MILLER: This is Mardi Miller, M-a-r-d-i Miller, and Laura Whayne.
WHAYNE: This is Laura Whayne, L-a-u-r-a W-h-a-y-n-e.
MILLER: And today is May 12, 2010, and we are in, um, the RaymondBuilding, um, with Calvin Grayson, former Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Um, and Mr. Grayson, if you will spell your name for us, please.
GRAYSON: Uh, I'm Calvin Grayson, C-a-l-v-i-n G-r-a-y-s-o-n.
MILLER: And this is an interview in the Kentucky TransportationCenter Oral History Project. Mr. Grayson, um, if you would we're going to talk to you today about your experiences with the Kentucky Transportation Center, um, and with transportation in Kentucky, um, if 1:00you'd like to begin with an overview of that.
GRAYSON: Uh, I have been blessed with, uh, probably one of the bestand longest careers in transportation starting in 1949 with the, uh, old Kentucky Highway Department. Graduating from the University of Kentucky in January of 1949, it was very difficult having finished a tenure in World War II and then coming back and finishing my education, and I had some difficulty in finding employment because of some of the souvenirs left by World War II because I was hospitalized for approximately sixteen months. I was advised by the faculty at the, uh, University of Kentucky Civil Engineering Department that it might be beneficial to go to the old Kentucky Highway Department where they were in desperate need of people because they had lost all of their 2:00professional people because of the war. So I went to the Kentucky Highway Department in January of '49 and started my, uh, fifty-two years of career in, in transportation. I think I would like to talk about my career in, uh, with some form of frame of reference for, from 19--approximately--50 to the year 2000. My career went from 1949 to 1997, so I think approximately the fifty-year period would cover it. I would like to break that number of years up into two parts; primarily the first, um, from 1950 to 1980, uh, when I left the department of transportation, and from 1980 to the year 2000 which, uh, more 3:00specifically is oriented towards the Transportation Center here at the university. If that frame of reference is okay, we'll just use that.
MILLER: That will be wonderful. Thank you.
GRAYSON: Okay. My first, uh, position in the old Kentucky HighwayDepartment was, uh in the bridge design office, and I was fascinated with all structures. And therefore, I chose the bridge design division. So from 1950 to 1956, I was in the bridge design division. In 1956, the highway department secured its first computer, an old IBM 650, and, uh, having been a little bit disappointed in the calculator 4:00and drafting table, I found myself a little bit more oriented to people. So I, uh, I was asked if I would like to take the computer, and I was thinking that it would be quite a challenge because this was a new, a whole new area for, uh, handling data which we had not been exposed to in the old highway department. So from 1950 to 1956, uh, I was designing bridges. In 1956 also, at the same time we got our computer, President Eisenhower, uh, passed legislation that financed the interstate defense system of highways. He was quite a remarkable president with a war career, of course, and he was so impressed with the autobahn that he wanted to build a similar system in the United States. 5:00Quite a marketing fellow also because he, he used the, uh, phrase "interstate system of defense highways" which was a marketing device which was, uh, very appropriate and I think made it easier to pass the financing legislation. So in 1956, two careers started; the computer and then the partnership that had not existed previously between the federal government and the state governments. And it's, in my, uh, humblest opinion that the greatest, uh, public works program in the history of the United States, which was the interstate defense highway system planning, design and construction of approximately 42,000 miles of interstate highways where you could travel from one coast to the other without having to experience a traffic signal. Quite a, quite 6:00a program. So this is my first introduction to, to the thing that has stayed with me through my entire career and that is partnerships between governmental agencies, partnerships between private agencies and partnerships between government and private agencies has been my total theme, I guess, in terms of how best to get the projects to completion. So in 1960, 1956 to 1960, we started our careers, uh, with the interstate program and the new computer. In 1960, Governor Combs came in and, uh, in nineteen, uh, I guess it was somewhere around 1957 or '56 we--the legislature in Kentucky passed the, uh, Turnpike 7:00Authority which was a way for the state to borrow money legally which had been--until the Turnpike Authority was established, it was illegal to borrow money on--for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. So in 1960 when Governor Combs came into office, he built the Mountain Parkway which, uh, was in my opinion our first developmental highway that had been built. This was a toll facility, and it was a new effort on the, uh, transportation highway department to start tolling roads in the commonwealth. The new man who became my boss was Commissioner Ward, uh, who was, uh, one of twenty bosses that I had while at the, uh, 8:00transportation highway department and DOT. He was a remarkable person. He, uh, he initiated a new function in the highway department called advanced planning, and I was asked to, uh, head the advanced planning, um, section. As usual, I had said to him, "I don't understand the meaning of advanced planning." