Francis Turner (engineer)

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Francis Cutler Turner
Francis Cutler Turner.png
Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration
In office
1969 to 1972
Preceded by Lowell K. Bridwell
Succeeded by Norbert Theodore Tiemann
Personal details
Born (1908-12-28)December 28, 1908
Dallas, Texas
Died October 6, 1999(1999-10-06) (aged 90)
Goldsboro, North Carolina

Francis Cutler Turner (December 28, 1908 – October 6, 1999) was an American administrator, who headed the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from 1969 to 1972.[1][2]


He was born on December 28, 1908, in Dallas, Texas, and spent his childhood in Texas, including in Fort Worth.[3] He received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1929 and a graduate degree in civil engineering from there in 1940.[1][2]

Turner's career began in earnest with an assignment to oversee Federal-aid road projects in Arkansas. Afterwards, he was asked to work on the Alaska Highway, where he is credited with implementing the milepost system. Post WWII, he was asked to oversee repairs of the road system in the Philippines.[1][4]

Turner was appointed by President Eisenhower to be the Executive Secretary of the Clay Commission President's Advisory Committee on the National Highway Program in 1954.[1] He then worked as the deputy commissioner, chief engineer, and Federal Highway Administrator. As the British newspaper The Independent noted in Turner's 1999 obituary, Turner's resume can be read in the landscape: When the young area engineer began his career in Arkansas, "most American roads were dirt and gravel." As of 1999, America offered 42,000 miles of Interstate; these miles had been developed at a cost of $130 billion, much of that capital "personally superintended by Turner."[5]

He died on October 6, 1999, at the age 90, at a hospice in Goldsboro, North Carolina.[2]


In 1983, the Fairbank Highway Research Station in McLean, Virginia, named for Herbert S. Fairbank, an official at FHWA's predecessor Bureau of Public Roads, was renamed the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in honor of Turner.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d America's Highways, 1776-1976: A History of the Federal-Aid Program. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. 1977. pp. 191–193. LCCN 77603043. 
  2. ^ a b c Nick Ravo (October 6, 1999). "Francis C. Turner, 90, Dies. Shaped the Interstate System". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-24. Francis C. Turner, often called the chief engineer of the Interstate System of highways that redrew the map of America, died on Saturday at a hospice in Goldsboro, N.C. He was 90. Mr. Turner was the only person to rise through the ranks to head the Federal Highway Administration; he worked 43 years there and at its predecessor, the Bureau of Roads. 
  3. ^ Fuquay, Jim (2000-01-03). "Fuquay, Aleshire, Bowen & Co.". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 
  4. ^ Swift, Earl (2011). The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 172–174. ISBN 0618812415. 
  5. ^ Cornwell, Rupert (1999-10-07). "Francis Turner". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-03-21. [dead link]
  6. ^ Federal Highway Administration (February 2009). "Welcome to the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (brochure, FHWA-HRT-08-066)". Retrieved 2013-01-14.