Skip to Main Content

US DOT History

A guide to the history of the US Department of Transportation

After the Establishment and Organization of DOT


August 7, 1789

Congress federalized existing lighthouses built by the colonies and appropriated funds for lighthouses, beacons, and buoys.

August 4, 1790

President George Washington signed into law a bill authorizing the construction on ten 50-foot, two-masted boats--to guard the coast against smugglers.

March 29, 1806

President Thomas Jefferson signed into law the first federal highway program, the National Road, which was to connect the new State of Ohio with the Eastern seaboard.

April 12, 1808

Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin issued his Report on “The Subject Of Public Roads And Canals”, the first official proposal of any branch of the Federal Government dealing with the planning of national transportation improvements.

October 26, 1825

New York Governor DeWitt Clinton officially opened the 83-lock Erie Canal, linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, departing from Buffalo aboard the Seneca Chief and arriving at New York harbor November 4.

July 4, 1828

in Baltimore, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, turned the first spade of dirt to dedicate the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. That same day, in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., President John Quincy Adams helped to dedicate the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

July 1, 1862

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railway Act, subsidizing the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was finished at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869.

January 12, 1874

Representative Laurin D. Woodworth (R-OH) introduced the first post-Civil War legislation to establish a federal bureau of transportation.

October 11, 1883

in Chicago, the General Time Convention, precursor to the American Railway Association, adopted four Standard Time Zones - Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific - for railroad service in the United States and Canada.

February 4, 1887

President Grover Cleveland signed into law the Interstate Commerce Act, which established a five-man Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate rates and tariffs on railroads. The DOT Act transferred such diverse issues as Safety and The Universal Time Act from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to the Department.

March 3, 1893

President Benjamin Harrison signed into law the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 1894, $100,000 of which will launch the Office of Road Inquiry, predecessor agency to the Bureau of Public Roads and Federal Highway Administration.


January 20, 1915

President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service into the United States Coast Guard.

July 11, 1916

President Wilson signed the Federal-aid Road Act, launching the Federal-aid highway program, with grants to the states for the construction of roads used to deliver the mail.

March 19, 1918

President Wilson signed the first Daylight Saving time legislation, a measure that also formally acknowledged the Standard Time Zones adopted by the 1883 General Time Convention

July 7, 1919

Colonel Dwight David Eisenhower joined the First Army’s transcontinental truck convoy from the “Zero Milestone” on the Ellipse just south of the White House, along the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. The trek lasted just shy of two months, averaging fifty-eight miles per day—and would shape Eisenhower’s thinking about the need for Interstate highways.

November 9, 1921

President Warren Gamaliel Harding signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1921, which established the basic federalist, cooperative arrangement for the Federal Highway Program for the remainder of the twentieth century.

December 15-16, 1924 

Secretary of Commerce Herbert Clark Hoover hosted the first-ever National Conference on Street and Highway Safety, bringing together auto manufacturers, insurance companies, and civil engineers to discuss the carnage resulting from car crashes - 23,000 perished in 1923.

May 20, 1926

President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Air Commerce Act, which placed the administration of commercial aeronautics under the Department of Commerce.

June 16, 1933

President Roosevelt signed the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act. In addition to revising the ratemaking powers of the ICC, the Act created the Office of Federal Coordinator of Transportation, a post to which Joseph B. Eastman was appointed, and a precursor of the wartime Office of Defense Transportation

August 8, 1935

President Roosevelt signed the Interstate Commerce Act of 1935, which provided authorization for the ICC Section on Motor Carrier Safety, the bureaucratic progenitor of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

June 26, 1936

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which established the U.S. Maritime Commission, a forerunner of the Maritime Administration, and called for direct subsidies covering differentials in both construction and operations.

January 12, 1937

President Roosevelt submitted to Congress the Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management. This "Brownlow Report" (for Chairman Louis Brownlow) was the first significant call for fundamental reorganization of the Executive Branch.

June 23, 1938

President Roosevelt signed into law the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, creating the Civil Aeronautics Authority, predecessor to the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Federal Aviation Agency.

December 18, 1941

Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, FDR once again summoned Eastman to the Nation's capital, this time to head the Office of Defense Transportation.

July 7, 1947

Congress passed, and President Harry S Truman signed legislation establishing the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, commonly referred to as the "Hoover Commission", whose work created the climate for the establishment of a Cabinet-level Department of Transportation.

February 5, 1949

The First Hoover Commission Report called for coordination of transportation activities, under the auspices of the Commerce Department. Truman would respond by putting the office of Under Secretary for Transportation in the Department of Commerce.



November 20, 1950

Commerce Department Order 128 established the Office of Transportation and the Transportation Council.

March 30, 1951

Commerce Department Order 128, as amended, abolished the Office of Transportation and established the Under Secretary for Transportation, with supervisory responsibility over transportation functions exercised by various departmental components.

May 13, 1954

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Wiley-Dondero Act, which created the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, a wholly owned government corporation, to construct, operate and maintain that part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Erie, within the territorial limits of the United States.

June 29, 1956

President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 and the Highway Revenue Act of 1956, authorizing the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, and creating the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

August 23, 1958

President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, establishing the Federal Aviation Agency (Administration, after the DOT Act passed), to take effect on January 1, 1959. In addition, the bill freed the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) from its administrative connections with the Department of Commerce.

June 26-27, 1959

On June 26, President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Queen Elizabeth and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon attended dedication ceremonies at Massena, New York, the following day.


July 14, 1960

President Eisenhower signed the National Driver Register Act into law.

May 1, 1961

Antulio Ramirez Ortiz perpetrated the first hijacking of a commercial airliner to Cuba.

June 26, 1961

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce issued a staff report on National Transportation Policy, commonly known as the Doyle Report, calling for, among other things, the establishment of a Department of Transportation.

June 30, 1961

President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Housing Act of 1961, which acknowledged, for the first time, a federal role in mass transportation by establishing the Office of Transportation within the Housing and House Finance Agency.

July 9, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, a three-year program of federal matching grants to help the states and localities provide adequate mass transportation for the nation's cities. 

October 19, 1964

A task force on transportation organization, headed by George W. Hilton and the Bureau of the Budget's Gordon Murray, advised President Johnson to establish a Department of Transportation.

June 30, 1965

Federal Aviation Agency administrator Najeeb E. Halaby recommended the establishment of a Cabinet-level department of transportation, of which the FAA would be an element.

July 1, 1965

During the swearing-in of General William F. McKee as Halaby's successor at the Federal Aviation Agency, President Johnson announced that the supersonic transport (SST) project was moving into the next stage, an 18-month detailed design phase.

August 12, 1965

White House Special Assistant Joseph A. Califano, Jr., asked the Commerce Department’s Under Secretary for Transportation, Alan S. Boyd, to chair a task force to look into combining government responsibilities for transportation problems by reorganizing those agencies that dealt with them.

August 25, 1965

President Johnson ordered across-the-board use of Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara's Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System throughout the Cabinet-level Departments and other Executive Branch agencies.

September 8, 1965

President Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing 25-mile, $431 million rapid transit system for the nation’s capital, capable of future expansion.

September 30, 1965

President Johnson signed into law the High-speed Ground Transportation Act, marking the first time that the Federal Government sought to promote high-speed ground transportation

October 22, 1965

President Johnson signed into law the Highway Beautification Act



January 12, 1966

In his State of the Union Address, President Johnson announced his intention to seek the establishment of the Department of Transportation.

January 14, 1966

The White House authorized the Zwick Task Force to prepare for transmittal to Congress the Administration bill that would establish a Cabinet-level Department of Transportation. They finished ten days later.

March 2, 1966

Proclaiming, "In a nation that spans a continent, transportation is the web of union,” President Johnson sent Congress a bill, which recommended that the United States reorganize its entire transportation policymaking apparatus and establish a Cabinet-level Department of Transportation. That same day, Representative Chet Holifield (D-CA) and Senator Warren G. Magnuson (D-WA) introduced that measure in the House and Senate, H.R. 13200 and S. 3010 respectively.

March 22, 1966

Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-CT) opened (continuing) hearings of the Subcommittee on Executive Reorganization, of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, on the Federal Role in Traffic Safety. These hearings were to look into charges that General Motors had conducted investigations of lawyer Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed (and a committee staffer) to discredit him and to undermine his charges that the American automobile industry had sacrificed safety for style. GM had, and its president, John P, Roche apologized to Nader. The Ribicoff hearings helped galvanize support for the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act, as well as the DOT Act.

March 29, 1966

The Senate Committee on Government Operations opened hearings on the DOT Act.

April 6, 1966

The Executive and Legislative Reorganization Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations opened hearings on the DOT Act.

April 13, 1966

President Johnson signed into law the Uniform Time Act. The DOT Enabling Act charged the Secretary of Transportation with the administration of this act. In turn, he delegated this authority to the Department's General Counsel.

September 9, 1966

President Johnson signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act, placing the Federal Government in the leadership role of a comprehensive national program to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on America's highways. The Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act required the establishment of federal safety standards for motor vehicles after the 1968 model year, as well as for tires.

October 15, 1966

President Johnson signed into law Public Law 89-670, establishing the Department of Transportation.

October 15, 1966

President Johnson signed into law the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which established both policy guidance and the machinery for intensified efforts at historic preservation, at the federal level. It established the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, with the Secretary of Transportation a member of that body.

October 18, 1966

President Johnson commissioned the Interagency Department of Transportation Task Force, under the leadership of the Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Paul E. Trimble, to put flesh and blood on the departmental skeleton--to provide for the Department’s establishment with a minimum of disruption.

November 6, 1966

President Johnson signed into law legislation creating the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

November 8, 1966

Declaring that he would be his “strong right arm on all transportation matters,” President Johnson nominated the Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation, Alan S. Boyd, to become the nation’s first Secretary of Transportation.

November 9, 1966

The National Traffic Safety Bureau and the National Highway Safety Bureau commenced operations in the Department of Commerce, under the direction of Dr. William J. Haddon, Jr. They would move to DOT on April 1, 1967, as a part of the Federal Highway Administration.

November 15, 1966

Congress passes Public Law (P.L. 89-670) establishing the Department of Transportation.

December 31, 1966

The FAA declared the Boeing Company and the General Electric Company winners of the supersonic transport (SST) project development program competitive design and study phase.


January 6, 1967

Secretary of Commerce John T. Connor appointed the first National Motor Vehicle Advisory Council.

January 16, 1967

Alan S. Boyd was administered the oath of office as the nation's first Secretary of Transportation. Simultaneously, the Interagency Department of Transportation Task Force adjourned, and many of its members left to take up tasks in the nascent Department of Transportation.

January 31, 1967

The Department issued the first twenty federal motor vehicle safety standards

February 1, 1967

The DOT seal--with a triskelion representing air, land, and sea–was adopted 

February 13, 1967

The Bureau of Public Roads announced its Traffic Operations Program to Increase Capacity and Safety (TOPICS). This will focus attention on and show the possibilities for improving urban transportation efficiency through operational improvements on major urban arterials.

March 16, 1967

The Acting Secretary of Commerce, Alexander B. Trowbridge, appointed the first National Highway Safety Advisory Committee.

March 30, 1967

President Johnson signed Executive Order 11340, prescribing April 1 as the date on which the Department of Transportation would take effect, officially bringing the new department into operation.

April 1, 1967

The new cabinet-level Department of Transportation officially opened for business. Celebrating the "Pageant of Transportation," dignitaries from DOT and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as representatives from the transportation industry and the public, gathered on the Mall for festivities to usher in the new department.

April 1, 1967

Secretary of Transportation Alan Boyd assumed responsibility for administering the High Speed Ground Transportation Program from the Department of Commerce.

April 4, 1967

Secretary Boyd created an Office of Noise Abatement within OST to begin a concerted effort to abate aircraft noise.

April 29, 1967

President Johnson announced that the U.S. SST development program would proceed into the prototype development phase.

May 27, 1967

Secretary Boyd established and appointed members of a Contract Appeals Board.

June 3, 1967

Secretary Boyd announced that under the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development, he was establishing "a central point for the development of a new urban transportation program” that will consider “the total needs of the city."

June 6, 1967

Executive Order 11357 consolidated the National Traffic Safety Agency and the National Highway Safety Agency into a single organization, the National Highway Safety Bureau, to set up a comprehensive safety program that would include motor vehicles, their operators, and the highways on which they travel.

June 27, 1967

To carry out the mandate of the Highway Safety Act, the Department issued the first thirteen national highway standards.

July 6, 1967

DOT established its Equal Opportunity Program, affecting department employment practices, services rendered to the public, and the employment practices of contractors and subcontractors..

September 1, 1967

The White House transferred the interagency aircraft noise abatement program from the Office of Science and Technology to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

September 20, 1967

Citing the rapid growth of commercial and private flying, President Johnson asked Secretary Boyd to develop a long-range, comprehensive plan for the facilities, equipment, and personnel required for a substantial expansion and improvement of the air traffic control (ATC) system.

December 15, 1967

The collapse of the Silver Bridge, connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Gallipolis, Ohio, killed 46 and led to the establishment of national bridge inspection standards under the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1968.

December 18, 1967

Secretary Boyd announced the formation of the Transportation Facilitation Committee, a group of government and transportation industry officials whose rationale is to simplify the movement of people and goods.



