Mertz: The Birth of the U.S. Interstate

William Lee Mertz, a former Federal Highway Administration Associate Administrator, played a leading role in planning and developing the U.S. Interstate Highway system. Born in 1920, Mertz started his career as a highway engineer with the Bureau of Public Roads in the Department of Commerce. As a field engineer, Mertz worked on many interesting and important transportation projects. He took part in the 1955 Road Test in Ottawa, Illinois, where the basic designs for Interstate pavements were developed. Mertz was assigned in 1956 to the Bureau of Standards to develop standards for computer software for use in highway engineering applications. During the 1960s he worked with such groups as the National Capital Transit Agency in Washington, D.C. and the Tri-State Transportation Commission in New York. He also served as an administrator in the planning of the Interstate Highway System, including the Washington Beltway, I-95 in Maryland, and the Washington Metrorail System. In 1969 Mertz returned to the Federal Highway Administration as Chief of the Urban Planning Division and developed transportation planning studies in all 213 metropolitan areas of the nation. After he left the Federal Highway Administration, Mertz took it upon himself to assemble documents and materials that were important in the development of the Interstate system, and, more generally, to the development of highways and urban transportation policy. Mertz died in 1993.

George Mason University Libraries archived Mr. Mertz’s collected archives. Types of materials include scholarly journal articles dealing with transportation topics, summaries of congressional acts relating to transportation, official reports and studies of transportation agencies, summaries of speeches given by transportation officials, and personal correspondence among transportation officials.

~Thanks to Jonathan Gifford for this post

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