Archives Library Information Center (ALIC)


Federal agency web sites and information resources on transportation in the United States.

Government Agencies

Department of Transportation

  • The mission of the DOT is to "Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future."

Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)

  • "The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) was established as a statistical agency in 1992. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 created BTS to administer data collection, analysis, and reporting and to ensure the most cost-effective use of transportation-monitoring resources. BTS brings a greater degree of coordination, comparability, and quality standards to transportation data, and facilitates in the closing of important data gaps."

National Transportation Library

  • The NTL is administered by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It contains documents and databases provided from throughout the transportation community.

Federal Aviation Administration

  • "Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world."

The General Accounting Office: Reports

A number of reports stem from this page, including those below, dealing with subcommittee hearings on aviation-related matters. The reports are in PDF format:

Federal Highway Administration

  • "The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that supports State and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the NationÂ’s highway system (Federal Aid Highway Program) and various federally and tribal owned lands (Federal Lands Highway Program). Through financial and technical assistance to State and local governments, the Federal Highway Administration is responsible for ensuring that AmericaÂ’s roads and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world."

Federal Railroad Administration

  • "The Federal Railroad AdministrationÂ’s mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future."

Federal Transit Administration

  • The FTA provides financial and technical assistance to the local transit systems, such as Washington DC's Metro system.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  • NHTSA investigates safety defects in motor vehicles, sets and enforces fuel economy standards, helps states and local communities reduce the threat of drunk drivers, promotes the use of safety belts, child safety seats and air bags, investigates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces vehicle anti-theft regulations and provides consumer information on motor vehicle safety topics.

Office of Highway Policy Information

  • The Office of Highway Policy Information (OHPI) collects, analyzes and distributes highway related data from federal, state and local sources. Selected documents and periodicals are available here for your review.

Office of Safety

  • "Together with our customers, stakeholders, partners, and other Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies, the Office of Safety works to reduce the number of crashes on U.S. roadways and the severity of crash impacts."


History of United States Transportation

America on the Move
An online exhibit about the history of transportation in the United States from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
Transportation Developments in the Early Republic
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park describes the options for transportation of people and goods in the nineteenth century.
Transportation: Past, Present and Future
Online version of a publication from The Henry Ford that traces the history of transportation and its effects on America's growth and development.
Transportation Photographs
"Transportation Photographs is an ongoing digital collection of photographs depicting various modes of transportation in the Pacific Northwest region and Western United States during the first half of the 20th century." From the Digital Collections of the University of Washington University Libraries.
Travels in America 1750-1920
This American Memory site from the Library of Congress comprises 253 published narratives by Americans and foreign visitors recounting their travels in the colonies and the United States and their observations and opinions about American peoples, places, and society from about 1750 to 1920. The narratives range from the unjustly neglected to the justly famous, and from classics of the genre to undiscovered gems.
Women in Transportation: Changing AmericaÂ’s History: Reference Materials
This publication from the Federal Highway Administration describes women's contribution to the development of transportation in American, on land and sea and in the air.


Aviation History

NARA Resources

Aviation History
The ALIC Reference at Your Desk page on military aviation history.
"Celebrating the Wright Brothers' First Flight: The International Civil Aeronautics Conference of 1928"
Charles F. Downs II describes how an international aviation conference observed a quarter-century of aviation when the age of flight was young in this Prologue article.

Other Resources

Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
National Park Service guide to historic sites connected to the history of aviation.
Black Wings: African American Pioneer Aviators
This site from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides educators and researchers with resources that will enhance their study of American history and, in particular, the history of African American pioneer aviators.
College Park (Maryland) Aviation Museum
The College Park Airport was established in 1909 when Orville and Wilbur Wright set out to teach the first two Army officers to fly. It became the site of the first Army Aviation School in 1911. The Museum houses a collection of aircraft and artifacts documenting the many historical events for which the College Park Airport is also known.
The Dream of Flight
An online exhibit from the Library of Congress that uses "the Library's rarest and most significant materials to explore the notion that flight, whether fanciful or actual, has inspired and occupied a central place in most cultures."
Library of Congress American Memory Collection: Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers
This online presentation includes approximately 49,084 digital images documenting the lives of Wilbur and Orville Wright, highlighting their pioneering work in flight. The collection includes correspondence, diaries and notebooks, scrapbooks, drawings, printed matter, and glass-plate photographic negatives.
The Wright Brothers Collection
"The Wright Brothers Collection housed in Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries is one of the most complete collections of Wright material in the world. It includes the WrightsÂ’ own technical and personal library, family papers including letters, diaries, financial records, genealogical files, and other documents detailing the lives and work of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright Family."



