, and the automatic entry of new airlines into routes not protected by other air carriers.

  • Inpsector General Act - January 1, 1978

    On October 12, 1978, the Inspector General Act established twelve federal offices of Inspector General (OIG), inlcuding the Department of Transportation

  • Sixth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1979

    President Jimmy Carter selects Neil E. Goldschmidt as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from August 15, 1979 to January 20, 1981

  • Railroad Deregulation - January 1, 1980

    President Jimmy Carter signs into law the Railroad Regulatory Act, known as the "Staggers Act." It removes many federal restraints on the railroad industry, allowing it to reduce costs and increase flexibility. Rates and services could now be tailored to market conditions without central planning from Washington.

  • Trucking Deregulation - January 1, 1980

    President Jimmy Carter signs into law the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act, which allows trucking companies greater freedom over rates and other business decisions, while allowing for open entry of new trucking firms.

  • Air Traffic Controller Strike - January 1, 1981

    On August 3, nearly 12,300 members of the 15,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike, beginning at 7 a.m., EST, grounding approximately 35 percent of the nation's 14,200 daily commercial flights. Shortly before 11 am, at an impromptu news conference, President Reagan issued the strikers a firm ultimatum: return to work within 48 hours or face permanent dismissal. The government moved swiftly on three fronts - civil, criminal, and administrative - to bring the full force of the law to bear on the strikers.

  • Maritime Administration - January 1, 1981

    The Maritime Administration moves from the Department of Commerce into the Department of Transportation.

  • Seventh Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1981

    Ronald Reagan selects Drew Lewis as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 23, 1981 to February 1, 1983

  • Bus Regulatory Reform - January 1, 1982

    Among other things, the Bus Regulatory Reform Act sets minimum insurance requirements for carriers transporting passengers in interstate commerce: $ 5 million for vehicles with seating capacity of 16 or more; $1.5 million for vehicles with capacity of 15 or less. The insurance rules do o't apply to school buses, taxicabs, commuter vans (15 passengers or less), and certain federally-funded transit services.

  • Surface Transportation Assistance Act - January 1, 1982

    The Surface Transportation Assistance Act directs DOT to create the National Network (NN) where States would be required to allow the operation of tractors with single and double trailers; it covers about 150,000 miles. It set minimum length limits on single trailers (48' or grandfathered length) and double trailers (28.5' per trailer in Western double configuration), with no overall length limit. The act authorizes the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). States agree to adopt and enforce parts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) against interstate carriers and to adopt and enforce regulations for intrastate carriers that are "compatible" with the FMCSRs and HMRs.

  • Eighth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1983

    Ronald Reagan selects Elizabeth H. Dole as Secretary of Transportation. She serves from February 7, 1983 to September 30, 1987

  • Highway Improvement Act - January 1, 1984

    The Highway Improvement Act threatens to cut aid to states that don't raise their alcohol drinking ages to 21. South Dakota challenged the regulation, but a 1987 Supreme Court decision sided with the federal government and approved the law�even though the 21st Amendment to the Constitution gave the states the power to regulate alcohol.

  • Motor Carrier Safety Act - January 1, 1984

    The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 was the first broadly discretionary truck safety bill in nearly half a century. It focused on drivers, owners and operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) - vehicles with a GVW or GVWR of 10,001 pounds and up, plus vehicles hauling placardable quantities of hazmat, and vehicles with 16 or more passengers (including driver); but only if they operate in interstate commerce. The act was designed to ensure that (1) CMVs are maintained, equipped, loaded and operated safely; (2) the responsibilities imposed on CMV drivers do not impair their ability to operate vehicles safely; (3) the physical condition of CMV drivers is adequate to enable them to operate CMVs safely; and (4) the driving of CMVs does not have a deleterious effect on the physical condition of the drivers.

  • Ocean Shipping Industry Deregulated - January 1, 1984

    The Shipping Act modestly deregulates the ocean shipping industry. Further reforms are made in the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, although the shipping industry still receives various federal subsidies and protections.

