Richard D. Morgan, who rose to become executive director of the Federal Highway Administration during a 32-year career at the agency, died on June 18 in Easton, Md., of leukemia. He was 69. After leaving FHWA in 1989, Morgan was vice president at the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Lanham, Md., until he retired in 1998.
Morgan joined FHWA's predecessor agency, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, in 1952, and was named to the executive director, FHWA's senior career post, in 1982. FHWA Administrator Mary Peters said that Morgan "helped move the agency from the great construction era that began in 1956 to the post-Interstate era of preserving and enhancing the highway network that has become the backbone of America's transportation system."
Peters also said Morgan worked on the Strategic Highway Research Program and the approval of 1982's 5- per-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax that sharply boosted funding for surface transportation.
In addition, Peters noted that Morgan began FHWA's "futures task force," which discussed issues and ideas that led to the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.
Frederick G. "Bud" Wright, a long-time FHWA official and its current executive director, said that he sees Morgan's picture every day at the office among a display of those who held that job at the agency. "But," Wright added, "I prefer to think of Dick in his characteristic pose--leaning back in his chair, one foot propped up on a desk drawer, as he absorbed information, asked questions, made decisions."
In his years at FHWA, Morgan's other positions included associate administrator for engineering and operations, director of the office of highway planning and chief of the federal-aid division.
At the agency he directed or worked on a wide range of activities, including bridge management and design programs aimed at improving safety and reducing costs of construction and repairs.
Morgan, who was born in Cleveland, held a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Michigan State University and a law degree from Franklin Law School of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
He is survived by his wife, three children and three grandchildren.
Morgan's family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church Building Fund in Easton, Md., or the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, Maryland Chapter, in Baltimore.