Florida Expressways and the Public Works Career of Congressman William C. Cramer
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Department of American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Since the introduction of automobiles to Florida in the 1900s, highways have been integral to the state’s economy. In the 1950s, statewide limited-access highway projects were introduced in the form of a state-operated turnpike and the national Interstate highway system. This paper traces the simultaneous development of both expressway systems, outlining the previous condition of Florida’s highways, the initiatives taken by Florida’s governors, and especially the role of William C. Cramer of St. Petersburg, Florida’s first Republican United States Congressman since Reconstruction. In the House of Representatives, as a ranking member of the Roads Subcommittee of the Public Works Committee, Cramer played a prominent role in shaping federal highway policies, addressing corruption in highway politics, keeping Interstates toll-free, and preventing highway funds from being diverted to other programs. He battled proponents of the Sunshine State Parkway, which ran parallel to designated Interstate routes and threatened to make them unfeasible. As the capstone to his public works career, Cramer secured additional mileage to provide for the ‘missing link’ between Tampa Bay and Miami, which had not been authorized in the original federal outlays. The designation extended a route through St. Petersburg.