House Transportation and Infrastructure Through the Ages

Posted February 27, 2009 at 2:04pm

The following is a look back at the history of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

1789

Congress authorizes construction of a lighthouse at Cape Henry, Va., believed to be the first Congressionally authorized public works project in the United States.

1815

The House creates the Select Committee on Roads and Canals. The panel reports measures related to road construction, canals and river navigation.

1831

The Roads and Canals panel becomes a standing committee. Virginia Rep. Charles Mercer (Anti-Jacksonian) assumes the chairmanship after serving as president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Co.

1837

Congress creates the Standing Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds with jurisdiction over maintenance and construction on federal property in Washington, D.C.

1869

The Roads and Canals Committee is renamed the Railways and Canals Committee to reflect the growing importance of rail transportation in the United States. The panel also maintains jurisdiction over roadways.

1883

The House authorizes the Rivers and Harbors Committee for the 48th Congress. It takes responsibility for the annual river and harbors bill, which until 1920 includes appropriations for river and harbor improvements.

1913

Congress establishes the Roads Committee. House rules prohibit construction bills from including references to building particular roadways.

1916

The House establishes the Committee on Flood Control, which assumes jurisdiction over Mississippi River levies from the Rivers and Harbors Committee.

1927

Congress folds the Railways and Canals Committee into the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee.

1946

The Legislative Reorganization Act merges panels with jurisdiction over flood control, roads, public buildings, rivers and harbors into the Public Works Committee. The rules prohibit construction earmarks in federal highway bills for specific road projects.

1947

The Public Works Committee authorizes the Subcommittee to Investigate Questionable Trade Practices. The subcommittee focuses on black market transactions in the steel industry.

1956

The committee authorizes construction of the national Interstate highway system.

1970

Rep. John Blatnik (D-Minn.) becomes chairman of the Public Works Committee. Fellow Minnesotan James Oberstar takes over as the panel’s administrator, the top staff job.

1975

The committee gains jurisdiction over transportation in general, including civil aviation. At the same time, it surrenders control of Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.

1995

Republicans take control of Congress and rename the public works panel the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The panel also gains some responsibilities previously held by the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) becomes chairman.

1998

Congress passes the $217.9 billion Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. The conference report includes a “guarantee provision” that permits the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to raise a point of order against appropriations measures that fail to spend authorized highway construction funds.

2001

Republican-imposed term limits force Shuster to step down as chairman. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) takes the gavel.

2005

The most recent highway reauthorization bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, becomes law. The $244.1 billion measure is the most expensive surface transportation bill to date.

Congress establishes the House Homeland Security Committee. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee loses primary jurisdiction over transportation security to the new panel.

2007

Democrats take control of Congress. Decades after serving the Public Works Committee as a staffer, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) becomes chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.