January 1, 1968

The first set of Federal motor Vehicle standards became effective.

January 4, 1968

The New York Metropolitan Controllers Association's (MCA) acting chairman, Michael J. Rock, brought attorney F. Lee Bailey to a meeting of MCA delegates, leading to the founding of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO).

January 15, 1968

The United States Supreme Court approved the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads.

February 1, 1968

The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads joined forces to launch the Penn Central Transportation Company.

February 21, 1968

A sustained wave of hijacking U.S. air carriers began when a fugitive aboard a Delta Air Lines DC-8 forced the pilot to divert to Havana, Cuba. During the next five months, skyjackers had diverted four additional U.S. airliners to the same destination.

March 12, 1968

Saying it “will assure that in the future, visitors to Washington will be given a proper welcome,” President Johnson signed into law the National Visitor Center Facilities Act of 1968, establishing a National Visitor Center at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

April 1, 1968

Hoisted for the first time, the DOT flag featured a white triskelion symbolizing motion and progress set against a red background.

July 1, 1968

Under the President's Reorganization Plan 2, President Johnson transferred most of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's mass transportation capabilities to DOT, establishing the Urban Mass Transportation Administration there.

July 3, 1968

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) proclaimed `Operation Air Safety,' a strategy by which controllers would maintain air safety by strictly observing the existing separation standards.

July 19, 1968

While air controllers were carrying out ‘Operation Air Safety’, faulty radar helped to delay two-thirds of all departures from New York’s airports by several hours, and to divert landings to as far away as Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington.

August 12, 1968

President Johnson signed into law the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, establishing a system under which the Department provided grants-in-aid to states enforcing either federal standards or their own, whichever is more stringent.

August 12, 1968

President Johnson signed into law the Architectural Barriers Act, which called for barrier-free design of certain buildings financed with federal funds.

August 23, 1968

President Johnson signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968. Where the Road Lobby sought to roll back Section 4(f) of the DOT Act, it put in place standards anticipating the Uniform Act of 1970 to recompense those whose property federal highway projects had displaced. While the bill included Congressional heavy-handedness regarding express highway construction in and around the District of Columbia, it likewise embraced legislative efforts to help cities explore alternatives on existing street systems, such as synchronized traffic signals, to massive highway construction projects.

September 10, 1968

To implement the just-passed Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, Secretary Boyd announced the establishment of the Office of Pipeline Safety.

December 14, 1968

An Office of Civil Rights was established in the Office of the Secretary.



January 15, 1969

The Civil Service Commission ruled that PATCO was an employee organization, not a professional society, because it had sought and obtained a dues-withholding agreement.

January 16, 1969

Metroliner service commenced between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

January 22, 1969

Former Massachusetts governor John Anthony Volpe took the oath of office as the nation's second Secretary of Transportation.

January 28, 1969

A massive oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara, California, focused the public's attention on oil pollution and environmental cleanup.

February 7, 1969

President Richard M. Nixon instructed Secretary Volpe to appoint an eleven-man special committee, chaired by Under Secretary James M. Beggs, to examine every feature of the SST program.

February 15, 1969

Under President Nixon’s Vietnamization plan, the Coast Guard began to turn over cutters to the South Vietnamese Navy.

March 21, 1969

In the PATCO newsletter, F. Lee Bailey recommended that controllers disobey the orders of a superior if they thought they were endangering air traffic safety.

March 27, 1969

President Nixon issued a directive that established standard federal regions, with common boundaries and common headquarters locations.

March 28, 1969

Secretary Volpe called for the establishment of a centralized Departmental library. Therefore, DOT formed the Transportation Department Library administratively in July, by consolidating the headquarters libraries of the Bureau of Public Roads, the United States Coast Guard, and the Federal Aviation Administration

April 8, 1969

Turbotrain service commenced between New York City and Boston.

April 24, 1969

Secretary Volpe established a Departmental Office of Civil Rights, with counterpart offices established in the operating administrations on May 8.

June 18, 19, and 20, 1969

Five hundred and fifteen air traffic controllers--members of PATCO–claimed to be ill. Tantamount to a strike, this sickness resulted in significant service interruptions in Denver, Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York City.

July 9, 1969

Secretary Volpe announced the Department’s refusal to grant federal funds for New Orleans’ Vieux Carré Riverfront Expressway because that highway would impair the historical quality of the French Quarter.

July 21, 1969

Secretary Volpe announced that John J. Corson would head a blue ribbon panel that would examine the career needs and other personnel problems of air traffic controllers, and make recommendations to address them.

September 10, 1969

Secretary Volpe and Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel met with Florida's Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. to announce environmental concerns relating to the proposal to build the Miami Jetport on a 39-square-mile site in the ecotone between Big Cyprus Swamp and the Everglades National Park. After environmental studies, Dade County officials agreed to seek another site.

September 23, 1969

President Nixon announced his commitment to construction of the SST prototype, contending that the project was essential to maintaining U.S. leadership in world air transport.

October 13, 1969

PATCO sought exclusive recognition as a labor organization for air traffic controllers.

November 5, 1969

Secretary Volpe approved, with qualifications, a proposal by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to build a segment of Interstate 40 through Overton Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

December 5, 1969

Following President Nixon's nomination of Douglas Toms as Director of the National Highway Safety Bureau, Secretary Volpe placed most of the functions of the Bureau directly under the Office of the Secretary.

December 9, 1969

Secretary Volpe attended groundbreaking for Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail rapid transit system.



January 1, 1970

President Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act, which created the President's Council on Environmental Quality and required federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements and public hearings on their proposed actions.

January 29, 1970

The Corson Committee criticized the Federal Aviation Administration’s lack of competent internal communication, and management's failure to sanction employee organizations.

March 18, 1970

Secretary Volpe announced that the Department was considering a rule that would require all motor vehicles to have some form of passive restraint--air bags, motorized seat belts, cushioned interiors, or some combination of these.

March 22, 1970

A separate National Highway Safety Bureau established by administrative act; the NHSB later became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

March 25, 1970

In a PATCO-engineered sickout, approximately 1,000 controllers at key facilities in New York City, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, and Oakland, called in sick or failed to report to work.

April 6, 1970

Management responsibility for the SST development program was transferred from the FAA to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. William M. Magruder became its director, and the chief administration lobbyist for the SST.

April 22, 1970

The first Earth Day, helped to launch the environmental movement and to seal the SST’s fate.

May 21, 1970

President Nixon signed into law the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 and the Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970. This legislation established a trust fund and airline ticket taxes to assure $11 billion for airports and airways over the next five years. The measure also directed the Secretary of Transportation to draw up a national transportation policy and submit it to Congress within a year.

June 21, 1970

The Penn Central Transportation Company collapsed and filed for reorganization under bankruptcy law.

July 1, 1970

The Nixon Administration transferred the Transportation Systems Center (formerly, the Electronic Research Center) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to DOT.

August 10, 1970

With the NHSB having been separated from the Federal Highway Administration, the FHWA was itself reorganized, with the once-dominant Bureau of Public Roads functionally absorbed by FHWA. Rather than maintain a bureau structure, the FHWA was divided into six component parts, each headed by an Associate Administrator.

September 6, 1970

Two members of Dr. George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine commandeered a Pan Am 747 in Israel, and had it flown to Cairo, where they evacuated the passengers and blew it up. In coordinated moves, PFLP terrorists seized three other airliners and flew them to their so-called Revolution Airstrip in the Jordanian desert, taking the passengers hostage and touching off a civil war in Jordan.

September 11, 1970

To provide for the protection of persons and property aboard American air carrier aircraft, Nixon designated the Department of Transportation to lead the government's anti-hijacking program.

September 20, 1970

Secretary Volpe established the Office of Civil Aviation Security under the command of retired Air Force Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

October 13, 1970

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

October 15, 1970

President Nixon signed into law the Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1970, a $10 billion, 12-year program to upgrade mass transit systems.

October 16, 1970

Congress passed the bill for the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-458).

October 21, 1970

President Nixon signed into law the American Merchant Marine Bill, a rider to which forgave interest due on the debt of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, which by that time had accrued to $22.4 million.

October 30, 1970

Congress passed the National Railroad Passenger Service Act, creating a semipublic corporation, Amtrak (American Travel and Track), to improve the quality of service and to satisfy the nation's intercity passenger transportation needs.

November 23, 1970

Near Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and in American waters, the Coast Guard Cutter VIGILANT moored alongside the Soviet trawler, SOVIETSKAYA LITVA. The Russian vessel’s radio operator, Simas Kudirka, jumped to the American cutter; subsequently, KGB agents forcibly removed him to the Soviet trawler.

November 30, 1970

Secretary Volpe announced that, beginning May 1, 1971, Amtrak, which policymakers had initially called Railpax, would begin operations, taking over nearly all intercity passenger services.

December 3, 1970

The SST program suffered a reverse when the Senate adopted an amendment to delete from the Department of Transportation fiscal 1971 appropriations bill an administration request for $290 million to continue SST prototype development.

December 31, 1970

President Nixon signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970, which tangibly increased highway funding.

December 31, 1970

The National Highway Safety Act of 1970 codified the separation of the Highway Safety Bureau from the Federal Highway Administration and its establishment as a discrete DOT operating administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

December 31, 1970

Clean Air Act Amended (P.L. 91-604)




January 2, 1971

Passage of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Properties Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 moved the federal taking of property for transportation projects closer toward an equitable resolution

January 8, 1971

President Nixon signed into law the Emergency Rail Services Act of 1970, in which Congress authorized up to $125 million in Federal loan guarantees for the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad.

February 23, 1971

Secretary Volpe established the Transportation Safety Institute at the FAA's Aeronautical Center, in Oklahoma City. Although initially operated by the FAA, this school provided training for the investigation of accidents and incidents in all modes of transportation, and in related regulatory matters.

March 3, 1971

In Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, in a decision written by Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court ordered the Department to reconsider its determination to build I-40 through Overton Park in Memphis, Tennessee. This provided the basis for interpreting the “prudent and feasible alternative” requirements of section 4(f) of the DOT Enabling Act, which short of an outright ban, was one of the toughest tests imposed in environmental law.

March 18 and 24, 1971

In Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, in a decision written by Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court ordered the Department to reconsider its determination to build I-40 through Overton Park in Memphis, Tennessee. This provided the basis for interpreting the “prudent and feasible alternative” requirements of section 4(f) of the DOT Enabling Act, which short of an outright ban, was one of the toughest tests imposed in environmental law.

March 25, 1971

President Nixon sent Congress a blueprint to reorganize the executive branch, in which he employed four “supersecretaries” who would have the power to set policy and to resolve interdepartmental squabbles. DOT would have been part of two new Departments: Economic Affairs--and Community Development.

April 27, 1971

Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca conferred with President Nixon and John D. Ehrlichman, claiming that compliance with the new passive restraint standards, which Secretary Volpe had announced in March, was beyond the industry's technical capacity, within the specified deadline.

May 1, 1971

Amtrak took over nearly all-interurban passenger train service. It was to provide service by 182 trains to more than 300 cities.

May 25, 1971

President Nixon signed a supplemental appropriations bill, which, among other things, killed the U.S. SST program, allowing phase-out funds for the project’s prime contractors.

August 4, 1971

President Nixon signed the Vessel Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone Act into law, which required that a set classification of ships have radiotelephones so they could communicate with nearby ships and shore installations.

August 10, 1971

President Nixon signed into law the Appropriations Bill for the Department of Transportation, which among other things contained $174 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the District of Columbia’s rapid rail transit system (METRO).

August 11, 1971

President Nixon signed into law the Federal Boating Safety Act of 1971, providing the Coast Guard the authority to establish minimum safety construction standards for boats and associated equipment.

September 8, 1971

Secretary Volpe transmitted to Congress a Statement on National Transportation Policy.

September 29, 1971

DOT granted a two-year delay for the installation of passive restraints in new passenger cars.

November 27, 1971

President Nixon signed into law legislation amending the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 to clarify further the intent of Congress as to its priorities for airway revitalization and airport development.

December 21, 1971

Secretary Volpe announced that the U. S. Coast Guard had ended its participation in the Vietnam War, with the transfer of two of its 311-foot, high-endurance cutters, the CASTLE ROCK and the COOK INLET, to the South Vietnamese navy.



January 5, 1972

Pursuant to the Supreme Court's March 1971 Overton Park decision, U.S. District Judge Bailey Brown remanded the project to Secretary Volpe for a new decision on the location of Interstate 40 in Memphis, Tennessee.

January 31, 1972

FAA institutes mandatory screening of all airline passengers as anti-hijacking measure.

March 9, 1972

DOT Order 1100.41A established the Transportation Safety Institute.

March 22, 1972

President Nixon signed into law the International Air Rates Act, which amended the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to authorize the CAB to end unreasonable or discriminatory rates or practices by air carriers in foreign air transportation.

May 16, 1972

President Nixon signed into law the Air Traffic Controllers Career Program Act. The act, an outgrowth of a Corson Committee recommendation, authorized controllers to retire after twenty-five years of active duty, or at age fifty if they had twenty years of active service.

May 27-June 4, 1972

Dulles International Airport played host to the United States International Transportation Exposition, popularly called TRANSPO '72, the world's first multimodal transportation exposition.

