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$ 250,000,000 HIGHWAY ROBBERY
CHARLES FREDERICK CARTER
ORTY million dollars foots up the neat little sum of $290,000,wasted on the public roads of 000. The way Mr. Page figures it out, the United States through the annual loss due to incorrect, and inignorance, incompetence, and adequate methods in the construction,
indifference in 1904. As the maintenance, and administration of pubsame amount was wasted in the same lic roads may be set down at $40,000,000, way in 1910, the American people would while the burden imposed through excesseem to be holding their own nobly. sive cost of transportation from the
But these statistics present only half farm to the railroad station reaches the a truth which, like other half truths, is impressive sum of $250,000,000. misleading. In 1904 the expenditures The latter item is based upon statison public highways aggregated $79,000,- tics gathered by the Government, which 000, while in 1910 they had increased show that the aggregate weight of crops to $100,000,000. That is to say, instead hauled to market annually is more than of wasting half the hard earned money two hundred and fifty million tons. The devoted to road improvement we have average haul is 9.4 miles, and the averbecome so enlightened that we only waste age cost 23 cents per ton per mile. This forty cents out of every dollar. Truly, makes the total cost amount to $540,we may plume ourselves on such a 500,000. In Europe, where good roads record.
are the rule rather than the exception, the Still, this is but the preface to that cost of hauling is much less than half great National joke, the public road; for what it is here. Hauling on the famous the direct waste which may be charged to highways of France, for example, costs the lack of suitable highways, according but 10 cents per ton per mile; in Engto Logan Waller Page, Director of the land, the same; while Belgium reduces United States Office of Public. Roads, this low rate half a cent, and Germany
caps the climax with an average rate of equivalent to five per cent interest on 8.5 cents per ton per mile for transporta- $5,800,000,000, which would pay for the tion on her fine highways. It seems construction of 1,160,000 miles of modreasonable to assume, therefore, that ern highways at $5,000 a mile. As exwith the same class of highways here cellent roads are built in some localities the cost of hauling the crops to market for half that sum, or even less, and since might well be reduced one-half, at least. the total of unimproved roads does not This $290,000,000 wasted outright
wasted outright much exceed two million miles, it is through the lack of suitable roads is probable that this sum would come
pretty near to supplying the whole na- quarter section each might be worth a tion with adequate roads.
little earnest consideration. It would be a most profitable undertak- Even this is not all the story, by any inr to borrow the money on bonds for means. Back of it all
are the still bu ing highways, for the whole indict- greater losses of the farmers who are ment against bad roads has not yet been unable on account of bad roads to haul recited.
their crops to market when prices are Still another way in which American highest.
highest. In a paper read before the roads waste money is in the unnecessary American Road Builders Association at amount of ground they occupy. The Indianapolis last December, Mr. Page average highway here is four rods, or bruised the pocket nerves of every sixty-six feet wide. In the middle West- farmer in Indiana by reminding them ern States much of the ground given up that in 1909 prices of wheat in Chicago to high ways is
ranged from 9914 worth a hundred
cents to $1.60 per dollars
bushel, the lowest Only a small part
price being reached of this space is ac
in August when the tually needed for a
roads were at their roadway, the rest
best, while the top being devoted to
tained when the These weeds fur
pracnish an inexhausti
tically impassable; ble supply of seeds
that the State's with which ad
that jacent farms are
year being 33,124,stocked without ef
000 bushels, every fort on the part of
advance of one cent their owners, caus
per bushel meant a ing either a heavy
gain in the value of outlay for labor to
the crop of $331,keep the weeds A SMALL TWO BY Two CONCRETE CULVERT WOULD 240, while an addown or
OBVIATE This VERY COMMON DISGRACE. still
vance of one cent a greater loss from
bushel on the corn damaged crops. In Europe they think crop aggregated $1,965,200. Thus they too much of their land to waste it so could see what they lost by not having foolishly. They find there that a road- roads upon which they could haul a way from twenty to thirty feet wide is load to market at any time. ample for traffic a hundred fold heavier Indeed, if all the indirect losses were than traverses the lonely highways of counted in, it is not unlikely that the the prairie States. Robert J. Thompson, grand total properly chargeable to a U. S. Consul at Hanover, who has been lack of suitable roads would be someinvestigating the subject, estimates that where near a half billion dollars a year. in thirteen of the agricultural States of Nor is this all. Aside from any question
