Building a Transcontinental Railroad
Throughout the 19th century, Congress debated its responsibility for “internal improvements,” particularly regarding interstate transportation. In the 1850s, as need increased for more efficient transport to the Pacific coast, Congress commissioned surveys to determine the best rail route through the West. Private companies would not construct a project of such scale without federal support, so citizens appealed for government backing. Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act in 1862, and a transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.