August 3, 1972

Secretary Volpe transmitted to Congress the 1972 National Transportation Report: Present Status--Future Alternatives.

October 20, 1972

President Nixon signed into law the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, to promote safe automobiles and to make them less costly to repair. Implementation of this legislation, which required such things as stronger auto bumpers, became part of the mission of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

December 5, 1972

FAA amends Air Carriers’ Security Programs to request 100% inspection of carry-on luggage to prevent hijacking effective January 6, 1973.

December 6, 1972

President Nixon selected Claude Brinegar of the Union Oil Company to succeed Volpe as Secretary.


January 5, 1973

Responding to hijacking threats, the FAA initiates universal preboarding electronic screening of passengers and inspection of their carry-on luggage.

January 5, 1973

President Nixon announces his intention to set up a sort of super cabinet. The Department of Transportation would have come under the purview of `supersecretary' James T. Lynn, the Secretary-designate at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

February 2, 1973

Dr. Claude Stout Brinegar took the oath of office as the nation's third Secretary of Transportation.

February 9, 1973

Congress directed Secretary Brinegar to provide, within forty-five days, "a full and comprehensive plan for the preservation of essential transportation services in the Northeast section of the Nation."

February 15, 1973

Fidel Castro reached a formal five-year accord with the United States, the first treaty of any kind since the revolution, to extradite or prosecute hijackers who ordered planes to fly to Cuba.

March 26, 1973

Secretary Brinegar responded to Congress’s February 9 mandate with a plan, Northeastern Railroad Problem: A Report to the Congress.

May 9, 1973

For his role in the Watergate-related burglary of the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Egil Krogh, Jr., resigned as Under Secretary of Transportation. He later went to prison, the first Watergate defendant to do so.

May 10, 1973

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) published the first rule regulating smoking on aircraft for reasons of consumer comfort and protection.

June 3, 1973

The Soviet supersonic TU-144 crashed at the Paris air show, dealing a severe blow to the Soviet SST program.

June 29, 1973

The Penn Central trustees informed the court that reorganization of that company was impossible.

July 16, 1973

In public testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Abuses, FAA Administrator Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a secret White House taping system; that revelation helped to spell out Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up.

August 13, 1973

President Nixon signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973, which included optional application of Highway Trust Funds for urban mass transit projects.

September 20, 1973

A Concorde prototype, in its first visit to the United States, landed at the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.

September 26, 1973

President Nixon signed into law, after two earlier pocket vetoes, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 of which mandated nondiscrimination by reason of handicap by recipients of federal funds. Section 502 established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (subsequently called the Access Board), which had the power to enforce the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.

October 17, 1973

The Arab-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) united to impose an oil embargo on the United States, Western Europe, and Japan that remained in effect until March 18, 1974.

November 3, 1973

President Nixon signed into law the Amtrak Improvement Act of 1973, which strengthened Amtrak’s authority to manage the Nation’s rail passenger system.

November 7, 1973

President Nixon launched "Project Independence," designed to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 1980.

November 12, 1973

In response to the oil shortage, the Department established the Office of Transportation Energy Policy to coordinate its overall conservation and allocation activities.

November 16, 1973

President Nixon signed into law the Alaskan Pipeline Act, which authorized the construction of a pipeline that would ultimately carry up to two million barrels of crude oil per day from Alaska’s North Slope to the ice-free port of Valdez.

November 25, 1973

President Nixon called for a ban on Sunday gasoline sales.



January 2, 1974

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

January 2, 1974

President Nixon signed into law the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, which mandated the 55-mph national maximum speed limit, to take effect in sixty days. The act required that the Department approve no highway projects for states having a maximum speed limit greater than 55 mph.

January 3, 1974

Secretary Brinegar announced the inauguration of a nationwide effort to promote carpooling.

January 13, 1974

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport officially opened for commercial flight.

February 1, 1974

Secretary Brinegar, Treasury Secretary George Schultz, and ICC Chairman George Stafford filed articles of incorporation for the United States Railway Association in the District of Columbia.

March 5, 1974

More than a year after he had taken office, Secretary Brinegar delivered his Principles of National Transportation Policy in testimony before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation of the House of Representatives.

April 5, 1974

All states had adopted the 55-mph speed limit.

July 12, 1974

President Nixon signed into law the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, which among other things, created the House and Senate Budget Committees, as well as the Congressional Budget Office, and shifted the start of the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1 (beginning fiscal year 1977).

August 5, 1974

President Nixon signed into law the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1974.

August 9, 1974

President Nixon resigned as President; Vice President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., succeeded him.

September 17, 1974

President Ford proposed a seven-point Action Plan for Improved Profitability in International Air Carrier Operations, including a "Fly U.S. Flag Airlines" program to encourage Americans to fly American international flights, in response to problems that faced American international air carriers caused by the OPEC embargo and subsequent fuel price increases.

October 25, 1974

The Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) was incorporated in Delaware.

October 27, 1974

President Ford signed into law the Motor Vehicle and School Bus Safety Amendments of 1974, which included language that revoked requirements for a mandatory seat belt-ignition interlock system.

November 26, 1974

President Ford signed into law the National Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1974, authorizing $11.9 billion over a six-year span for capital and operating expenses of the nation’s mass transit systems. It was the first-time federal Congress had authorized funds for mass transit operating subsidies.

December 13, 1974

The Department and the Advertising Council, Inc., launched a public service announcement campaign to promote carpooling, "Double Up, America. Two can ride cheaper than one."

December 18, 1974

Secretary Brinegar announced his resignation as DOT Secretary, effective February 1, 1975.



January 3, 1975

President Ford signed into law the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act.

January 4, 1975

President Ford signed into law the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, authorizing the Secretary to issue licenses for the construction and operation of deepwater ports, beyond the three-mile territorial limit of the United States, to accommodate the new super oil tankers.

January 4, 1975

President Ford signed into law the Transportation Safety Act of 1974, which among other things, made the National Transportation Safety Board an independent agency, and authorized the Secretary to regulate the transportation of all hazardous materials and to impose both civil and criminal penalties for violations of those regulations.

January 4, 1975

President Ford signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Amendments of 1974, which among other things, established the 55-mph national speed limit on a permanent basis.

March 7, 1975

William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr., took the oath of office as the nation’s fourth Secretary of Transportation--becoming the second African-American to hold a cabinet post.

April 4, 1975

The National Transportation Safety Board became a completely independent agency.

July 1, 1975

Secretary Coleman established the Materials Transportation Bureau within OST to coordinate DOT's increasing operational responsibilities concerning pipeline safety and the safe shipment of hazardous materials.

July 7, 1975

The materials Transportation Bureau was established within the Department of Transportation to carry out programs in Pipeline safety and the safe shipment of hazardous materials.

August 1, 1975

Secretary Coleman rejected proposed 6-to-8-lane Interstate 66 between the Beltway and the District of Columbia but left the door open to a narrower limited-use roadway.

September 17, 1975

Secretary Coleman released the Statement on National Transportation Policy by the Secretary of Transportation, the first goals-oriented statement issued by a Secretary since the Department’s inception.

December 22, 1975

President Ford signed into law the omnibus Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which, among other things, mandated that automakers meet corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards.


February 4, 1976

Deciding an issue that had rekindled America's own SST debate, Coleman permitted, for a 16-month demonstration period, a limited number of Concorde supersonic flights between Europe and Dulles Airport.

February 5, 1976

President Ford signed into law the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (or the "4R" Act), which established zones of freedom, where the railroads could raise or lower their fares without ICC review. The “4R” Act also launched the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project.

March 27, 1976

Washington D.C.’s Metrorail celebrated its opening day.

April 1, 1976

Conrail began operations.

April 13, 1976

President Ford signed into law the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, which extended the U.S. economic exclusive zone from twelve to 200 miles off the coast, greatly expanding the Coast Guard’s deepwater duties.

May 5, 1976

President Ford signed the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1976 into law, which established the Interstate "3R program" for resurfacing, restoring, and rehabilitating Interstate highways. A provision of this law created the National Transportation Policy Study Commission, which was to develop transportation policies to the year 2000. The act also established a "Transition Quarter," to account for the change in the start of the fiscal year–from July 1 to October 1.

May 24, 1976

Following a 3-hour 35-minute flight from London, the first Concorde supersonic commercial airliner landed at Dulles Airport. The French Concorde arrived from Paris approximately two minutes later.

May 30-Septmber 6, 1976

Seven DOT operating administrations joined fifteen other Federal agencies and a dozen industrial exhibitors to offer a glimpse of “Third Century America,” the theme of the U. S. Bicentennial Exposition of Science and Technology, at the Kennedy Space Center.

June 28, 1976

The first women admitted to the U. S. Coast Guard Academy reported for duty.

July 4, 1976

The nation celebrated the American Revolution Bicentennial; the National Visitor Center at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station opened.

July 12, 1976

President Ford signed into law the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976, ending a one-year lapse in authorization for Federal airport aid.

July 28-31, 1976

PATCO president John F. Leyden ordered a slowdown by PATCO-affiliated air traffic controllers to protest the U.S. Civil Service Commission's delay in completing a pay reclassification study for controllers.

December 6, 1976

Coleman called on the automobile manufacturing industry to join the Federal Government in conducting a nationwide, large-scale, two-year demonstration of the lifesaving and injury-avoidance capabilities of passenger restraint systems in passenger automobiles.


January 5, 1977

After negotiations with the Commonwealth of Virginia and public hearings, Coleman approved federal aid for the construction of Interstate 66 between the Capital Beltway and the District of Columbia. As approved, I-66 will be a four-lane, limited-access highway with the Metrorail line to Vienna in its median. Certain lanes will be HOV lanes, and other environmental measures taken into consideration.

January 12, 1977

Secretary Coleman issued National Transportation Trends and Choices--To the Year 2000.

January 18, 1977

Secretary Coleman announced that General Motors, Ford, and Volkswagen have signed on for the Department's air bag demonstration program.

January 19, 1977

Secretary Coleman and Deputy Secretary John W. Barnum released proposals for reorganizing DOT.

January 23, 1977

Former Representative Brock Adams (D-WA) was administered the oath of office as the nation’s fifth Secretary of Transportation.

March 30, 1977

Secretary Adams reversed Coleman's decision to fund a new airport for greater St. Louis, opting instead to update existing facilities at Lambert Field.

April 28, 1977

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., then Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, following nationwide civil disobedience by persons with disabilities, signed the Section 504 regulations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which mandated that public transit facilities--among other things--should be accessible to all, regardless of ability.

May 19, 1977

Following a public hearing, Secretary Adams declared that the Transbus, after September 30, 1979, should meet certain specifications: a stationary floor height of not more than 22 inches, a kneeling feature, and a ramp for boarding and exiting.

May 19, 1977

Order by DOT that all new public busses purchased with DOT grants be designed for greater accessibility by the elderly and persons with disabilities.

June 10, 1977

The Senate confirmed Alfred E. Kahn as Chairman of the CAB. A former economics professor at Cornell, Kahn's policies at the CAB helped to pave the way for legislation that virtually ended the economic regulation of airlines.

June 26, 1977

Secretary Adams announced new fuel economy standards, which he believed would demand lighter, smaller cars; four days later, he reinstated regulations that, beginning with 1984 models, mandated air bags or automatic seat belts.

July 23, 1977

Representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom signed the capacity-restricting Bermuda II Agreement, replacing the Bermuda Air Service Agreement of 1946, and making air travel cheaper and more convenient for American travelers. The U.S. negotiating team, led by former Secretary of Transportation Alan S. Boyd, argued for open competition.

September 23, 1977

At the end of its 16-month trial at Dulles Airport, Secretary Adams proposed that the Concorde SST could land in eleven additional U.S. cities, unless banned by fair and nondiscriminatory local standards. In view of its exceptional loudness, however, he retained the ban on Concorde operations between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., as well as the absolute prohibition on supersonic flight over land.

September 23, 1977

Secretary Adams established a new multi-modal Research and Special Programs Directorate (seven months later the Research and Special Programs Administration), consolidating the Transportation Systems Center, the Materials Transportation Bureau, the Transportation Safety Institute, and diverse OST intermodal activities that did not readily fit in any of the existing Operating Administrations.

October 17, 1977

The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban by New York's JFK Airport on the Concorde SST, clearing the way for immediate trial flights.

November 9, 1977

President Jimmy Carter signed into law amendments to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, one of which entitled the Air Cargo Deregulation Act, substantially exempted all-cargo aircraft operations from CAB regulation.

November 22, 1977

The first Concorde flights landed at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport.




February 6, 1978

Asserting that DOT would be shifting from an agency that simply builds transportation systems to one that is concerned how those systems serve people, Secretary Adams released Transportation Policy for a Changing America to the Congress.

March 10, 1978

The United States and the Netherlands signed a new international aviation agreement, based on the principle of free competition and regarded as a model for similar understandings that the United States hoped to negotiate. On March 17, the United States also announced a new agreement with the United Kingdom, within the context of the Bermuda II treaty, making possible a range of lower fares between the two nations.

March 23, 1978

Secretary Adams presented flight attendant Dorothy Kelly with the Department’s first-ever Award for Heroism. The year before, Kelly was a flight attendant aboard the Pan American World Airways jumbo jet that collided with a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plane at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, resulting in 582 deaths. Sixty-two on board the Pan Am jet survived, due mainly to the lifesaving efforts of Kelly, who had suffered head injuries and a broken arm, as well as four other Pan Am crewmembers honored by the FAA.

