The network of roads that we enjoy today has not always been in place. Up until the early 1900s, the only halfway decent roads were in towns and cities, and most of those were not really even paved by today’s standards. Connections between communities were generally nothing more than dirt paths, perhaps wide enough for a wagon to pass, which became nearly impassible mud in the rain.
And the interstate system that we have didn’t begin to take shape until the authorizing legislation was passed in 1956. Interestingly, several states’ constitutions actually forbade the states from getting involved in road construction.
In the April 22 article “Sonoco CEO calls for gas tax hike to fix roads,” in addition to mentioning very real safety concerns, Sonoco broke down the financial cost to the company of poor roads.
Interestingly, the cost of poor roads — broken down into in dollars and cents — was one of the major arguments used in the “Good Roads Movement” that began circa 1880. The Good Roads folks talked about the “mud tax” that signified the time and productivity that farmers and merchants lost when rain made roads impassable, preventing them from moving their products to their destination. American farmers, it was claimed, for example, paid 23 cents per ton to haul their produce to market compared to seven cents paid by British farmers and nine cents paid by German farmers (Colonel Albert Pope and His American Dream Machines by Stephen B. Goddard, p.118). Thus, investment in better roads up front, it was claimed, would save the public money in the long run.
Wasn’t there someone somewhere who said those who ignore history are bound to repeat it?