Thursday, March 19, 2009

Claude Brinegar, transit funding advocate, dies at 82

Written by 

Claude S. Brinegar, an oil industry executive who served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and became a persuasive advocate of federal funding of mass transit, died in Palo Alto, Calif., on March 13.

President Nixon named Brinegar to succeed John A. Volpe as DOT Secretary in December 1972. Volpe, a construction company executive who was known as "the concrete builder" when he came to DOT, surprised his critics when he turned into an ardent backer of mass transit. Brinegar carried on his work and helped Nixon push through the landmark Federal Aid Highway Act of 1973, which allowed the Highway Trust Fund for the first time to be used for public transit.

Brinegar is also remembered for his role in forming Conrail out of several bankrupt Northeast railroads, and for pushing legislation creating a nationwide 55-mph speed limit.