April 27, 1978

Because there was some confusion as to where a directorate fit into the DOT hierarchy and whether it would be perceived as an equal to the other Operating Administrations, the Research and Special Programs Directorate became, by DOT Directive 1100.23A, Change 96, the Research and Special Programs Administration.

August 21, 1978

Maintaining that “maximum consumer benefits can be best achieved through the preservation and extension of competition between airlines in a fair marketplace," the Carter administration announced a new international aviation policy, intended to increase competition and lessen government regulation of international aviation.

October 12, 1978

President Carter signed into law the Inspector General Act of 1978. The independent offices were to conduct objective audits and investigations of programs and operations.

October 21, 1978

President Carter signed into law the Inland Waterways Authorization Act, which imposed, for the first time, user fees on the inland waterways barge industry.

October 24, 1978

President Carter signed the Small Business Act Amendments on October 24, 1978, leading to the establishment of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

October 24, 1978

President Carter signed into law the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which allowed immediate fare reductions of up to 70 percent without CAB approval, and automatic entry of new airlines into routes not protected by other air carriers. Smaller communities, from which airlines might wish to shift their operations, received guaranteed essential air services (EAS) for ten years under the act, with a government subsidy if necessary. The law phased out the Board's authority over fares, routes, and mergers--entirely before 1983--and, unless Congress acted, the CAB itself would shut down by January 1, 1985.

November 6, 1978

President Carter signed into law the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978, which consolidated, for the first time, federal financial assistance programs for highways and public transportation.

December 5, 1978

Secretary Adams urged more than 500 members of the Economic Club of Detroit to join him in an "all-out search for the engine of the future."



February 25, 1979

Secretary Adams, by a Determination Order, established the Office of Inspector General at the Department.

March 7, 1979

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued Letter No, 79-1, requiring that each agency with contracting authority establish an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and appointing a director who would report to that agency’s head.

May 18, 1979

President Carter met with leaders of the four largest American automobile manufacturers, getting an agreement to formulate a cooperative program in automotive research. The aim of this project was to develop safer, more fuel-efficient, and less-polluting automobiles by the 1990s.

May 31, 1979

DOT's regulations designed to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, mandated that federally funded transportation facilities and programs should be accessible to all, regardless of disability.

June 19, 1979

President Carter announced Reorganization Plan Number 3, creating among other things the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

July 10, 1979

DOT announced the establishment of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization within the Office of the Secretary.

July 11, 1979

Secretary Adams sent the White House a proposal to consolidate the FHWA with UMTA in a Surface Transportation Administration.

July 15, 1979

President Carter delivered his so-called “malaise” speech on the energy crisis.

July 20, 1979

When President Carter reshuffled his Cabinet, Secretary Adams resigned as Secretary of Transportation; Carter designated the Secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor, Jr., to be Acting Secretary of Transportation.

July 30, 1979

DOT establishes Departmental Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

July 31, 1979

The Chrysler Corporation requested $1 billion in federal funds to avert bankruptcy.

August 15, 1979

In a Portland, Oregon, ceremony, Carter nominated Mayor Neil Goldschmidt Secretary of Transportation, and made him an interim recess appointee.

September 24, 1979

Three days after his Senate confirmation, Neil Edward Goldschmidt formally took the oath of office as the nation's sixth Secretary of Transportation.

September 29, 1979

President Carter signed into law Amtrak reauthorization legislation, which reduced that passenger train system’s routes by approximately 16 percent, far less severe than the 43 percent cut that Secretary Adams had announced in January.

September 30, 1979

DOT mandates all busses purchased after this date must be accessible to elderly and people with disabilities.

December 13, 1979

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #213 established on “Child Restraint Systems.”





DOT began using its new logo; DOT offices and OAs did not use the new memorandum and letter paper until they had exhausted the older stocks. Inaugurated while Neil Goldschmidt was Secretary, the transition continued into the first several months of Drew Lewis's administration.

January 6, 1980

President Carter signed into law the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act of 1979.

January 7, 1980

Following a bitter struggle with Robert E. Poli, a regional vice president, for control of PATCO, John F. Leyden resigned as president of that controllers’ organization.

February 1, 1980

President Carter signed Executive Order 12191, which directed executive agencies to increase ridesharing to conserve oil, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and provide an economical way for Federal employees to commute to work.

February 15, 1980

President Carter signed into law the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979, designed to reduce regulation, and increase competition in international air transportation and to strengthen the position of the United States in its dealings with foreign states that were discriminating against American airlines. Section 29 of the law, named the “Wright Amendment” for House Majority Leader James C Wright, Jr. (D-TX), limited scheduled airline operations at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, to aircraft seating fifty-six passengers or less, except for service within Texas and states bordering on Texas.

February 18, 1980

President Carter signed into law the Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act of 1979.

April 14, 1980

The Cuban exodus of 1980 began, triggering the Coast Guard’s greatest rescue operation since World War II.

June 3, 1980

President Carter called nine hundred U.S. Coast Guard reservists to active duty to help with the Cuban Mariel refugee sealift.

July 1, 1980

President Carter signed into law the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act of 1980, allowing trucking lines greater freedom to set rates, cut antitrust relief for agencies and associations that collectively set rates, and open entry to new truck lines.

October 14, 1980

President Carter signed into law the Railroad Regulatory Act, better known as the Staggers Rail Act of 1980.

October 15, 1980

President Carter signed into law the Household Goods Regulatory Reform Act of 1980, which reduced the regulation of the household goods moving industry while strengthening security for consumers.

October 20, 1980

Candidate Ronald Reagan wrote PATCO president Robert E. Poli. "You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and workdays so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." Three days later, the PATCO executive board endorsed Reagan for President.

October 26, 1980

The National Task Force on Ridesharing was created by President Carter as fuel-saving measure





January 23, 1981

Pennsylvania politician-businessman Andrew Lindsay “Drew” Lewis, Jr., took the oath of office as the nation’s seventh Secretary of Transportation.

January 28, 1981

Secretary Lewis announced the formation of a Presidential task force to revitalize the American automotive industry.

February 11, 1981

By agreeing to have a Presidential task force reexamine the question of cockpit crew size in the new commercial jet airliners, Secretary Lewis averted a nationwide work stoppage by the Air Line Pilots Association. The task force, headed by former FAA Administrator John McLucas, issued its recommendations on July 2; twelve days later, ALPA accepted those findings.

February 17, 1981

President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12291, which required agencies to weigh the costs and benefits of proposed major regulations and to pick the least costly alternative.

February 23, 1981

Federal officials closed the National Visitors Center at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, declaring it an unsafe hazard.

March 15, 1981

The labor contract between FAA and PATCO expired.

March 23, 1981

Secretary Lewis announced that the Japanese government had agreed to a voluntary 3-year reduction of about 6 or 7 percent in automotive exports to give American manufacturers a decent interval to retool their small car production capability.

May 26, 1981

In APTA v. Lewis, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that DOT’s Section 504 regulations (nondiscrimination based on handicap) exceeded the limits of the law upon which they were based and imposed onerous burdens on local transit programs. Rather than throw out the rules, the court directed the Department to amend them.

July 20, 1981

DOT issued an interim final regulation, amending its Section 504 regulations, giving local communities greater flexibility in determining how to apply transit funds to provide transportation for persons with disabilities.

August 3-5, 1981

Approximately 12,000 controllers belonging to PATCO walked off their jobs. Reagan gave the strikers forty-eight hours to go back to work, after which he fired them. About 1,000 PATCO members obeyed the President's order. The others lost their jobs without redress.

August 6, 1981

President Reagan signed into law legislation transferring the Maritime Administration from the Commerce Department to the Department of Transportation, fulfilling the intent of the DOT Act–that one cabinet-level department would be responsible for coordinating all transportation programs.

August 13, 1981

President Reagan signed into law the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981, paving the way for the privatization of Conrail, helping Conrail to achieve self-sufficiency--in part by allowing it to divest itself of its commuter rail services.

September 29, 1981

The Minority Business Resources Center Advisory Committee became a part of OST.

October 22, 1981

The Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO as the exclusive representative of the FAA's controllers.

October 23, 1981

NHTSA Administrator Raymond A. Peck, Jr., rescinded Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, which Secretary Adams had amended to require automatic restraints in all passenger cars.

November 20, 1981

In response to considerable opposition from advocacy groups for the blind, the FAA permitted blind airline passengers to use certain approved methods of storing their canes at their seats.

December 9, 1981

President Reagan directed the Office of Personnel Management to reopen opportunities for federal employment--except at FAA, where it would be divisive--to those whom he had terminated for their participation in the PATCO strike.

December 29, 1981

President Reagan signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1981, which established the Interstate 4R program, providing funds for resurfacing, restoring, rehabilitating, and reconstructing the Interstate system.






January 28, 1982

Pennsylvania politician-businessman Andrew Lindsay “Drew” Lewis, Jr., took the oath of office as the nation’s seventh Secretary of Transportation.

May 12, 1982

Braniff Airlines became the first scheduled airline to file for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code in the history of American civil aviation. Six years later, a DOT administrative law judge determined that the Airline Deregulation Act had helped to cause Braniff's collapse.

July 2, 1982

PATCO filed a request for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act. After filing to liquidate under Chapter 7, union president Gary Eads declared, "It is over for PATCO. The union is gone."

September 3, 1982

President Reagan signed into law Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, Title V of which was the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982. Increasing aviation user taxes, the act raised the airline passenger ticket tax from five to 8 percent, increased the general aviation gasoline tax from four to 12 cents a gallon, levied a 14-cent-a-gallon jet fuel tax, and reimposed the 5 percent air cargo tax and the $3 international departure fee.

September 21, 1982

President Reagan signed into law the Bus Regulatory Reform Act.

December 18, 1982

President Reagan signed into law the 1983 appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation, which among other things provided for the cancellation of the remainder of the Saint Lawrence Seaway’s construction debt.

December 28, 1982

After securing passage of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982--and the user fees to finance it, Lewis announced his resignation as Secretary, effective February 1, 1983.




January 6, 1983

President Reagan signed into law the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982.

January 14, 1983

President Reagan signed into law the Alaska Railroad Transfer Act of 1982, which transferred all rail properties of the Alaska Railroad to the State of Alaska.

February 7, 1983

Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole, the former director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, took the oath of office as the nation’s eighth Secretary of Transportation.

March 2, 1983

Secretary Dole announced a plan to renovate and reopen Washington, D.C.'s Union Station as a "vibrant" railroad terminal, with restaurants and shops.

June 24, 1983

In State Farm v. DOT, the U. S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, overturned NHTSA's October 1981 rescission of its passive restraint standard. The Court ruled that NHTSA, having failed to present an adequate basis and explanation for its action, acted arbitrarily and capriciously.

August 31, 1983

Soviet interceptors downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 that had penetrated the Soviet Union's airspace during a flight bound for Japan from Alaska. All 269 persons aboard, including Rep. Larry P. McDonald (D-GA) and 60 other Americans, perished.

October 13, 1983

Secretary Dole mandated the center high-mounted stop lamp on the rear windshield, the so-called “Dole brake light”.

December 13, 1983

The Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, which former Secretary Volpe had chaired, issued its report, recommending, among other things, that Congress deny some federal highway funds to states that did not adopt a minimum drinking age of twenty-one.



February 13, 1984

Secretary Dole outlined an agenda for aviation that included a safety review such as she had ordered for the other transportation modes.

February 24, 1984

President Reagan signed Executive Order 12465 designating the Department as the lead federal agency for the coordination and oversight of American commercial space launch activities. The Office of Commercial Space Transportation, centered in the Office of the Secretary, was operational and Jennifer Dorn appointed as its director.

March 20, 1984

President Reagan signed into law the Shipping Act of 1984, which provided evenhanded care and legal support for U. S.-flag carriers competing with foreign-flag carriers.

June 8, 1984

Proposing to transfer Washington National and Dulles International airports from the Federal Government, Secretary Dole announced the appointment of an advisory commission to make recommendations on the establishment of a state, local, or interstate body to assume operation of the airports.

July 11, 1984

Responding to the Supreme Court dismissal of NHTSA’s earlier attempts to rescind Carter-era passive restraint standards, Secretary Dole issued a final rule mandating air bags and/or automatic seat belt restraints in all automobiles after 1990, unless states representing two-thirds of the American population voted for the mandatory use of seat belts.

July 17, 1984

President Reagan signed into law legislation establishing twenty-one as the national minimum drinking age, to take effect October 1, 1986.

October 4, 1984

President Reagan signed into law the Civil Aeronautics Board Sunset Act of 1984, which transferred to DOT, among other things, CAB’s consumer protection functions and its authority to approve consolidations, mergers, and antitrust exemptions for airlines.

October 30, 1984

President Reagan signed into law the Tandem Truck Safety Act of 1984 and the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984.

October 30, 1984

President Reagan signed into law the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, which gave DOT’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation the responsibility for promoting private sector commercial space endeavors.

December 31, 1984

Pursuant to the Airline Deregulation Act, the CAB ceased operations.





