By Jody Brumage
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The 89th Congress commenced in 1965 with a clear message of purpose. President Lyndon Johnson had announced his intentions to develop a large program of laws designed to fight a war on poverty and racial injustice in the United States, and many members of the Senate and House of Representatives shared this initiative as they returned to the halls of the Capitol. For Senator Robert C. Byrd, the time was right to again reintroduce legislation to build the Allegheny Parkway, a project he had been working on for four years.
Before Senator Byrd could focus on his legislation to establish the parkway, another major piece of legislation was brought to the floor by his colleague from West Virginia, Senator Jennings Randolph.
In the spring of 1964, the Department of the Interior had completed a study of the project and endorsed the plan. However, progress was soon halted when the Bureau of the Budget refused to include the project in its plans and asked that the Allegheny Parkway be considered along with a dozen other similar projects currently being debated in the Senate. Now in 1965, a new committee, the President’s Recreation Advisory Council was studying the feasibility of the parkway as part of a national scenic roads and parkways program. At the end of the first session of the 89th Congress, Senator Byrd wrote to President Johnson urging his approval of the completed study. While the study was still underway, the Senate passed the Highway Beautification Act on September 16, 1965 which limited the impact of advertising on highways.
With the experience gained from his fight for the Allegheny Parkway in the 1960s, Senator Byrd sharpened his tactics for navigating the long and difficult process of securing passage for major infrastructure projects. By the end of his tenure in office, Senator Byrd achieved Federal support for hundreds of miles of modern highways and freeways in West Virginia, connecting the state’s remote regions to the Interstate Highway System and opening many communities to economic opportunities that had long been unobtainable.