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "I think all planning's supposed to be in advance." He said, "That sounds like a typical engineer statement." (Miller laughs) But I thought it was kind of ambiguous to call it advanced planning. Um, this is a time when we needed urban planners; we had none. And so I went to the governor's office with a new idea in the highway department to take two employees who had just finished their education in civil engineering 9:00at the University of Kentucky and asked the governor if it would be legally possible for us to pay their salaries while they attended another university of their choice to secure an urban planning degree which was not--we did not have a school in the Commonwealth of Kentucky that would provide that degree. These two gentlemen were, uh, Tom Layman--I don't mean Tom Layman--Billy Joe Sexton and Tom Heilbron. Uh, they both, uh, accepted the scholarship for a master's degree in urban planning and attended out-of-state schools to secure their degree. This was a much needed discipline which we were lacking in the highway department. To have two young men qualified as urban planners was a great asset to the advanced planning division. Mr. Ward also 10:00decided that the engineers had not been successful in holding what he considered effective public hearings with the, with the public with the, uh, seven hundred and something miles that we were going to build of interstate systems and also the, uh, toll road system. Uh, the public needed to be informed in terms of what we were planning to do and, uh, how we planned to do it. So he selected me to go with him to, uh, hold the meetings, and, uh, he said that he would handle the political part if I would handle the engineering and planning part. Quite a learning process. The first meeting we went to was for the location of Interstate 75 in the location of Corbin and London where 11:00the citizens were very, uh, unhappy with the corridor that had been chosen by the highway department, and they said, "What can we do to get you to change your mind?" Commissioner Ward said, "You can go to the university. You can go to the--our University of Kentucky if you want to and talk to the business and economics college and ask them to do an economic impact study on the two or three different corridors, and you'll have some basis to come back to the highway department to say that the economic impact analysis indicates this is a preferable corridor that we would like to have in the Corbin/London area. Here again, we find, uh, the need for partnership between academia and state 12:00government, and the local people being advised that this is the way that we can best reach a conclusion in terms of what, what is the best choice of corridors as it relates to the cultural and economic impacts on a community. Quite a learning process for me, but here again, a partnership; teamwork between, uh, academia and the local citizens and the state government. So, uh, this was done, and we, by the way, the corridor was moved as a result of this.
Another example was in the Mammoth Cave area, I-65, where we had morethan three but we used, final three corridors in the vicinity of Mammoth Cave. This is a very hotly debated issue and brother against 13:00brother and sister against brother. Families were split in terms of which corridor to use, and on this occasion when we went to the public information meeting and I asked Commissioner Ward if we could show the corridor that we were recommending. He said, "No. I don't want to do that. I want to let the public decide which one they want." So we didn't. It was quite a fiasco at the public meeting. Um, on the way back from that meeting, the commissioner said, "You were right." He very seldom ever said he was wrong. He said, "We should have recommended a corridor because now we don't know where we are. If we'd have recommended a corridor, we had the opportunity to tell them why we recommended it. If they disagreed with it then they could have gone to, to the University of Kentucky or other universities to get some 14:00help to determine the economic and cultural impact." So here again, we find the need for local government, the local citizenry and state government being asked to go to an academia, a university of their choice to help find answer to their dilemma. And, uh, in my opinion, it's another move to show how important academia and how important partnerships and teamwork in finding solutions to very controversial transportation projects.
So the 1960s was--to 1965 was a great, in my opinion, learning processfor the Kentucky Highway Department; especially me. Then in 1965, the 15:00Appalachian Development Highway System was, uh, Appalachian Commission legislation was passed in 1965. The basis was for--of this legislation was, I think, based on a book that was written by John Whisman called Appalachia: A Legacy of Neglect. Great book. Uh, until this time almost all highway projects were not considered in Appalachia because of the extreme cost involved because of the extreme terrain conditions and not too much traffic. So whenever you had a cost/benefit ratio, the highways in Appalachia just fell out because it cost so much and didn't provide that much additional traffic service because it was not 16:00anticipated it would have that much traffic.