January 1, 1985

With CAB’s “sunset,” DOT assumed for the first time, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, vital aviation-related regulatory functions, including the aviation economic fitness program, functions related to consumer protection, antitrust oversight, and the review of international route negotiations and route awards to carriers. The Research and Special Projects Administration assumed responsibility for collection and dissemination of air carrier economic data.

January 5, 1985

Pursuant to the Alaska Railroad Transfer Act of 1982, administration of the Alaska Railroad transferred to the State of Alaska.

June 14, 1985

Two Shiite Muslims hijacked TWA Flight 847 just after takeoff from Athens, Greece, murdered Navy SEAL Robert Stethem, and forced the plane to Beirut, Lebanon, precipitating a 17-day hostage crisis. Dole subsequently closed Beirut’s airport to American aviation.

June 31, 1985

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

August 8, 1985

President Reagan signed into law the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, authorizing $5 million for the Federal Air Marshal program, and research and development of airport security devices and explosives detection techniques.

August 16, 1985

Secretary Dole released a report on the FAA's Flight Standards programs by the Safety Review Task Force that she had created in December 1983 to examine the safety programs of all the Department's modal administrations.

October 7, 1985

Terrorists from the Palestinian Liberation Organization hijacked the Italian cruise ship, ACHILLE LAURO, killing Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American.

November 7, 1985

Secretary Dole approved United Airlines' acquisition of Pan American World Airways’ Pacific routes.





January 28, 1986

The space shuttle Challenger exploded seventy-four seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, killing all seven aboard.

June 23, 1986

The Department announced new regulations, on the drawing boards for five years, requiring recipients of UMTA financial assistance to prepare a program for providing transit services for persons with disabilities.

July 18, 1986

Secretary Dole reported to Congress that FY 1985 was the best year ever for improving structurally deficient bridges throughout the nation, with state highway agencies completing record numbers of repair, rehabilitation, and replacement projects during the year.           

August 13, 1986

Secretary Dole attended the official groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of the restoration of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

August 13, 1986

Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole attended the official groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of Union Station reconstruction.  The Union Station Redevelopment Act of 1981 provided for the transfer of the station to the Secretary of Transportation as well as preservation of the building, restoration of its use as a passenger rail station and private commercial development of its interior space.

August 15, 1986

In the aftermath of the Challenger disaster, Reagan announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would no longer be in the business of launching commercial payloads, giving the green light to private manufacturers to enter the commercial launch market.

August 15, 1986

Pursuant an agreement with Japan and the Soviet Union, a new communications link provided a dedicated voice circuit between ATC centers in Tokyo and Khabarovsk, U.S.S.R. American controllers at Anchorage could also communicate with Khabarovsk by patching through the Tokyo center.

August 27, 1986

President Reagan signed into law the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act, which among other things, imposed on the Department reporting requirements regarding security at foreign and domestic ports, and required the State Department to issue travel advisories when DOT judged foreign ports unsafe. Maritime sections were a response to events such as the hijacking of the Italian liner, the ACHILLE LAURO.

September 15, 1986

President Reagan signed Executive Order 12564, calling for a drug-free federal workplace.

September 18, 1986

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia refused to overturn the July 1984 rule encouraging the states to pass mandatory seat belt laws, but said that, because of the way their legislatures had drafted them, the Department could not count twenty of the states’ laws toward rescinding passive restraint standards.

September 26, 1986

President Reagan signed Executive Order 12566, which required federal employees to use safety belts.

October 1, 1986

The Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, the Office of Motor Carrier Transportation, and the Office of Program Management were reorganized into the Office of Motor Carriers, responsible to the Associate Administrator for Motor Carriers.

October 2, 1986

President Reagan signed into law the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which required commercial airlines to provide nondiscriminatory service for passengers with disabilities.

October 21, 1986

President Reagan signed into law the Conrail Privatization Act, which scrapped the Department's single-bid process in favor of a public auction of Conrail stock.

October 22, 1986

President Reagan signed into law the Surface Freight Forwarders Deregulation Act of 1986, completing the deregulation of the freight forwarder business.

October 30, 1986

President Reagan signed Public Law 99-591, the $576 billion omnibus bill, including Title VI, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986, which formed the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, along with legislation transferring to it the administration and operation of National and Dulles airports. The bill also extended the legal range of nonstop flights to and from National from 1,000 to 1,250 miles, enabling nonstop service to Dallas and Houston, in conformance with an amendment sought by House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-TX).

October 30, 1986

Title V of P. L, 99-591, the Aviation Safety Commission Act of 1986, established a commission of seven members appointed by the President to study the adequacy of federal air safety efforts.

November 12, 1986

President Reagan signed the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, part of which, among other things, converted the SLSDC from a self-financing to an appropriated agency and eliminated the U.S. portion of the Seaway tolls.



January 4, 1987

An Amtrak train collided with a string of Conrail diesels near Chase, Maryland, killing sixteen and injuring 175. Subsequent investigation found that marijuana use likely had impaired a Conrail engineer. This incident helped to spur the Department's release of a package of rules mandating drug testing for the transportation industry's four million employees.

March 26, 1987

The Federal Railroad Administration sold its Conrail common stock for $1.875 billion.

April 1, 1987

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation ceased retaining tolls collected from commercial vehicles.

April 2, 1987

Congress overrode Reagan's veto of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987. To correct incompatible practices throughout the government, a section of this bill made DOT the lead agency for implementing the Uniform Act. The STURAA was the final highway authorization of the Interstate era.

June 7, 1987

Washington National and Dulles International airports transferred from the FAA to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

June 11, 1987

The nation's controllers voted to adopt the nonadversarial National Air Traffic Controllers Association as their bargaining unit. That union wrote a no-strike clause into its constitution.

September 2, 1987

Secretary Dole announced a rule instructing all major air carriers to file monthly reports on their delay and baggage handling records.

September 9, 1987

Pursuant to Executive Order 12564, calling for a drug-free Federal workplace, DOT instituted random urinalysis testing for its more than 24,000 employees in jobs directly affecting safety and security, the first such Departmentwide program.

September 14, 1987

Secretary Dole resigned as Secretary, effective October 1, to help her husband, Senator Robert J. Dole (R-KS), seek the 1988 GOP nomination for president.

December 3, 1987

The former Deputy Secretary, and Acting Secretary, James Horace Burnley IV, took the oath of office as the nation’s ninth Secretary of Transportation.

December 30, 1987

President Reagan signed into law the Airport and Airway Safety and Capacity Expansion Act of 1987, extending authority for the Airport Improvement Program for five years.



February 11, 1988

Secretary Burnley announced Departmental approval of the nation’s first commercial space launch license to Conatec, Inc., of Lanham, Maryland.

March 9, 1988

Secretary Burnley announced the formation of the Secretary’s Task Force on Internal Reforms of the Federal Aviation Administration, co-chaired by FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor and DOT’s Assistant Secretary for Administration Jon H. Seymour.

April 18, 1988

The President's Commission on Aviation Safety issued its Final Report and Recommendations, including an independent Federal Aviation Authority with an Administrator appointed by the President for a 7-year term.

April 23, 1988

A ban on smoking on U.S. airline flights of less than two hours went into effect.

September 29, 1988

Washington, D.C.’s Union Station reopened.

November 14, 1988

Secretary Burnley announced that the Department issued regulations requiring drug testing, including random testing of those holding safety- and security-related positions in the motor carrier, railroad, maritime, mass transit, aviation, and pipeline industries.

December 21, 1988

A terrorist bomb blew up Pan American World Airways Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270, including eleven on the ground.



January 11, 1989

Secretary Burnley released a proposal to reorganize the Department, restructuring the operating administrations to three, for surface, air, and water. He hoped it would give Congress, his successor, and the public some options, “something to chew on,” choices that he found useful alternatives to proposals that had one agency or another leaving the Department.

February 6, 1989

In ceremonies at the FAA Auditorium, with President George H. W. Bush looking on, Samuel Knox Skinner, the former head of the Regional Transportation Authority of Northeastern Illinois, took the oath of office as the nation’s tenth Secretary of Transportation.

February 16, 1989

British police said that a bomb hidden in a radio-cassette player had probably caused the explosion that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103.

March 4, 1989

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers went out on strike against Frank Lorenzo’s Eastern Air Lines.

March 7, 1989

President Bush asked Skinner to lead the Administration's efforts to prevent federal intervention in the strike at Eastern Air Lines, and to avoid an escalation of the strike at Eastern into a general transportation shutdown.

March 9, 1989

Eastern Air Lines filed for bankruptcy protection.

March 24, 1989

The supertanker EXXON VALDEZ ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling eleven million gallons of North Slope crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska. Bush named Skinner and EPA Administrator William K. Reilly to head the task force coordinating the federal response.

May 1, 1989

The FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association concluded their first collective bargaining agreement.

August 4, 1989

President Bush signed Executive Order 12686, establishing the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, headed by former Labor Secretary Anne Dore McLaughlin.

August 27, 1989

McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Company launched the first privately owned rocket to carry a payload into orbit, a television broadcasting satellite for a British company.

September 5, 1989

President Bush announced his administration’s National Drug Control Strategy.

September 17-22, 1989

Hurricane Hugo swept into Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Carolinas, the Coast Guard being the sole major federal presence on St. Croix.

October 17, 1989

At 5:04 p.m., local time, as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics prepared to play the third game of the World Series, the Loma Prieta earthquake, registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, struck the San Francisco Bay Area, killing forty-two. Bush named Skinner to coordinate the federal response to the disaster.




January 30, 1990

Secretary Skinner announced the “Cities Program,” which opened access to new U.S. markets for non-U.S. airlines, who homeland governments embraced pro-competitive aviation relationships with the United States.

February 25, 1990

In response to a congressional mandate, prohibition of smoking went into effect on virtually all scheduled U.S. domestic airline flights. Flights to or from Alaska or Hawaii scheduled to last six hours or more were exempted.

March 6, 1990

Implementing the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, DOT issued a revised regulation prohibiting airline discrimination against disabled passengers. The rule required accommodation for wheelchairs and limited an airline’s ability to restrict the number of disabled persons on a flight or to require passengers to travel with an attendant. It also included a ban on seating restrictions for the disabled, except to comply with the FAA's safety rule.

March 8, 1990

Secretary Skinner presented the Department’s Statement on National Transportation Policy to President Bush.

March 27, 1990

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines became the first of several carriers to receive route awards under the “Cities Program.”

April 1990

Secretary Skinner released the Department's National Transportation Strategic Planning Study, a multi-modal, long-range strategic planning study that projected the needs for moving people and goods in the year 2015.

May 15, 1990

In compliance with Executive Order 12686, the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism issued its Report.

June 14, 1990

Secretary Skinner announced his intention to create an Office of Intelligence and Security within OST, and that its first Director would be Coast Guard Vice Admiral Clyde E. Robbins. In a parallel move, FAA Administrator James Busey created the position of assistant administrator for civil aviation security, naming Marine Corps General O.K. Steele to that post.

July 26, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, a sweeping mandate to end discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, and state and local governments.

August 2, 1990

In a matter of hours, Iraq invaded Kuwait, annexed it, and massed its forces there, menacing Saudi Arabia, and triggering the US-led UN-Coalition response, Operation DESERT SHIELD.

August 10, 1990

The Maritime Administration activated sealift ships from the Ready Reserve Force.

August 17, 1990

The FAA oversaw, for the first time in the history of the program, the activation of part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet for airlift to the Gulf; Skinner and Admiral J. William Kime commit Coast Guard law enforcement boarding teams to Operation DESERT SHIELD.

August 18, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which provided for tougher penalties and liability for oil spillers, allocated more resources to deal with the spills, and placed greater accountability on the Coast Guard to respond promptly to these incidents.

August 22, 1990

President Bush authorized call-up of members of the selected reserve to active duty in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. Three port security units (PSUs), consisting of 550 Coast Guard reservists, went to the Persian Gulf, the first involuntary overseas mobilization of Coast Guard Reserve PSUs in the Coast Guard Reserve's 50-year history.

September 1, 1990

DOT prohibited smoking in all Departmental facilities, except in designated areas.

September 18, 1990

The Department renamed the Transportation Systems Center the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

October 5, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Andean Trade Preference Act of 1990, legislation designed to entice Andean farmers from the drug trade by offering duty-free treatment for certain articles from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

October 15, 1990

President Bush signed legislation redesignating the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

November 5, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act of 1990 and the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, among other things allowing airports to impose passenger facility charges to raise revenue for improvements and capacity expansion.

November 15, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which set new deadlines for urban areas failing to meet national air quality standards and established new and stricter auto emissions standards.

November 15, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, which mandated that agencies show how program outcomes supported agency missions; the CFO Act authorized the establishment of a Chief Financial Officer in each executive department.

November 16, 1990

President Bush signed into law the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990; it incorporated many recommendations of the President's Commission on Aviation and Terrorism, which among other things codified the establishment of the Office of Intelligence and Security in the Office of the Secretary.



January 16, 1991

One day after the expiration of a United Nations deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, Coalition forces launched Operation DESERT STORM, a six-week air campaign, followed by a 100-hour ground war, which drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

January 18, 1991

Eastern Air Lines liquidated.

