[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 9, 1998]
[Pages 923-924]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 923]]

Remarks on Signing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
June 9, 1998

    Thank you, Robin. You're a pretty hard act 
to follow. [Laughter] And thank you, Secretary Slater, for doing such a good job and for giving such a good 
sermon today. I thought he was going to pass the plate. [Laughter] Then 
I realized that you had already given him all the money; he didn't need 
to pass the plate. [Laughter]
    I, too, want to thank the Members of Congress who are here. There 
are 40 or 41 here. But I would like to specifically acknowledge and 
thank Senator Lott, Senator Chafee, and Senator Baucus, Congressman 
Shuster and Congressman Oberstar, Senators Byrd, 
D'Amato, and Sarbanes, all the others who are here who have worked for this. I 
thank you so much.
    Thank you, Governor Schafer, for 
coming, and all the mayors who are here from all over our great country. 
Governor Voinovich wanted to come and be 
with us today, but he's back in Ohio with his mother who is ill. And our 
thoughts and prayers are with them.
    Forty-two years ago this month, President Eisenhower signed the 
Federal Aid Highway Act into law. The bill was sponsored in the Senate 
by Albert Gore, Sr. It gave rise to the 
most efficient network of roads in the history of this country, 
connecting millions of Americans to the economic mainstream, ushering in 
two decades of unparalleled growth.
    In 1992, when I got on that bus and rode across America, I was still 
the beneficiary of that farsighted action over 40 years ago. But I also 
saw that the concrete foundations built in the Eisenhower era were 
crumbling in some places, that more needed to be done in our cities, in 
our rural areas, and in all places in between.
    It was clear to me then that if America were to roll into the 21st 
century at full speed, we had to be willing once again to make historic 
and long-term investments in our roads, our bridges, our transportation 
systems. We've worked hard to do that for 5 years with enormous 
bipartisan support in the Congress, even as we were cutting the deficit 
and reducing the size of the Federal Government to its smallest in 35 
    Today I am proud to sign this bill, the Transportation Equity Act 
for the 21st Century. It meets the challenge of building the pathways of 
the future, while maintaining the fiscal discipline that allowed us to 
achieve the first balanced budget in 29 years and an accompanying very 
high rate of economic growth. The act will strengthen America by 
modernizing and building roads, bridges, transit systems, and railways 
to link our people and our country together and to permit a freer flow 
of goods. It supports, as you just saw, hundreds of thousands of jobs 
and a lot of good training.
    The act will save lives by allowing us to develop advanced airbag 
technologies, to offer incentives for increased seatbelt use, to make 
our roads safer, to get bad drivers and vehicles off the road. The act 
will protect the environment. It expands recreational trails and bike 
paths, promotes mass transit, and helps communities to meet national 
standards for healthy air. The act will expand opportunity. It offers 
transportation assistance to enable more Americans to move from welfare 
to work. If you can't get to work, you can't go to work. It protects the 
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program so that minority and women 
owned businesses have an opportunity to compete for transportation 
    That act will allow us to reserve our budget surpluses until we have 
saved Social Security for the 21st century. The bill is paid for, line 
by line and dime by dime, without squeezing other critical investments 
in education, health care, research and development, and the 
    I have to say that I am disappointed that the bill does not go far 
enough to ensure a national standard of .08 blood alcohol standard in 
every State. I'll continue to fight for it and I hope we can pass it, 
because I believe it will save hundreds of lives.
    I also would note for the record that, working with these Members of 
Congress, we were successful in removing several extraneous 
environmental riders from the legislation. But I hope that that process 
can be abandoned so that all environmental issues can be voted on in the 
clear light of day, up or down.

[[Page 924]]

    Let me finally say that now that we are honoring our commitment to 
build a 21st century transportation infrastructure, I hope that the 
bipartisan support I have already seen for a 21st century education 
infrastructure will result in a broad bipartisan bill there as well. For 
less than one-tenth of the cost of this bill and without spending a cent 
of the surplus, we can help to ensure that our children will be able to 
learn in safe, modern, well-equipped schools.
    Now again, for all of you, just look at this array of Members of 
Congress who are here from both parties and both Houses. This shows what 
we can do when we bring honorable differences and an honest 
determination to solve a problem together in open and respectful dialog 
with an absolute commitment to getting to the end of the road. This kind 
of constructive bipartisan approach can do anything it sets its mind to 
    I talked to Senator Lott today, and I want to 
thank him and, in his absence, Senator Daschle, for the agreements which have been made today to allow 
votes to proceed on the tobacco legislation. I thank you, sir. We have 
another chance to save a million lives, reduce youth smoking, and make a 
massive contribution to the public health of America. The public expects 
us to work out our differences on this legislation and on other 
important bills. The public expects us to act as parents, not 
politicians. The public really expects us to bring the kind of 
bipartisan spirit that was brought to bear on this transportation bill 
to all our important work here.
    And I must say again, the country owes a deep debt of gratitude to 
the United States Congress for the way they have done this work. Thank 
you. And I would like to ask all the Members of Congress to come up here 
and gather around, and I'll sign the bill.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

    Thank you all very much. We're adjourned.

Note: The President spoke at 5:45 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive 
Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Robin McNab, member, 
Operating Engineers Local 77, Suitland, MD, who introduced the 
President; Gov. Edward T. Schafer of North Dakota; and Gov. George V. 
Voinovich of Ohio. H.R. 2400, approved June 9, was assigned Public Law 
No. 105-178.