  • Railroad Safety Rules - January 1, 1985

    Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole announces new safety rules for the railroad industry that l prohibits railroad employees from reporting to work impaired by alcohol or drugs and using or possessing these substances while at work.

  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Act - January 1, 1986

    The Commercial Vehicle Safety Act establishes the commercial driver's license (CDL) requirement for interstate and intrastate operations.

  • Metropolitan Washington Airports Act - January 1, 1986

    On October 30, President Reagan signs Public Law 99-591, including Title VI, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986 authorizing the transfer of control of Washington National and Dulles International Airports to an independent regional authority under a 50-year lease. On June 7, 1987, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) takes over management of National and Dulles airports from FAA.

  • Conrail Privatized - January 1, 1987

    After a federal investment of some $7 billion, Conrail is privatized in what - at that time - became the largest share offering in U.S. history as investors pay $1.65 billion to buy shares in the railroad.

  • Ninth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1987

    President Ronald Reagan selects James H. Burnley, IV, as Secretary of Transportation. He served from December 3, 1987 to January 20, 1989

  • Drug Testing - January 1, 1988

    FHWA adopts reasonable cause, pre-employment, biennial, random and post-accident drug testing requirements for drivers who operate CMVs in interstate commerce.

  • Tenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1989

    President George H. W. Bush selects Samuel K. Skinner as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from February 6, 1989 to December 13, 1991

  • Federal Transit Administration - January 1, 1991

    The Urban Mass Transit Administration became the Federal Transit Administration with the Department of Transportation.

  • Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act - January 1, 1991

    The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) imposes new planning and regulatory requirements on states and cities, while increasing the diversion of highway gas tax money to nonhighway uses. The act authorized the creation of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics amd the Office of Intermodalism within the Department of Transportation.

  • Passenger Facility Charges - January 1, 1991

    On May 22, FAA issues a rule under which the agency could authorize airports to impose passenger facility charges (PFCs) to finance airport-related projects, in accordance with the Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act. On January 31, 1992, FAA announces its first PFC program approval, which authorized Savannah International Airport to begin collecting a $3 fee on July 1.

  • The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Office - January 1, 1991

    The Department of Transportation created the Intelligent Transportation System Joint Office within the Federal Highway Adminsitration to oversee DOT's multimodal intelligent transportation research systems initiatives.

  • Eleventh Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1992

    President George H. W. Bush selects Andrew H. Card as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from February 24, 1992 to January 20, 1993

  • Interstate Highway System Completed - January 1, 1992

    The Interstate Highway System is completed with the opening of the I-70 near Denver. The system ends up costing three times what was originally estimated, when measured in inflation-adjusted dollars.

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) - January 1, 1993

    On December 17, Continental Express begins the first FAA-approved use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for non-precision airport approaches in operations at Aspen and Steamboat Springs, CO.

  • Twelfth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1993

    President Bill Clinton selects Federico Pena as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 21, 1993 to February 14, 1997

  • High Speed Rail Initiative - January 1, 1994

    President Bill Clinton signs the Swift Rail Development Act of 1994, providing for national high-speed rail initiatives.

  • Railroad Safety - January 1, 1994

    Secretary of Transportation Federico Pe�a convenes the first-ever U.S. Rail Summit, which focuses on safety and the prevention of accidents, allowing DOT officials to raise the awareness of the general public on grade-crossing and trespasser safety.

  • Interstate Commerce Commission Sunset - January 1, 1995

    President Bill Clinton signs into law the ICC Termination Act of 1995, bringing to a close, effective December 31, the nation's oldest regulatory commission. The ICC is replaced by the Surface Transportation Board which assumes responsibility for railroad economic regulation.

  • Amtrak Reform - January 1, 1997

    President Bill Clinton signs into law Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, providing money and dictating changes in Amtrak management practices to make it more competitive by the year 2000.

  • Thirteenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 1997

    President Bill Clinton selects Rodney E. Slater as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from February 14, 1997 to January 20, 2001

  • Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century - January 1, 1998

    President Bill Clinton signs the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which greatly increases highway spending.

  • Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act - January 1, 1999

    The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act creates FMCSA effective January 1, 2000, the second founding of the agency. Congress believed FHWA had given insufficient attention to motor carrier safety; a single-focus safety agency was needed

  • Aviation and Transportation Security Act - January 1, 2001

    On November 19, President George W. Bush signs into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107-71), which, among other things, calls for the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the Department of Transportation, to be responsible for transportation security.

  • Conrail - January 1, 2001

    The CSX Transportation System and the Norfolk Southern Railroad jointly acquire Contrail.

  • Fourteenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 2001

    President George W. Bush selects Norman Y. Mineta as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 25, 2001 to August 7, 2006.

  • FAA Chief Operating Officer - January 1, 2003

    On June 10, Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announces the selection of Russell G. Chew as the FAA's first air traffic organization (ATO) chief operating officer (COO).

  • U.S. Coast Guard - January 1, 2003

    The Coast Guard formally transfers from the Department of Transportation to the newly-created Department of Homeland Defense.

  • First Federally-Licensed Suborbital Rocket Flight - January 1, 2004

    On April 1,FAA issues the world's first license for a sub-orbital manned rocket flight.

  • Next Generation Air Transportation System - January 1, 2004

    On January 27, in a luncheon speech to the Aero Club of Washington, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta announces plans for a new, next generation air transportation system with expanded capacity to relieve congestion, prevent gridlock, and secure America's place as global leader in aviation's second century.

  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration - January 1, 2004

    George W. Bush signs the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act of 2004, which, among other things, creates the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The new agency has responsibility for developing and enforcing regulation for the safe operation of the country's 2.6 million mile pipeline infrastructure.

  • Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Improvement Act - January 1, 2005

    The Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Improvment Act established the Research and Innovative Technology Adminsitration with the Department of Transportation. The new agency incorporated the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Office of Research, Development and Technology, the Office of Intermodalism, the John A. Volpe National Transportation System Center, the Transportation Safety Institute, and the Intelligent Systems Joint Program Office.

  • Fifteenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 2006

    President George W. Bush selects Mary E. Peters as Secretary of Transportation. She serves from October 17, 2006 to January 20, 2009

  • New DOT Headquarters - January 1, 2007

    In the spring 2007, the Department of Transportation moved into its new heaquarters in Southeast Washington, DC

  • Spaceport America - January 1, 2008

    On December 15, FAA issues a launch site license to the New Mexico Spaceport America. The 16,000-acre site is the first launch facility built for passenger space flights.

  • Sixteenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 2009

    President Barack Obama selects Ray H. LaHood as Secretary of Transportation. He serves from January 23, 2009 to July 2, 2013

  • TIGER Grants - January 1, 2009

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included a discretionary grant program called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER). The grants are designed to incentivize development to better environmental problems and reduce U.S. dependence on energy. Grants issued by the Department of Transporation focues on surface transportation projects.

  • Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act - January 1, 2012

    President Barack Obama signed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The funding and authorization bill governms federal surface transportation spending. The act reforms the environmental review process, reduces and consolidates bicyle and pedestrian transportation into a program called Transportation Alternatives, mandates development of a national freight policy, reforms tolling on federal highways, and gives electronic toll collection facilities until October 1, 2016, to establish a nationwide interoperability agreement.

  • Seventeenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 2013

    President Barack Obama selects Anthony R. Foxx as Secretary of Transportation. He begins his tenure on July 2, 2013

  • Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology - January 1, 2014

    The Research and Innovative Technology Administration became the new Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Techology per language in the 2014 Omnibus spending bill.

  • Eighteenth Secretary of Transportation - January 1, 2017

    President Donald J. Trump selects Elaine L. Chao as Secretary of Transportation. She is sworn in on January 31, 2017.

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