January 23, 1991

Secretary Skinner announced that DOT would relax its restrictions on foreign investment in U.S. airlines. Under the new policy, investment of up to 49 percent of total equity obtained from foreign sources would not necessarily be considered, by itself, an indicator of foreign control.

February 8, 1991

The FAA's first annual Capital Investment Plan became effective, superseding the National Airspace System Plan (NASP). The new plan incorporated NASP projects, more than 86 percent completed or in field implementation.

February 13, 1991

Secretary Skinner proposed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1991 to reauthorize federal highway, highway safety, and mass transit programs for the next five years. This initiative evolved into the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act by the end of the year.

March 11, 1991

The United States and the United Kingdom reached an agreement on airline service that included permission for United and American Airlines to succeed Pan American and Trans World Airways in serving London Heathrow Airport.

March 25, 1991

The Department held the first federal agency Diversity Summit.

April 1, 1991

The FAA proposed stiffer hiring, training, and performance standards for airline and airport security personnel.

June 20, 1991

Secretary Skinner announced a further liberalization of the law regarding foreign investment in U.S. air carriers, raising the maximum foreign ownership of voting stock in U.S. air carriers from twenty-five to 49 percent.

July 1, 1991

The Piper Aircraft Corporation filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

September 6, 1991

DOT published regulations implementing provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

October 22, 1991

Under the leadership of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, the Department became the first Cabinet-level federal agency to join the MetroPool program. MetroPool offered tax-free employer subsidy to people who commuted by Metrobus or Metrorail.

October 28, 1991

President Bush signed the Aging Aircraft Safety Act into law, authorizing the FAA to require certain airworthiness reviews and inspections for airliners in service more than fifteen years.

November 14, 1991

The Justice Department and Scotland Yard indicted two Libyan intelligence agents for the December 1988 bombing of Pan American World Airways Flight 103.

December 4, 1991

After sixty-four years of operations, Pan American World Airways went out of business.

December 5, 1991

President Bush named Skinner to succeed John Sununu as the White House Chief of Staff.

December 12, 1991

Secretary Skinner bid the Department farewell; Admiral James B. Busey, IV, the former FAA Administrator who had taken the oath of office as Deputy Secretary on December 4, became Acting Secretary of Transportation.

December 18, 1991

At Euless, Texas, President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, giving states greater flexibility in the use of funds for mass transit, and emphasizing regional planning and efforts to reduce automobile pollution in urban areas. Within DOT, the legislation renamed UMTA the Federal Transit Administration, and authorized the establishment of the Office of Intermodalism and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

December 18, 1991

As part of the ISTEA bill, Bush signed the air bag mandate into law.



January 26, 1992

Public accommodations and public transportation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect.

January 28, 1992

In his State of the Union address, President Bush declared a 90-day rulemaking moratorium and a review of regulations that hurt the nation’s economy.

February 24, 1992

In a private ceremony, former White House deputy chief of staff Andrew Hill Card, Jr, took the oath of office as the nation’s eleventh Secretary of Transportation.

March 11, 1992

In official ceremonies at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, Card formally took the oath of office.

March 31, 1992

DOT announced that the United States would explore "open skies" aviation agreements with all European countries willing to allow free access to their markets. Heretofore, it had offered such agreements to only a few of its largest aviation partners.

May 1, 1992

Secretary Card announced that a regulatory review had identified more than 300 administrative or legislative changes in DOT regulations that would help the nation's economy.

July 2, 1992

Pursuant to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act of 1991, DOT established its Office of Intermodalism in the Office of the Associate Deputy Secretary.

July 17, 1992

The United States and the European Economic Community signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

August 24-26, 1992

Before sweeping into Louisiana, Hurricane Andrew had stormed across the Bahamas and slammed into the southeastern coast of Florida, where it damaged or destroyed 87,000 homes, leaving more than 200,000 people without shelter. Bush named Card to head the task force coordinating the federal response.

September 4, 1992

The Department announced that the United States and the Netherlands had signed the first aviation agreement under the liberalized "open skies" initiative.

September 9, 1992

Pursuant the above agreement, Northwest Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines join in a codesharing agreement to create what they called "a unified global airlines system." Although KLM already had a 20 percent stake in Northwest, the new agreement enabled the two carriers to integrate their operations worldwide.

September 11, 1992

Hurricane Iniki struck the Hawaiian island of Kauai, demolished communications and property, stranded 20,000 tourists, and left thousands of people without homes.

October 20, 1992

Secretary Card announced, as authorized by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, the formation of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

October 24, 1992

President Bush signed into law the Pipeline Safety Act of 1992, which among other things gave RSPA equal statutory standing with the other Operating Administrations.

October 24, 1992

President Bush signed into law the Comprehensive Energy Policy Act of 1992, designed to decrease U.S. oil exports by, among other things, the promotion of alternative fuels for motor vehicles. The law also promoted the use of qualified transportation benefits to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.

October 31, 1992

President Bush signed into law the Airport and Airway Safety, Capacity, Noise Improvement and Intermodal Transportation Act of 1992.

December 17, 1992

Leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).



January 11, 1993

Approving their request to integrate services, DOT granted Northwest and KLM immunity from antitrust laws so they could operate as one airline. Cooperative plans announced in 1993 further illustrated the trend toward greater collaboration with foreign carriers: Delta and Swissair; Continental and Air France; United and Lufthansa; and USAir and British Airways (first proposed in July 1992).

January 21, 1993

The former mayor of Denver, Colorado, Federico Fabian Peña, took the oath of office as the nation’s twelfth Secretary of Transportation.

March 3, 1993

President Clinton asked Vice President Albert A. Gore, Jr. to supervise the National Performance Review of the Federal Government, his administration’s “reinventing government” initiative to improve the quality of government and to reduce the cost of delivering its services to American taxpayers.

March 15, 1993

DOT approved British Airways $300 million investment in USAir.

April 7, 1993

President Clinton signed into law the enabling legislation for the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry to examine the problems that were facing the aviation industry. On April 29, he selected the members of the Commission. Under the leadership of former Virginia governor Gerald Baliles, the panel met for the first time on May 24.

April 9, 1993

As a result of a Defect Petition from the Center for Auto Safety, NHTSA opened a Defect Investigation into Chevrolet/GMC full-sized pickup trucks (C/K Series) with fuel tanks mounted outboard of the frame rails, which to determine whether 1970-1991 Chevrolet and GMC full-sized pickup trucks contained a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to safety.

June 8-10, 1993

National Roadcheck ‘93, the largest coordinated international safety check of commercial motor vehicles ever conducted, involving U.S., Canadian, and Mexican officials. More than 56,000 inspections were conducted at over 250 locations.

June 21, 1993

In Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of the executive order of former President Bush, which the Clinton Administration adopted, directing the Coast Guard to return Haitian immigrants interdicted on the high seas to Haiti without first determining whether they had legitimate claims for asylum.

June 25, 1993

Vice President Gore held a nationwide “Reinventing Government Summit” in Philadelphia, drawing on the “best practices” of those businesses that had already reinvented themselves.

July 2, 1993

Mississippi River Basin flooding played havoc with all transportation modes, particularly intercontinental railroading. To demonstrate the magnitude of other transportation losses, for example, as the summer wore on, operations halted at thirty-six general aviation airports.

July 21, 1993

The United States and Brazil signed a new 18-month equal access maritime agreement. The agreement recommitted both countries to liberalizing access to the provision of maritime services in bilateral trade and to removing barriers that inhibited U.S. liner companies from operating efficiently and effectively.

July 29, 1993

Congress dedicated a new sign for the interstate highway system, designed by the FHWA in cooperation with the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials and representatives of Eisenhower’s family, which honored former President Dwight Eisenhower as the driving force behind its creation.

August 3, 1993

President Clinton signed into law the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, which mandated that government agencies develop three important pieces of a performance measurement system: strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports.

August 12, 1993

Lifting the ban imposed by President Reagan, the Clinton Administration announced that controllers fired after the 1981 strike could apply for reemployment with the FAA.

August 19, 1993

The Baliles Commission completed its report to the President and Congress, recommending reinventing the FAA, strategies for financial health and stability of the air transportation system, and an open, comprehensive multinational regime to obtain service rights for U.S. airlines.

August 19, 1993

Building on the Baliles Commission report, Clinton tasked Peña and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, with heading a national economic council working group to develop a civil aviation initiative.

September 7, 1993

Vice President Gore released the final report of the National Performance Review, From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better & Costs Less.

September 8, 1993

An administrative law judge recommended that DOT deny the application of Friendship Airlines, later renamed ATX, founded by former Texas Air chairman Frank Lorenzo, to operate as an air carrier. Fifty-seven members of Congress wrote Peña, asking DOT to deny his application.

September 11, 1993

To provide the highest quality service possible to the American people, Clinton issued Executive Order 12862, Setting Customer Service Standards.

September 22, 1993

A barge struck a railroad bridge over the Bayou Canot River in Akka, Alabama, knocking the track out of alignment. Subsequently, an Amtrak passenger train derailed while it crossed the bridge, killing 42 passengers and 5 crewmembers, and injuring 133 others. The tragedy led to a comprehensive inspection of the adequacy of lights and fendering on all 14,000 maritime bridges. It also led to a review of the qualification of towboat operators.

September 29, 1993

President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and the CEOs of GM, Ford, and Chrysler, launched the Partnership for a Next Generation of Vehicles. The object was to develop a commercially viable vehicle that could achieve fuel efficiencies up to three times today’s automobile, while at the same time cost no more to own and drive than today’s automobile, maintain the performance, size and utility of comparable vehicles, and meet or exceed safety and emission requirements.

September 30, 1993

Saying, “[t]he American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them,” President Clinton issued Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review.

November 17-20, 1993

The House of Representatives passed legislation to implement NAFTA, 234-200. The Senate followed suit three days later, 62-38. Already, the Department had been considering NAFTA implications for cross-border transportation.

November 19, 1993

Claiming, “The new Denver Airport is an event worth celebrating,” Peña participated in dedication ceremonies for Denver International Airport.

November 30, 1993

President Clinton signed into law the Fiscal 1994 Defense Authorization Bill, which among other things set forth the National Shipbuilding Initiative that expanded MARAD’s Title XI Ship Financing Program to include projects for foreign ship owners who build their vessels in the United States and for modernization of U.S. shipyard facilities.

December 2, 1993

President Clinton signed into law the Federal Employees Clean Air Incentives Act to expand, on a permanent basis, the transit benefit program, which encouraged federal employees’ use of alternative commuting methods to single-occupant automobiles.

December 9, 1993

Secretary Peña and FHWA Administrator Rodney Slater unveiled the National Highway System that Slater said would be the “backbone of our national transportation network in the 21st century.”      

December 17, 1993

The first FAA-approved use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for non-precision airport approaches began, by Continental Express between Aspen and Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

December 21, 1993

A joint DOD/DOT task force on GPS recommended that the Department have a substantive role in managing the DOD positioning system used increasingly for civilian purposes.           

December 23, 1993

As part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 1993, Clinton signed into law the Passenger Vessel Safety Act.         



January 1, 1994

NAFTA is implemented.

January 3, 1994

General Ronald R. Fogleman, Commander in Chief, United States Transportation Command, requested that MARAD activate a Ready Reserve Force troopship to support OPERATION RESTORE HOPE in Somalia.

January 6, 1994

Secretary Peña and Laura Tyson, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, unveiled the Administration’s plan to revitalize the aviation industry, acting on most recommendations of the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry, including efforts to move ahead with conversion of FAA’s ATC function to a government corporation. Other elements of the plan aimed at: bankruptcy reform; increased foreign investment in U.S. carriers, contingent on reciprocal opportunities; encouragement of new entrant carriers; heightened scrutiny of airline financial fitness; and promotion of employee ownership of airlines.

January 17, 1994

At 4:31 a.m., the Northridge earthquake rumbled through the Los Angeles area at 6.6 on the Richter scale, leaving in its wake an estimated $25 to $30 billion in damages to buildings, highways, bridges, and overpasses.

January 24, 1994

Secretary Peña announced the Department of Transportation's Strategic Plan.

January 26, 1994

Deputy Chief of Staff Katherine Archuleta presided over a signing ceremony that officially recognized the Department of Transportation Coalition of Minority, Disabled, and Women Employee Associations and Member Organizations.

February 3, 1994

The Department issued final alcohol and drug testing rules for the more than 7.4 million employees who perform safety-sensitive functions in transportation industries.

February 11, 1994

President Clinton Signed Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low Income Populations.”

February 15, 1994

A DOT directive abolished the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs and established the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs. Because OST was creating two new posts at the assistant secretary level out of one, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs became the Office of Public Affairs.

February 17, 1994

With its twenty-four satellites operating in their assigned orbit and providing signals, the FAA announced that it was commencing civil use of the initial operational capability of the Global Positioning System.

March 15, 1994

Secretary Peña and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt join forces to reduce noise, particularly from air tours, from national parks.

March 30, 1994

Targeting a reduction of 272,900 federal employees between 1993 and 1999, Clinton signed the Federal Workforce Restructuring Act of 1994, legislation that offered buyouts of up to $25,000 for personnel willing to leave federal service.

April 5, 1994

DOT rejected Frank Lorenzo’s bid to operate ATX as an air carrier, citing past safety and regulatory compliance problems experienced by airlines he had operated.

