Celebrating 80 Years of Better Roads
Better Roads Staff
“In these days, like individuals, they (local governments) must toughen themselves to meet the shocks.”—Better Roads editor, C.M. Nelson
Girding for War…. Planning for peace.
The feature article in January 1942 was previewed this way:
“While girding for war, America is planning for peace. A post-war planning agency with which road officials will have close relations is Public Works Reserve.” The head of this agency was A.D. Morrell, who outlined the agency’s “aims and proposed procedures” in the January 1942 issue.
Morrell wrote, “In a sense the establishment of the Public Works Reserve is recognition of our need to prepare for peace. As an agency interested in public work, the Public Works Reserve has two express purposes. One is to secure from all state and local governmental agencies a listing of work that they consider necessary to the public good for the next five or six years. The second purpose is to assist these governmental agencies in the development and maintenance of a long-range program for such work.”
Planning for the times
In a February 1942 editorial on highway priorities for the U.S. during wartime, Editor Nelson wrote…
“The new master plan for highways for the war period will be worked out section by section, and month by month. Major uncertainties will remain. But highway planning for the war will never get started until we are satisfied that we know for certain what work cannot under any circumstances be curtailed, what can be reduced or delayed, and what can be forgotten for the time being.”
Road builders face the war
In a report from the annual American Road Builders Association (A.R.B.A.) (now the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, more commonly known as ARTBA) in February 1942, Better Roads reports that the leading road builder’s group was told by government officials that “only the most urgent road construction is possible…” yet, “serviceable highways are a vital war necessity.” The A.R.B.A. members were told, “Many roads are breaking up under the increased tonnages resulting form the speeding-up of war industry.”
Wartime restrictions on motor-vehicle use
“Because of war regulations, it appears that for a long-time to come the number of new cars and other motor equipment will be extremely limited.
This means diminishing traffic and dwindling tax returns for highway users”, which “will result in loss of income derived by the states from sales and highway-user levies.”
What about the roads?
In an editorial titled “What about the Roads” appearing in the June 1942 issue six months after the U.S. entered the war, Better Roads opined:
“At what level can the operations of highway departments be carried on without risking irreparable damage to the roads and to the vehicles using them in performing essential tasks? We are pretty well convinced that the vehicles and the tires we have aren’t going to last forever. What about the roads?”
Motor traffic and war industry: Facing the rubber shortage
As the war effort was now in high gear in June 1942 shortages of rubber, gasoline and other products needed to build and maintain roads were evident. In a transportation survey conducted by the state of West Virginia, it was reported that…
“Nearly 65 percent of all employees now travel to and from work in private automobiles on which 48 percent of the tires will be worn out in the next six months.”
Those post-war plans
Two and a half years after the start of the war, roadbuilders looked with optimism to the end of the war, as reported in the June 1943 issue…
“The prevailing tone of the planning sessions of the American Roads Builders Association held in Chicago last month was one of unity and accord. The roadbuilders aren’t in total agreement on the desirable size of the post war highway program, but they are agreed on where the decimal point should be. It will be a whopping big program, they believe, and road leaders in congress appear to think so too.”
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