THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
President Clinton today signed into law S. 440, releasing more than $5 billion for highway and other transportation projects. This bill, the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, comes after several years work by federal, state, and local officials to identify, and support, highways of national significance -- those that support our need for efficient, safe, and reliable transportation.
S. 440 designates the National Highway System, which comprises just four percent of the nation's highways but carry almost half of our highway traffic and most of our truck and tourist traffic. The improvements that we will make to these roads under this bill will not only support our economic, defense, and other needs, but will improve the safety of these key national roadways.
In signing the bill, however, the President acknowledged some remaining problems with it. In particular, he strongly opposes its repeal of the National Maximum Speed Limit law and the law that encourages states to enact motorcycle helmet use laws. The bill also could potentially exempt large numbers of small to medium sized trucks and their drivers from critical safety regulations that govern driver qualifications and truck maintenance. Undoubtedly, these laws and regulations have saved many lives.
The President called on states, which were given greater authority over issues of highway safety under this bill, to exercise it responsibly. He also instructed the Secretary of Transportation to develop an action plan to promote safety, consistent with the Administration's continuing commitment to highway safety.
Despite his disappointment with the safety provisions, however, the President believes that, overall, this legislation will benefit the nation. The release of more than $5 billion for the National Highway System will strengthen the backbone of the nation's transportation system, providing jobs and economic opportunities and funding vital transportation projects in every state.