NARA Resources

"Bridging the Mississippi: The Railroads and Steamboats Clash at the Rock Island Bridge"
Prologue article by David A. Pfeiffer tells the story of constructing the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi.
"The 'Fast Mail': A History of the U.S. Railway Mail Service"
Fred J. Romanski's Prologue article describes how post office cars made the nation's mail move faster during America's westward movement.
Records Relating to North American Railroads
NARA's Reference Information Paper No. 91, by David Pfeiffer, is a comprehensive survey of railroad-related material in the National Archives.
"Riding the Rails Up Paper Mountain: Researching Railroad Records in the National Archives"
By David Pfeiffer, from the National Archives publication, Prologue. In three parts, this article discusses how to use the records at NARA to do research on historic railroads. The essays cover a wide range of topics, from patent application files to accident report reviews.
"Working Magic with Cornstalks and Beanpoles: Records Relating to the U.S. Military Railroads during the Civil War"
Prologue article by David Pfeiffer that shows how the U.S. Military Railroads kept the trains running for the Union during the Civil War.

Other Resources

Historic Railroads: A Living Legacy.
Online version of Vol. 22, No. 10, 1999 of the magazine CRM published by the National Park Service. This issue focuses on historic railroads and their enormous contribution to American history. "As this special issue demonstrates, railroads are a thread woven throughout the fabric of American life, and their legacy - be it trains which are still operated, long-abandoned tracks, archaeological remains, works of art and architecture, or simply the stories of those who remember the ways they changed their lives - lives on all around us."
Manuscript Sources for Railroad History
This site, maintained by Virginia Tech University libraries, is based on the records of the Norfolk and Western Railway, the Southern Railway, and the predecessors of these lines.
Railroad History Archive
"The Railroad History Collections in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries, are comprised of individual collections of administrative records, photographs, maps, timetables, ephemera and many other types of archival materials. The collections focus almost exclusively on the history of the railroads of southern New England, particularly the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad." The site also features Links to Railroad History Resources in the United States.
The Transcontinental Railroad
This PBS web site includes a transcript of the documentary The Transcontinental Railroad, a photo gallery, articles, and teacher resources.


Water Transportation

NARA Resources

Basic Search Path for Records Relating to Lighthouses
This NARA site provides a basic guide for researching lighthouses.
"The Final Voyage of the Portland: Reconstructing the List of the Steamer's Crew through NARA Records"
Walter V. Hickey's Prologue article describes the attempt to discover information about the men and women who made up the crew of the Portland, which went down off the coast of New England in 1898.
"A Heavy Sea Running: The Formation of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, 1846 - 1878"
In this Prologue article Dennis R. Means tells the fascinating story of the first federal service devoted to saving victims of shipwrecks.
"A Notable Passage to China: Myth and Memory in FDR's Family History"
This Prologue article by R.J.C. Butow recounts the Delano family's clipper ship voyage to Hong Kong in 1862.
Vessel Documents
This NARA site contains information regarding vessel documents: laws, descriptions, and finding aids.
"The Voyage of the 'Coolie' Ship Kate Hooper: October 3, 1857 - March 26, 1858"
Robert J. Plowman tells the remarkable story of an American ship that brought Chinese workers to Cuba in this Prologue article.

Other Resources

Canal Profiles - United States
The National Canal Museum commemorates the canals which contributed to the American Industrial Revolution. This site provides information about towpath canals that were built in the U.S.
Great Lakes Vessel Enrollments Database
Sponsored by the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, this site provides vessel enrollment information from 1815 to 1915.
Lighthouses, Lightships, Tenders & Other Aids to Navigation Subjects
This Coast Guard web site includes information about the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Lighthouses & Light Stations, and Buoys & Tenders
The Mighty Chain: Guide to Canal Records in the New York State Archives
Subject guide for the records of the New York Canal System.
National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program
"The National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program works to advance awareness and understanding of the role of maritime affairs in the history of the United States." The site includes publications, lesson plans, ship links, and more.
The Panama Canal and the Torrijos-Carter Treaties
Information on the 1977 Panama Canal treaties that transferred the canal from American to Panamanian control.
This site has collected references to the names of ships from indexes of various books and periodicals, including the page numbers on which the ship is mentioned, full bibliographic information on the resource, and a short-title description of the book or periodical.