March 30, 2009
Brinegar Dies; Former U.S. DOT Secretary
Claude S. Brinegar, U.S. secretary of transportation under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, died March 13 at the age of 82.
Brinegar joined U.S. DOT on Feb. 2, 1973, as the third secretary in the department’s history, and served until Feb. 1, 1975.
During Brinegar’s tenure at U.S. DOT, the Nixon Administration announced its willingness in December 1973 to begin considering public transit subsidies from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Late the following year, President Ford signed an $11.8 billion public transit bill.
Brinegar also dealt with railroads facing fiscal crisis and instituted emergency efforts to save the northeastern rail transportation network, overseeing the creation of Conrail from six failing freight railroads. Conrail stayed under federal oversight until 1987.
As a supporter of energy conservation efforts as Arab nations placed an embargo on oil exports to the U.S. in late 1973, Brinegar instituted the nationwide 55 mph speed limit in the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974; Congress repealed the speed limit in 1995. He also spearheaded a national effort to promote carpooling and stressed the importance of improved auto fuel efficiency.
Brinegar worked in the oil industry for almost 40 years, retiring in 1992 from Unocal (formerly Union Oil of California). He had a doctorate in applied economics from Stanford University.