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Statement About Agreements With Panama and Colombia To Complete the Pan American Highway

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Statement About Agreements With Panama and Colombia To Complete the Pan American Highway

President Richard Nixon
May 6, 1971

THE AGREEMENTS signed today by Secretary of Transportation Volpe, Panamanian Minister of Public Works Fabrega, and Colombian Minister of Public Works Duran will enable our governments to begin construction of the last major section--the Darien Gap--needed to link together existing sections of the Pan American Highway System.

I welcome this development with the greatest enthusiasm--I believe that the completion of the Darien Gap portion over the next several years will constitute an historic milestone along the road to understanding and unity within our hemisphere.

Upon completion, this link for the Pan American Highway will allow the motorist to drive the entire 14,000 mile journey from Fairbanks, Alaska, to the southernmost tip of South America.

For a long time experts thought that this section could not be built: the "bottomless" Atrato Swamp which it must cross could not be conquered; the fact that this project will now be undertaken is a tribute not only to modern engineering but also to the determination of our countries to forge this final link in a great, unifying international project.

This effort is possible only because of the strong support it has received from the United States Congress, the Pan American Highway Congresses, and the Governments of the Republics of Panama and Colombia. I firmly believe that the completion of this highway joining the Americas will serve as an invaluable symbol of New World unity as well as an avenue of commerce and culture.

The Darien Gap Highway project calls for only 250 miles of new roadway, but these are a very significant 250 miles. I believe that when they are completed, the Pan American Highway will become a pulsing artery of trade, travel, and understanding. It will further the inter-American spirit of solidarity and will accelerate the pace of economic growth and social progress in the hemisphere. It will fulfill a dream which dates back, in the United States at least, to a proposal made in the Congress in 1884 to build a railroad connecting the countries of North and South America.

Building this final link in the highways of the Americas does not represent the end of our common undertaking. On the contrary, it will require us to make even greater efforts to forge the agreements and mechanisms needed to improve maintenance and use of the roads and to develop further this magnificent transportation system.

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