April 21, 1994

FHWA’s Office of Motor Carrier Safety launched “Share the Road,” a public service campaign to educate motorists on how to navigate more safely amid large commercial vehicles. The campaign’s “Don’t Hang Out in the No-Zone” message described danger areas around trucks where crashes are more likely to occur, blind spots where passenger vehicles tend to disappear from the view of truck and bus drivers.

May 3, 1994

Secretary Peña and Vice President Gore held a news conference at Washington's National Airport to announce the Clinton Administration's intention to place ATC in the hands of an air traffic services corporation.

May 9, 1994

Celebrating change wrought by the NPR at DOT, Department employees at Headquarters and field offices observed “Transportation Transformation” Day.

May 26, 1994

President Clinton signed into law the Airport Improvement Program Temporary Extension Act of 1994.

June 13, 1994

Secretary Peña announced the Department’s Highway-Rail Safety Action Plan, a component of which was a multimedia public awareness campaign, “Always Expect a Train,” designed to educate motorists and pedestrians about fatal consequences of car-train crashes and pedestrian-train collisions.

August 17, 1994

President Clinton signed into law the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994. Under the new law, manufacturers were not liable for accidents happening more than eighteen years after the production of general aviation aircraft, engines, or parts.

August 23, 1994

President Clinton signed into law the Federal Aviation Authorization Administration Act, which mandated DOT to resolve significant airline airport-fee disputes quickly and required the Department and the FAA to establish policies on reasonable airport fees and airport revenue utilization. The law also set the term for FAA Administrator at five years.

August 26, 1994

President Clinton signed into law the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994, which refined the provisions of federal hazardous materials transportation law.

September 9, 1994

On orders from the United States Transportation Command, MARAD activated 14 Ready Reserve Force ships in support of Operation MAINTAIN DEMOCRACY/UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in Haiti, the first large-scale activation for the RRF since Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.

September 16, 1994

President Clinton signed EO 12928, Promoting Procurement With Small Businesses Owned and Controlled by Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Institutions.

September 20, 1994

With Secretary Peña performing standard truck inspections at a station outside of Atlanta, DOT joined twenty other federal agencies demonstrating their support for the NPR on Customer Service Day.

September 30, 1994

Secretary Peña convened the first-ever U.S. Rail Summit, which focused on safety and the prevention of accidents, allowing DOT officials to raise the awareness of the general public on grade-crossing and trespasser safety.

October 7-9, 1994

DOT held its first-ever technology fair, TransFuture ‘94, featuring more than 100 exhibits and demonstrations on the National Mall.

October 31, 1994

An American Eagle commuter airplane crashed near Roselawn, Indiana, killing 68. With the probable cause being icing, this disaster, along with the December 13, 1994 crash near Raleigh-Durham, helped to spawn the Clinton Administration’s campaign, “One Level of Safety–from ten-seaters to jumbo jets.”

November 1, 1994

At the 50th anniversary meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Peña articulated the United States’ new international aviation policy, which would emphasize liberalized “Open Skies” agreements like that signed with the Netherlands in 1992.

November 6, 1994

President Clinton signed into law the Swift Rail Development Act of 1994, providing for national high-speed rail initiatives.

December 13, 1994

Yet another American Eagle commuter plane crashed, this time a BAe Jetstream approaching the Raleigh-Durham Airport for a landing, killing fifteen of the 20 persons aboard

December 19, 1994

Secretary Peña outlined a plan to restructure the Department that would net $6.7 billion in savings to taxpayers and cut the employment level at DOT in half by the end of the decade.

December 29, 1994

The Interagency Working Group on the Dredging Process submitted its final report, The Dredging Process in the United States: An Action Plan for Improvement, which made eighteen recommendations for improving the dredging process in the United States.




January 9, 1995

NAFTA is implemented.

January 3, 1994

DOT and the FAA opened an aviation safety summit on ways to improve safety measures and to increase public confidence in airline transportation. More than 950 government and industry representatives attended the event, at which Peña and FAA Administrator David R. Hinson initiated a “zero accidents campaign.”

January 23, 1995

Secretary Peña announced a new consumer initiative, “Travelers First,” to help ensure fairer treatment for the millions of people who fly throughout the United States every day, OST’s recently reorganized Aviation Consumer Protection Division worked closely with the airlines to ensure that they knew their responsibilities to consumers.

February 28, 1995

Following a number of delays, Secretary Peña and FAA Administrator Hinson were on hand for the grand opening of Denver International Airport.

March 4, 1995

President Clinton launched his Regulatory Reform Initiative. This initiative undertook to eliminate obsolete regulations, to reward results rather than red tape, to get out of Washington and create grassroots partnerships, and to negotiate rather than dictate.

April 6, 1995

Secretary Peña, flanked by former secretaries Burnley and Card, as well as other representatives of the transportation community, announced his plan to send congress "comprehensive legislation" to reorganize and downsize the department.

April 19, 1995

At 9:02 a.m., local time, a truck bomb exploded, ripping through the north face of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and killing 168, including eleven employees from the FHWA's Oklahoma Division Office.

April 25, 1995

Secretary Peña unveiled the U.S. International Air Policy Statement, which recognized that efficient international air transportation would greatly enhance the future expansion of international commerce and the development of the global marketplace. This statement, the first in seventeen years, affirmed the U.S. commitment to an open, competitive international market, and provided a strategy for promoting that objective with its aviation partners.

May 22, 1995

President Clinton signed into law the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

May 28, 1995

Effective this date, DOT renamed the Office of Airline Statistics the Office of Airline Information and transferred it from the Research and Special Projects Administration to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

June 12, 1995

The Supreme Court decided Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, a constitutional challenge to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, by calling for substantially tightened standards for determining the constitutionality of all Federal race-based affirmative action programs.

June 23, 1995

MARAD began activating the Ready Reserve Force ships Cape Race and Cape Diamond to support Operation QUICK LIFT, which deployed elements of the United Nations Rapid Reaction Force to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of the United Nations Protection Force.

June 30, 1995

DOT issued a decision resolving the dispute over sharply increased landing fees at Los Angeles International Airport, the first case heard and decided under rules implementing the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.

July 13, 1995

FAA Administrator Hinson announced CHALLENGE 2000, a comprehensive review of FAA’s regulation and certification capabilities, given the rapid changes taking place in aviation. The results were announced on May 16, the following year.

September 19, 1995

Federal Highway Administrator Slater announced a public/private partnership to support the “Share the Road” campaign, including a coast-to-coast tour by a 48-foot tractor-trailer displaying vivid graphics and the campaign’s safety slogan, “Don’t Hang Out in the No-Zone.”

October 16, 1995

Several DOT Headquarters employees on the Nassif Building's eighth floor complained of a musty odor and began to report inexplicable sickness. They were suffering from "sick building syndrome." The building was cleaned, floor-by-floor, the process completed during the summer of 1997.

October 30, 1995

Secretary Peña announced the formation of a Grade Crossing Safety Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of highway-rail crossing design and construction.

November 13 and December 15, 1995

The Federal Government furloughed nonessential employees from those agencies dependent on the Republican Congress and the Clinton White House reaching a budget agreement. As instructed by OMB, federal agencies implemented shutdown plans by 12:30 p.m. on November 14.

November 15, 1995

President Clinton signed into law the $37.5 billion Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 1996. As a result, DOT was largely unaffected by the Federal Government shutdown. This legislation also cleared the way for the transfer of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation from the Office of the Secretary to the FAA, effective November 16.

November 29, 1995

President Clinton signed into law the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995.

November 29, 1995

As part of the NHS Designation Bill, Congress effectively repealed the national 55-mph speed limit.

December 14, 1995

Secretary Peña and FAA Administrator Hinson announced the Commuter Safety Initiative, aimed at providing “one level of safety” for travelers on airliners from “ten-seaters to jumbo jets.” One part of a proposal announced the year before, the Initiative required many commuter airlines to operate under regulations governing major airlines.

December 29, 1995

President Clinton signed into law the ICC Termination Act of 1995, bringing to a close, effective December 31, the nation’s oldest regulatory commission.



January 2, 1996

The ICC Termination Act of 1995 established the Surface Transportation Board as a decisional independent, bipartisan, adjudicatory body organizationally housed within the Department of Transportation, with jurisdiction over certain surface transportation economic regulatory matters.

January 24, 1996

Secretary Peña, Deputy Secretary Downey, and Assistant Secretary for Administration Melissa Allen formally launched the Transportation Administrative Services Center (TASC) to provide fee-based administrative services, formerly financed by the Working Capital Fund, within the Department and to other government organizations at competitive rates.

February 10, 1996

President Clinton signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996, Division E of which was the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996, also known as the Clinger-Cohen Act, named for Rep. Bill Clinger (R-PA) and Senator William Cohen (R-ME).

February 29, 1996

As part of its continuing “open skies” initiative, the Department announced a U.S.-German agreement relaxing limitations on air travel between the two countries. By this date, the United States had concluded open skies agreements with ten other European nations: the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Belgium.

March 4, 1996

Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) named one of several small candidate federal agencies to become Performance-Based Organizations.

March 29, 1996

President Clinton signed a Presidential Decision Directive making the military Global Positioning System available for civilian and commercial users, thereby ushering in a new era of travel, time savings and communication.

May 7, 1996

The Department announced that about 80 percent of nonstop scheduled U.S. airline flights between the United States and foreign countries would be free of smoking as of June 1.

May 11, 1996

Shortly after takeoff, ValuJet Flight 592 plunged into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 aboard.

May 21, 1996

Secretary Peña announced the formation of a government-industry partnership to conduct a $10 million-dollar educational campaign on the proper use of seat belts and the dangers of air bags.

July 16, 1996

President Clinton issued Executive Order 13011, Federal Information Technology, to significantly improve the way the Federal Government acquires and manages information technology.

July 17, 1996

Shortly after TWA Flight 800 took off on its route from Kennedy Airport to Paris, an explosion hurtled the Boeing 747 into the Atlantic, killing all 230 aboard.

August 22, 1996

President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, more popularly known as the Welfare Reform Act, into law.

August 22, 1996

President Clinton issued Executive Order 13015, establishing the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, in response to the TWA Flight 800 crash.

September 9, 1996

President Clinton asked Congress to appropriate more than $1 billion for a series of antiterrorism measures, based on the initial recommendations of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.

October 8, 1996

President Clinton signed the Maritime Security Act of 1996 into law, legislation authorizing a program to assist an active, privately owned U.S.-flagged and U.S.-crewed merchant shipping fleet to provide sealift sustainment during times of national emergency.


October 9, 1996

President Clinton signed into law the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996. among other things, it specified safety as FAA’s highest mission, established the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, and gave the NTSB new responsibilities for aiding the families of victims of aviation disasters (per the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act).

November 22, 1996

NHTSA announced a proposal that would allow carmakers to reduce the power of air bags and allow car owners to have mechanics deactivate air bags.

December 20, 1996

President Clinton nominated Peña to become Secretary of Energy and tapped Federal Highway Administrator--and fellow Arkansan--Rodney E. Slater to succeed Peña as Secretary of Transportation.



December 23, 1996

Building on epidemiological research begun in the 1950s by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and William Haddon (subsequently the National Highway Safety Bureau’s first Director), NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, with support from FHWA Administrator Slater and RSPA Administrator Dharmendra Sharma launched an agency-wide campaign to expunge the word “accident” (“crash” now the accepted terminology) as a descriptor in the field of unintentional injury. “Accidents” implied random activity, beyond “human influence and control,” whereas “crashes” were “predictable results of specific actions.”



January 11, 1997

President Clinton and Vice President Gore met the Cabinet for the reorganized second term, at which time they exhorted the group to continue the reinvention process. NPR published documents associated with this meeting, called the Blair House Papers.

January 30, 1997

Secretary of Defense Cohen approved the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement, which the Maritime Administration would administer.

February 3, 1997

The Department published notice of order on environmental justice.

February 12, 1997

In compliance with Executive Order 13015, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security released its Final Report to President Clinton.

February 14, 1997

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Earl Slater took the oath of office as the nation's thirteenth Secretary of Transportation--the second African American (after Coleman) and the second former Federal Highway Administrator (after Volpe) to hold that post.

March 8, 1997

President Clinton signed the “Memorandum on Government Employment for Welfare Recipients.”

March 12, 1997

President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Secretary Slater unveiled the Administration’s ISTEA reauthorization package, called the National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act, or NEXTEA.

April 16, 1997

Joined by former Secretaries Boyd, Card, Coleman, Peña, and Skinner, and a broad coalition of leaders from government, safety organizations, and business, Slater launched an initiative to bring U.S. seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000.

May 30, 1997

At the Garrett A. Morgan elementary school of science in Cleveland, Ohio, Slater announced the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures program to encourage careers in transportation. Morgan was an African American inventor, one of whose more notable inventions was the traffic signal, a device that provided a foundation for managing traffic flows in the 20th century.

June 8, 1997

Asserting that motor vehicle crashes were not “an unavoidable part of life,” Slater and NHTSA Administrator Dr. Ricardo Martinez, in Orlando, Florida, kicked off the “Crashes Aren’t Accidents” campaign.

August 19, 1997

The NTSB ruled that all parties, including the FAA, executive boardrooms, and the “shop room floor,” shared some culpability for the crash of ValuJet Flight 592.

