Celebrating 80 Years of Better Roads
Better Roads Staff
The October 2011 issue, Better Roads marked the 80th anniversary of the magazine. The publication was founded in 1931 by Alden F. Perrin, who served a publisher and editorial director until his death in 1965.
From the mostly gravel roads that existed when the magazine was founded to today’s super highways, there has been extensive development, technology and building of local roads, state and federal highways and bridges during this time.
Perhaps we can find a way to learn from the past.
The following articles are from the first issue of Better Roads in October, 1931 and others throughout the decade of the 1930s through 2011.
Excerpts from issues of Better Roads throughout the 1930s
Some things never change
“Readers, who do not have to be reminded that the problem of financing for rebuilding continues in and out of depression (re: The Great Depression), may be expected to show some interest in a suggestion for permanent federal aid for county and township roads.”
“Of the 300,000-mile system of state highways, a total of approximately 200,000 miles is now surfaced. Of the remaining 2,700,000 miles of rural roads, little over 15 percent is out of the earth-surface class.”
Note: Today, there are 4 million miles of roads in the United States with 2.5 million paved roads….1.5 million miles of roads remain unpaved.
“Here indeed is food for thought. The development of luxurious motor vehicles has its counterpart in the development of safer and more pleasant and comfortable roads. With touring no longer a novelty, the highway user has acquired a concern what may be called the amenities of motor travel.”
The visionary governor
Regarding his state’s farm-road program, one of the first in the United States at the time, Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot wrote in a 1931 issue of Better Roads, “…the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took over 20,000 miles of rural roads –the farmer’s roads to build them and maintain them at state expense. This means not only that farmers on this mileage will be lifted by the mud, but the yearly $10,000,000 will be lifted from the backs of the farmer taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”
Ohio Motor Vehicle Act
“A change in the system of taxing motor vehicles and in the distribution of such tax funds will provide additional highway funds for Ohio counties. The new measure exempts motor vehicles from personal property taxation and increases the cost of license tags.”—Editorial comment by Alden F. Perrin, publisher and editorial director, Better Roads, Nov. 1931.
Building low-cost roads in Iowa
“Winneshiek County finds heavier equipment necessary to carry out new duties imposed by the Bergman Law (this law gave control of all township roads, formerly in the care of township trustees, to title boards of supervisors and engineers); small dragline shovel combination proved ideal unit.” The dragline was a Speeder ½-yard unit. Speeder is the predecessor to the Linkbelt Company.
Bargain prices prevail in North Dakota
“At the July 31 letting, contracts for gravel hauling at 6-1/2 cents per yard-mile and earth excavating at 15 cents per cubic yard were awarded.” –North Dakota State Highway Department
Plans for Wichita Road Show
“Plans are being completed for the seventh annual Southwest Road Show and School, to be held at Wichita, Kan. on Feb. 23, 24, 25 and 26, 1932. Lectures on road construction and maintenance will be delivered by some of the ablest authorities in the country.”—article appearing in Better Roads, Dec. 1931.
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