Newspaper Page Text
THE MONTHLY MAGAZINE ,3
IMPROVEMENT OF KANSAS ROADS By A. Q. MILLER SECRETARY ROCK ISLAND HIGHWAY ASSOCIATION NO economic question will occupy the attention of the American people to a greater degree during the next de cade than the good roads problem. Ten 3-ears ago few people in the central western states had any interest in good roads. To day the good roads propaganda is being ad vocated and preached in nearly every house hold. Five years ago there was little or no in terest in good roads in Kansas. State High way Engineer Gearhart is authority for the statement that it is a conservative estimate that where there was one mile of graded, well-dragged road in Kansas five years ago, there are ten miles today and this improve ment has been made without increased ex penditure. Five years ago there was not a mile of cross-state road ; today there are more than 1 2,500 miles of such highways. This state has 111,536 miles of road, ten per cent or 11,267 miles of which have been designated as county, roads all, within the. past five years. Five years ago there were not to exceed 500 concrete culverts and 50 concrete bridges in Kansas; today there are not less than 5,000 concrete culverts and 500 concrete bridges in the state. Five years ago it would have been hard to have found within the state five to ten consecutive miles of improved road ; now transcontinental motor ists are daily crossing the state on a half dozen improved and marked cross-state and National highways. This, in brief, shows something of the remarkable growth and development of the good roads movement in Kansas in the past five years. With such strides as these, what may be reasonably expected within the next decade? Public opinion has been crystal lized to the point of the absolute necessity, not only of improved roads for the auto mobile; but improved roads as an economic proposition in the marketing of farm products. Kansas has finally awakened from her lethargy has discovered herself, as it were, and proposes to take her proper place in this great movement. This state, like others, spent fifty years in haphazard, un scientific road and bridge building, at the end of which time she had nothing perma nent to show for either the effort put forth or the money expended. People began to 1 . 'TXM - 4-U .--. nA .. u dSIL . VV lid L S 111C IliaLlCl WC StllU tHUUII money for roads and bridges and yet we have neither?" Someone answered: "The trouble is with the system," or perhaps more correctly stated, with the lack of sys- tern. People began to think ; stock-taking time was at hand, and an inventory was taken, so to speak. It showed the waste ful policy and patch-work system of road making, and if possible, a worse system of bridge and culvert construction. Good roads legislation followed, includ ing the classification of roads, responsibility was fixed, system inaugurated, a state high way engineering department that meant something was established, supplemented by county engineers, both departments co operating. Simultaneously there appeared the automobile, the auto club and the good roads booster, each contributing its full measure to the good roads propaganda. Pencil marks were made across the map of Kansas from north to south and from east to west by good roads enthusiasts who had dreams of better days and better roads. These pencil marks grew rapidly into desig nated county roads which became well graded, well bridged, well dragged and well marked. These roads in turn grew into cross-state and National highways. Thus the fond dreams of the promoters who be lieved in roads that began somewhere and ended somewhere came true. Kansas has done well considering her tardy entry into this great movement, but she has yet much to do before she will oc cupy her proper place and rank in the sis terhood of states. One important duty which should receive early attention is for this state to qualify herself to receive t V - ... -mm. I" i.n-11 -a - A. Q. MILLER Federal aid in road building, as other states have done. To accomplish this it will be necessary for the legislature to submit to the voters of Kansas a constitutional amend ment changing the constitution so the state can, if it desires, participate in internal im provements and incidentally receive its just proportion of Federal aid to good roads which will unquestionably come in the near future, either to be used in conjunction with state aid or in some other form. Kansas, with her present constitution, cannot even receive and spend money appropriated ' in this manner. The Congressional appropria tion would of necessity go to states which have anticipated this condition and met the requirements. From a state aid standpoint New Jersey is the pioneer. New York has expended more money as a state than any other, with California second. Iowa, as a state, is ac tive in road building, having spent last year more than $10,000,000 in - permanent road work. The legislature of Maine last year voted $2,000,000 in bonds to construct state highways. Ohio last year spent $7,000,000 for good roads. Colorado is appropriating millions of dollars every year for permanent road work, using convict labor for the con struction work. Since the inauguration of the policy of state aid the several states tak ing advantage of it have expended a total of more than $200,000,000. Of all the industries in the United States the investment in agriculture amounts to $40,991,000,000. Tilling the soil is the largest single industry in this country, and the people engaged in agriculture constitute more than one-third as many people as are engaged in all industrial pursuits combined. Improved roads mean more to the American farmer than any other class of people in this country. We hear a great deal about freight rates and the cost of transportation in other lines, and the people are just now beginning to investigate the cost of transportation upon the public highways of the country. The American farmer and business man- lose each year in transportation cost on unim proved highways : severCf and vone-half billion dollars, according to Chas." Davis, president of the National Highways Association. This sum would build fifteen Panama panals, or fifteen hundred modern' battle ships each year, or would replace all the 250,000 miles of railroads-in the. United. States in three years. It . represents one-fourti the entire ' annual wealth produced by our nation. Isn't this too high a toll for the American people to pay for the luxury of bad roads? Eleveri'million tons of farm products are marketed over the public highways of Kan sas annually at a cost of approximately $13, 000,000.'; If the cost of hauling were re duced,' on account of improved roads, only two cents per ton per mile, it would mean a saving to the consumer, or an increase to the farmer, of $1,500,000 a year. The cost of water transportation is about one-fourth cent per ton per mile, and' by rail about four-fifths of a cent per ton per mile. On a well improved public highway the cost of hauling is from five to twelve cents per ton per mile, and on an ordinary dirt road from twenty cents to thirty cents per ton per mile. It costs the wheat grower nearly two cents per bushel more to haul his crop nine and one-half miles the aver age haul to the railroad - station, than is charged for transporting it from New York to Liverpool, three thousand miles. The mud tax in this country, so-called, has been figured out to be six cents per bushel on wheat, which is a toll that comes directly from the pockets of the farmer, and his problem of marketing his crops when road conditions are bad, regardless of the market price, is another toll which comes out of the pockets of the farmer. An Indiana farmer has made the follow ing observation of the revenues from two separate farms of 320 acres each, located in the corn belt of Indiana, one farm at the end of a four-mile brick-paved road, the other at the end of a four-mile mud road. These farms should produce under ordinary rotation of crops annually about 280 tons of corn, 80 tons of oats and 120 tons of hay, or 480 tons in the aggregate, to be delivered over four miles of roadway.