Here again, we copied after President Eisenhower. Uh, we needed a termthat would help us sell the Appalachian Development Highway System. I remember saying to almost the people, every person I met in Appalachia, "The Appalachian Development Highway System is not the solution to all your problems, but you will not find the solution to the problems in Appalachia without better transportation." So it was not a transportation system that would answer all of their problems, but they needed transportation to find solutions to many of their problems. So we chose the term "Appalachian Developmental Highway System" because it 17:00kind of goes with the old adage that build it and the people will come. We always had knowledge that when we tried to project traffic volumes in the future, we never, we always used an expansion factor, but we never were that good at determining the maximum traffic that would be there. And for that part that we didn't understand, we called it, uh, a developmental factor, and so we used the Mountain Parkway--which we have to give credit to Governor Combs--that had been built. So we used the developmental potential from the Mountain Parkway to help sell and market the Appalachian Developmental Highway System for the Appalachian region which was fourteen states. New York was the last state in. 18:00This was, uh, a real problem for locating engineers in Kentucky because of the exten-, in all of Appalachia--I recall our locating an engineer whose name was Cecil Hatter who was a very concerned person about where would you locate the Appalachian development corridor? If you put it in the valley where the people live, you've wiped out their homes. If you put it over the mountaintop in another valley, they didn't have access to that facility. So how do you best minimize the penalty and maximize the usage in an extreme terrain condition? And going with him to the field, I--he would say--I'd say, "Cecil, how about putting it over here?" He'd say, "If you've got enough money and dynamite, we can do that." "How about over here, Cecil?" "Well, it's 19:00steep as a horse's nose." I'll always remember that. Quite a serious, uh, person and, uh, took his job very serious then. I treasure his memories because he really wanted to do the right thing for locating that--those, uh, developmental corridors.
So in nine--after the Appalachian Developmental Highway System, between1965 and '70 we were working feverishly with the Interstate System, the Appalachian Development Highway System and the toll road system. Boy, what a duke's mixture (??) that we had. Uh, each governor that came along wanted to build a toll road during his term. Most of the recovery factors for the, uh, toll road system were not, uh, payable. Sometimes the recovery factor was only in the 0.25 which meant that 20:00the road fund had to pay the difference in the revenue. Our first toll road system which was built because it was a, it was a revenue bond venture was the Kentucky Turnpike, and the, uh, traffic carried the bond issue. In fact, the traffic, we paid off early, twelve years earlier than the bonds were supposed to be paid off. So all the bond issues that were sold for the Turnpike Authorities were GOBs, general obligation bonds, and the Road Fund guaranteed payment for those, uh, additional revenues which was not generated by the tolls. Um, I remember vividly when, uh, Governor Nunn, uh, came into office and, uh, was very transportation-oriented because we got our first full jet. We 21:00could go to Washington in a minimum of time, and, uh, at that time, I was going to Washington almost monthly for the Appalachian Commission meeting. We were the first state to present (??) an Appalachian project, Appalachian Developmental Highway Project, and, uh, that didn't just happen. I think it happened because, uh, Commissioner Ward had set a good foundation, uh, not because I was called the Appalachian desk, but he, he gave the engineers a rough time to make sure that we met the deadlines when we needed. The Appalachian program also created one of the most remarkable projects I've ever been associated with called the Pikeville Cut-Through Project. The mayor of Pikeville, Dr. 22:00Hamble, had a dream: moving a railroad, moving a mountain and moving a river to be able to, uh, provide some developmental land which is so scarce in, uh, Appalachia. This project went through four presidents. No one thought it would ever be completed. It was completed many, many years after I left the government but it again represented the partnership arrangement between a city, a state and the federal government and the private sector because the private sector was very much involved in all the design work and construction projects. They provided construction inspection because we didn't have the manpower to 23:00do that in the old highway department. We're up to about 1970.
WHAYNE: Um, I have one question. On the, um, you said the first--wewere the first state to head an Appalachian Development Highway System project. What was that project? On what road?