. the middle West there are seven hun- of money is the isolation imposed by dred thousand miles of country roads. bad roads. Churches, entertainments, By reducing their width from sixty-six and agreeable neighbors
count for to thirty-six feet, 2,500,000 acres of gen- naught if one is separated from them by erally tillable land would be restored to a mile or two of impassable mudholes. cultivation, which, valued at $100 an acre, Good roads mean more to the children would foot up the staggering total of than to the grown members of the $250,000,000. When so many thrifty
farmer's family, for they may spell the farmers are giving up their homes in difference between an education and the these States to seek lands in Canada, it lack of one. It has been found that in does seem as if a form of waste equiva- communities provided with good roads lent to furnishing 15,625 of them with a the average school attendance the year
round is over eighty per cent, while issue bonds for $18,000,000 to construct with bad roads the attendance rarely ex- a trunk highway system, will soon rank ceeds seventy per cent, while it may be next to New York in the extent of her as low as thirty per cent. The best useful roads. In the South they are not schools are always situated on good spending so much in cash but they are roads, the worst schools on bad roads. getting good roads by employing con
But better things are now in sight. victs to build them. Of the fifteen Energetic efforts are everywhere being thousand miles of highways built in the made to still further increase the annual twelve southeastern States between 1904 expenditure for roads, and more espe- and 1910 the greater part was accomcially to reduce the percentage of waste. plished by the use of convict labor.
As an earnest that the first purpose Georgia keeps 4,500 convicts at work on will be accomplished there are now her public roads the year around. thirty-two States which have adopted Indeed, no fewer than thirty-three some form of State aid or supervision States have laws favorable to the emfor road construction and maintenance. ployment of convicts in road building. New York led the van with an expendi- Unfortunately, though, the laws in many ture from State funds in 1910 of $2,500,- cases are vague, and in still others nar000, while Pennsylvania was second with row; so that the plan is actually folan outlay of $1,000,000. Massachusetts lowed in but eighteen States, though in spent $750,000 of State money on her several others convicts are employed in roads, Maryland, $350,000, New Hamp- quarrying, cutting, and crushing stone for shire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island use in road building. It has been found $300,000 each, Washington $375,000, that a convict will do practically as much Vermont $175,000, Virginia $250,000, work in a day as a free laborer and that West Virginia $120,000, and other States the cost of guarding and maintenance on various amounts. California, which at the highways is actually less than the the last election ratified a proposal to cost of maintenance and guarding in jail. Besides the outdoor work is better for a short section of road to demonstrate the prisoners.
proper methods and instruct local buildThe highly important task of reducing ers. Up to July 1, 1909, 264 object lesthe waste of money actually raised for son roads had been built in thirty-five highway construction is being accom- States, demonstrating
proper plished through various agencies in ad- methods of using crushed stone, gravel, dition to the State highway departments sand-clay, shell, earth, bituminous maalready referred to. Foremost of these
Foremost of these terials and brick. Besides this, the enoutside agencies is the United States gineers of the bureau give special advice, Office of Public Roads. Organized in deliver technical lectures, introduce 1893 with an appropriation of $14,000 model systems of construction, mainwith offices in two attic rooms, this tenance, and administration in counties bureau has increased in usefulness until and study and report on practical methnow it occupies a four-story building of ods for a series of years. its own, which includes within its walls Beside the Government bureau there physical, chemical, petrographic, and are several national organizations, such photographic laboratories, and a machine as the American Highway League, which shop, and has at its disposal an appro- held a convention at Chicago last May. priation of $116,000. A staff of twenty- Membership in this League is limited four engineers and superintendents of to representatives of State highway deroad construction are employed to teach partments. Its purposes are to provide the art of road building to any com- a means of effective co-operation bemunity that will take the trouble to ask tween States and to study methods of for their services and provide the ma- construction and maintenance. terial and labor. A favorite feature of An organization which is expected to the bureau is the "Object Lesson Road accomplish a good deal is the American Project." This consists in assigning an Association for Highway Improvement, engineer to supervise the construction of organized at Washington last November.