August 27, 1997

Secretary Slater dedicated a roadside native wildflower garden in honor of Mrs. Lyndon Johnson.

September 30, 1997

The Department unveiled its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 1997-2002.

October 29, 1997

The Task Force on Assistance to Families of Aviation Disasters, co-chaired by Slater and NTSB Chairman James Hall, issued sixty-one recommendations to ensure that the families of the victims of aviation disasters receive prompt and compassionate assistance.

November 12, 1997

Congress passed ISTEA six-month reauthorization.

November 13, 1997

Congress passed the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, which traded bailout for the system for reform of the Amtrak board.

November 18, 1997

NHTSA announced ruling on airbag on-off switch installation.

December 1, 1997

President Clinton signed into law the Surface Transportation Extension Act.

December 2, 1997

President Clinton signed 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. The new board of directors would have members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.

December 11, 1997

The National Civil Aviation Review Commission, chaired by former Representative Norman Mineta, issued its final report, Avoiding Aviation Gridlock and Reducing the Accident Rate: A Consensus for Change.


February 6, 1998

President Clinton signed into law legislation renaming Washington National Airport the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

April 1, 1998

In Dakar, Senegal, Slater announced the Clinton Administration's "Safe Skies for Africa" Initiative to promote sustainable improvements in aviation safety and airport security in Africa.

June 8, 1998

The Surface Transportation Board approved the breakup of Conrail by CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp.

June 9, 1998

President Clinton signed into law the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, a six-year, $216+ billion surface transportation reauthorization bill passed by Congress on May 22.

June 29, 1998

Secretary Slater met with representatives of DOT’s disability community. Here, he committed to form a DOT-wide Disability Services Center, run by employees from the Departmental Office of Civil Rights and the Transportation Administrative Services Center.

July 22, 1998

Congress enacted the TEA 21 Restoration Act, providing technical corrections to the original law.

August 7, 1998

President Clinton signed into law the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, which covered access to federally funded programs and services. The law strengthened Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and required access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal Government.

August 28, 1998

The FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association signed a historic new five-year pact, in which, for the first time, a federal labor union had negotiated wages with a government agency.

September 14, 1998

NHTSA announced a proposed rule that would require air bags to pass safety tests using crash dummies of all sizes--large adult, small adult, child, and infant.

October 8, 1998

On ONE DOT Day, Slater called on Department employees to reinvent their workplace culture to serve their customers better.

October 21, 1998

President Clinton signed into law the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, which requires government agencies to automate their interactions with outside partners and customers by October 21, 2003 to the extent practicable.

October 30, 1998

Secretary Slater announced that eight nations--Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe--were invited to participate in the "Safe Skies for Africa" initiative to increase the number of nations in sub-Saharan Africa that meet the safety and security standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.




May 25, 1999

Secretary Slater announced a long-range goal of reducing fatalities associated with truck and bus crashes by 50 percent by 2010. There were 5,374 such fatalities in 1998, the latest year for which data is available.

June 1, 1999

Rival rail giants, Norfolk Southern Corporation and CSX Corp., officially divided Conrail’s operations, paving the ways for the first real competition in rail, freight in the Northeast in more than twenty-three years.

July 26, 1999

On the ninth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Slater announced an Accessibility Policy Statement, vowing to “demonstrate through our own programs and actions that a fully accessible transportation system–pedestrian, rail, transit, highway, water, and air–is not only essential, but attainable.”

August 16, 1999

The DOT Disability Resource Center for Department employees officially opened its doors for business.

December 5-7, 1999

Secretary Slater hosted the “Aviation in the 21st Century–Beyond Open Skies” Ministerial in the hotel where, fifty-five years before, the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation produced recommendations for practices and procedures that guided world aviation since then. This new Ministerial, attended by more than 900 persons from ninety-three nations, explored the challenges and opportunities in the aviation system of the 21st century.

December 9, 1999

President Clinton signed into law the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, which transferred the Office of Motor Carriers from the Federal Highway Administration to a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.



January 1, 2000

DOT and its operating administrations helped the transportation community continue to function normally as the world transitioned to the new century. To demonstrate the Y2K readiness of the aviation system, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey made successful cross-country fights during the New Year’s rollover of the ATC system.

March 7, 2000

Secretary Slater, President Clinton, and a host of federal officials, joined members of Martin Luther King’s family and other civil rights advocates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, 35 years after “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965.

March 8, 2000

Secretary Slater formally inaugurated the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, whose mission was to significantly improve truck and bus safety on the nation’s highways.

April 5, 2000

President Clinton signed into law the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, known more commonly as FAIR-21.

April 11, 2000

President Clinton issued Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, to reduce Federal employees’ contributions to traffic congestion and air pollution in the National Capital Area by increasing the attractiveness of mass transit—with full tax-free Metrochek benefits of $65 per month--and vanpool options.

September 25, 2000

In Adarand Constructors v. Slater, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise provisions of TEA-21 and the DOT regulations implementing these provisions. This court was the first to rule on the constitutionality of these provisions, revised following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1995 decision in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña.

November 1, 2000

President Clinton signed into law the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, legislation passed almost unanimously, which required automobile, tire, and auto parts manufacturers to make several changes to improve tire safety.



January 8, 2001

At the 80th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, and with an assist from former Secretary Bill Coleman, Secretary Rodney E. Slater disseminated two studies, The Changing Face of Transportation and Transportation Decision Making – Policy Architecture for the 21st Century.

January 13, 2001

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority completed its 103-mile, 83-station Metrorail system.

January 25, 2001

Former Representative Norman Yoshio Mineta (D-CA) took the oath of office as the nation’s fourteenth Secretary of Transportation. The lone Democrat in George W. Bush’s cabinet, Mineta, age sixty-nine, had been Secretary of Commerce in the outgoing Clinton administration, and was the first Asian Pacific American to hold a Cabinet-rank post.

September 11, 2001

Nineteen radical Islamic extremists with the group al Qaeda penetrated security at three major airports, seized four American domestic airliners, and turned them into missiles that would destroy the World Trade Center in New York City and hobble the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, slaughtering thousands. FAA air traffic controllers did a heroic job in bringing the rest of the fleet down safely.

October 7, 2001

Operation Enduring Freedom commences war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

November 19, 2001

President Bush signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which, among other things, called for the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration in the Department of Transportation, to increase security at airports.



February 4, 2002

The General Services Administration (GSA) leased 11 acres of land on which to build a new Department of Transportation headquarters at the Southeast Federal Center in Washington, D.C.

February 16, 2002

The Transportation Security Administration opened for business.

June 6, 2002

President Bush announced plans to establish a Department of Homeland Security, which, among other things, proposed to transfer out of the Department of Transportation the United States Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.

November 25, 2002

President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law, whereby the Coast Guard and TSA were to move into the Department of Homeland Security by March 1, 2003.

November 25, 2002

President Bush signed the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 into law.

December 29, 2002

The Transportation Administrative Services Center was reorganized back into the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration.

December 31, 2002

TSA, with a little creativity--and assistance from K-9 explosives sniffers--met the mandate of Congress to have explosives detection capabilities to screen all checked baggage at all 429 major U.S. airports. This was the last of thirty-six that Congress had laid down in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. In little more than a year, TSA met all 36 mandates, including the November 17 deadline for screening passengers.



February 25, 2003

In a memorable “Change of Watch” ceremony, replete with color guard, speeches, silent drill team, and John Philip Sousa marches, Secretary Mineta transferred the responsibility of civilian leadership of the Coast Guard to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

March 1, 2003

The Department of Homeland Security was operational. Following ceremonies earlier in the week, the United States Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration moved from DOT to their new home.

March 22, 2003

President Bush announced the commencement of hostilities in the campaign to overthrow Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime from power there in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to disarm that nation of weapons of mass destruction.

April 3, 2003

To reorganize and enhance Department of Transportation policy functions, the Senate confirmed Jeffrey N. Shane as the first-ever Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy.

May 14-15, 2003

Secretary Mineta introduced SAFETEA 2003 to the House and Senate.

July 16, 2003

Secretary Mineta called an All-Hands meeting for employees in FHWA, NHTSA, and FMCSA to discuss DOT’s surface transportation safety initiative to increase significantly the use of safety belts.

November 11, 2003

Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced TEA-LU as the House alternative to the Administrative proposal.

December 9, 2003

Secretary Mineta proposed restructuring of Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), creating the Research and Innovative Technologies Administration (RITA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in its stead.

December 12, 2003

President Bush signed into law Vision 100--Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act.

December 16, 2003

In a memorandum to DOT employees, Secretary Mineta explained his rationale for restructuring the Research and Special Programs Administration, separating the technology and transportation policy missions to a new Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).



January 29, 2004

Ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, Secretary Mineta launched DOT’s “Moving the Nation’s Economy” initiative, tracking the new Transportation Series Index.  TSI tends to be more sensitive to economic shocks, and hence is more suitable in detecting cyclical turning points than the current indicators used by National Bureau of Economic Research.

November 30, 2004

President Bush signed into law the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act, authorizing the reorganization of RSPA into a pipeline and hazardous materials safety administration, and a focused research organization.

December 9, 2004

President Bush offered Secretary Mineta (and the Secretary accepted) the opportunity to remain as DOT Secretary in his second administration.



February 20, 2005

Secretary Mineta announced that the restructured Operating Administrations, RITA and PHMSA, had been established and were open for business.

August 10, 2005

At a Caterpillar plant in Montgomery, Illinois, after twelve extensions, and almost two years when the bill finally passed, President Bush signed into law the Safe, Affordable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act–A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), a $286.4 billion extension of ISTEA and TEA-21 surface transportation programs. 

August 29, 2005

Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane, struck the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast border; levees breached, and more than a thousand perished in that city below sea level, revealing something  of the aura of a Third World atmosphere.

September 3, 2005

In response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Secretary Mineta lodged an unprecedented request to activate the Ready Reserve Fleet, including Department of Defense vessels, for service moving supplies and personnel into the stricken area, and evacuating people out of harm’s way. That same day, Mineta announced the RRF would have flown more than 10,000 stranded citizens out of New Orleans by the end of the day.

September 17, 2005

Secretary Norman Y. Mineta became the longest serving Secretary of Transportation.

September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita landed on the border between Texas and SW Louisiana, known as the Sabine Pass, leading to seven fatalities, and a forced evacuation of Houston.

October 18, 2005

Hurricane Wilma, the most powerful hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast, killed 63 in Florida.




May 16, 2006

Secretary Mineta announced A National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network, which included paying for the use of highways at peak use periods.

June 23, 2006

Secretary Mineta announced his resignation as Secretary, effective July 7, 2006.

September 5, 2006

President Bush named Mary E. Peters of Arizona, former Federal Highway Administrator (2001-2005) and former head of the Arizona DOT, as his choice to be Secretary of Transportation.

October 17, 2006

President Bush’s Chief of Staff, Josh Bolton, swore Secretary Mary E. Peters into office as the fifteenth Secretary of Transportation.




April 20, 2007

The first 300-plus employees, from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), began moving into the new Department of Transportation headquarters building on New Jersey Avenue and M Street, SE.

June 21, 2007

Save for FRA employees on Vermont Avenue who were not subject to Nassif move deadlines, the relocation is complete when Secretary Peters and her staff move from the Nassif building to the new Department of Transportation headquarters on New Jersey Avenue and M Street, SE.

August 1, 2007

At 6:05 p.m., at the height of the evening rush hour, the I 35W bridge, spanning the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area, collapsed, killing five outright and injuring sixty severely.

December 19, 2007

President Bush signed legislation changing CAFÉ standards and requiring new auto fleets to average 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over current fleet standards.



January 2008

The Nation Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, pursuant the mandate of SAFETEA-LU, issues its report, Transportation for Tomorrow. Three commissioners, including Secretary Peters, its chair, dissent. 

March 31, 2008

Secretary Peters and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the U.S.-Australia Open Skies Agreement, eliminating restrictions on U.S.-Australia air services.

April 29, 2008

Secretary Peters launches the official blog (now retired) of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, “Life in the Fast Lane”.

April 30, 2008

Secretary Peters and Virginia Governor Tom Kaine Agree on a design approval notification regarding the extension of METRO through Tysons Corner, to be sent to Congress.

May 15, 2008

Secretary Peters dedicated the opening of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, with its twenty-foot higher drawbridge, as well as twelve lanes of traffic.

May 29, 2008

While visiting Iraq, Secretary Peters and the Director-General of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority Sabeeh Al Shebany Designated Baghdad’s First Certified Air Traffic Controllers.

July 29, 2008

Secretary Peters unveils, in Atlanta, the Bush Administration's Refocus, Reform, Renew initiative to Fight Gridlock Now.

November 4, 2008

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) elected the first African American President of the United States.

December 19, 2008

President Obama names Ray H. LaHood (R-IL) as his nominee to be Secretary of Transportation.



January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama inaugurated 44th President of the United States.

January 23, 2009

Assistant Secretary for Administration, Linda Jacobs Washington, swears Ray H. LaHood in as the 16th Secretary of Transportation, the first Lebanese American to serve in that post.

January 28, 2009

Secretary LaHood holds first DOT Town Hall Meeting.

February 17, 2009

President Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.