GRAYSON: It was on Kentucky 15. Uh, it was also--another thing--itwas the highest cut in a mountain that had been ever, uh, constructed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and as you go into, uh, Hazard you can see it. It was the first project on Kentucky 15; also the first project on the Appalachian Development Highway System. We got there because we had plans--they were old plans--but, uh, we revised the plans and were able to get there in a hurry. Sometimes, uh, you know, 24:00in later years when I was involved with secretary, I was accused of gambling with the taxpayers' money by developing plans with no money to build. If you, if you wait to start the planning and design plans for a project, if you wait until you get construction money, you won't get much, you won't get much done. You have to--it's not gambling. It's just a way of life that you have to bet on the future and have hopes for the future and you design, and that's why we were first on the Appalachian Development Highway System. Uh, and I credit a, a lot of that to Henry Ward, uh, who said, uh, you know, "Don't wait for the public, uh, and don't listen to the public. Go ahead and do what you know is right, and it'll, it'll pan out all right for the Commonwealth 25:00of Kentucky." By the way, Commissioner Ward, I hope he gets credit for the state park system. He's the one that established our state park system, and, uh, I think it's, uh, one of the greatest tourist attractions we've got now. We're about 1970, and, uh, this is the time when we started thinking about changing the highway department to a department of transportation. Governor Ford replaced, uh, uh, Governor Nunn who'd finished his term. By the way, Governor Ford ran on a campaign, "If you elect me governor, I'll get rid of that fool jet." Biggest mistake he ever made in his life. I told him so. It was on a lease-pay arrangement. It was almost paid for, so he won and he 26:00had to get rid of it because one thing about Wendell Ford, what he said is what he did. Wendell Ford probably was--did the best thing in state government that has been done since I was there. He reorganized all of state government and, uh, that was in 1970, early part of the seventies. And not--today, we're back in the same position where we are, was back in those days. We've got so many boards and then commissions and advisory groups. It's like ornaments on a tree. Nobody can ever have the governor's wishes carried out because they don't know what he wants. They're all like ornaments on a tree and, uh, state government ought to be reorganized again in the worst way. And this is why we, 27:00uh, started at that time thinking about a multi-modal department of transportation, and at the same time that the governor said, "We're going to reorganize state government." What a wonderful time to change the highway department to the department of transportation. So it just fit perfectly to do that. At the same time, we find ourselves again in the position of being very criticized for making a multi-modal agency out of the highway department. They said, "You don't need a rail division because that's private industry, and government ought to stay out of private industry." Well, I was one that believed that at the time, uh, we needed a rail division, and, uh, the railroads were being abandoned and the local people had nobody to help them. And today, here we are in another century. Uh, now they're saying the railroads, 28:00we should never have abandoned the railroads. Another interesting point that said if we had partnership with the local people, we could have helped them and, and tried to keep the railroads from being pulled out of parts of our state. I think the corridor I best remember is US 68. The railroads abandoned that trackage then the Greyhound bus line, uh, abandoned their routes. Here's a whole corridor without any way to move people and cargo because they had no help from their state organization. So we're somewhere about '72, 1972. Uh, what happened in '75? I have to remember. In '75, we, we, uh, became a 29:00DOT in that first series, and we were, uh, one of a few people who had already become DOTs. And, uh, we were looked at very critically because there was an organization called the American Association of Highway Officials and here we were transportation officials, so we formed our own association called COSDOT, Conference of Secretaries of DOTs. And it was very, uh, tough sledding for a while because the, uh, Association of State Highway Officials looked at us with very critical eyes saying we were, uh, an illegitimate outfit, but guess what? It was the time to change. Now all highway departments are DOTs and, uh, are 30:00multi-disciplined, multi-modal organizations like they should have been for a long time. Uh, I'm not sure that we think multi-modal, but we, at least on paper, had multi-modal options in our departments.
So then between 1975 and 1980, I became secretary, and, uh, this is atime when everything that happened to me since 1950 said the best way to handle controversial projects is partnerships and teamwork rather than trying to force decision-making on very controversial projects. 31:00And there's been a real cultural shift in this time period. Instead of the people in local levels saying, "Whatever the state wants is okay with us," they didn't buy that philosophy anymore. They said, "We want some input in terms of, uh, where the new facilities will be and whether or not it's going to be a highway or whether it's gonna be something different in public transit," and I think you'll see a whole lot more people, uh, asking why we can't have other modes other than just every sixteen-year-old gets a vehicle or he thinks he's being crucified. Are we there yet? I think that's a favorite saying by children in the car. Are we there yet?
MILLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Grayson. We appreciate your helptoday.
GRAYSON: We're there.
[End of interview.]