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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Connecticut Good Roads Association


The New York Times
April 26, 1914

Co-operative Efforts of Highway Commissioner and State Association Begun.


Waterbound Macadam Has Proved a Failure—The Financial Side of the Problem.

State Highway Commissioner Bennett and the Connecticut Good Roads Association have joined in co-operative effort on behalf of the construction and maintenance of the State highways.  The Good Roads Association appointed at a late meeting a special committee consisting of Senator Platt of Waterbury, Frank T. Staples of Bridgeport, and C. M. Robinson, Secretary of the association, of New Haven to tender the kindly offices of the organization to the Commissioner if desired by him.  This tender was accepted and one or two conferences have been held, as a result of which a report was prepared and submitted to the State Good Roads Association at a meeting held in the Hotel Taft in New Haven, described in the New Haven Sentinel.

That an acute financial condition has been created in that State by reason of road construction and maintenance is freely recognized both by the State Highway Commissioner and the Good Roads Association.  The Commissioner, in a letter addressed to Gov. Baldwin in March, set forth something of the situation.  He said that at the present time there are substantially 1,420 miles of highway included in the trunk line system of the State.  Of this about 900 miles have been improved in a more or less permanent manner, leaving about 520 miles uncompleted.  Already about ten millions of dollars have been expended.  Estimating the approximate cost of the remainder at $15,000 per mile, this will require a further expenditure of $7,800,000.  This latter estimate, however, contemplates the use of more permanent pavement than was out down upon much of the completed portion.

Further provision must also be made at the approaching session of the General Assembly for maintenance of the trunk line roads already built and badly worn, and the Commissioner estimates that about $900,000 per year will be required for this work.  The automobilists for this year will pay into the Treasury approximately $400,000, leaving a deficit of $500,000 that must be furnished by State appropriation.  In addition to this, $500,000 a year seems necessary for the renewal of roads that were cheaply constructed at the beginning.  This reconstruction work will probably extend over a period of eight years.  Then the State aid roads will require $500,000 more per year, together with $150,000 for repairs and $100,000 a year for the engineering and operating department.  The Commissioner sums up these various expenditures as follows:

Repairs to trunk lines, not including automobile fees.............. $500,000
Renewals and construction of trunk lines............................ 500,000
State aid roads................... 500,000
Repairs to State aid roads........ 150,000
Engineering and operating department.............................. 100,000

For the fiscal term of two years twice this sum, or $3,500,000,will be required.

This prospective large annual expenditure for years to come may well cause hesitancy and profound consideration in the matter of road extension in the State.  The situation is, however, no different from that in many other States.  The fact is, in the earlier years of road building the State plunged too deeply into the water-bound macadam, which is now absolutely condemned, and built too many miles of this sort of insufficient construction.  Wherever put down on the trunk line highways it requires resurfacing on a more permanent basis, and this work is now going on in various parts of the State.  To carry on this work and to provide for new construction of a more lasting character is the problem to which the Commissioner and the State association are devoting themselves.

The Commissioner finds himself handicapped to a certain extent in his work by limitations placed upon him in the taking of land for straightening out and reducing the grades of highways.  While he has power to change the layout of a highway or the grade, he has no authority for compensation in damages that may accrue to adjacent property owners, and this is sought by him.

Estimating that in road construction 40 per cent. is a fair proportion expended in permanent improvements, such as straightening lines, improving grades, and building concrete culverts and bridges, the commissioner feels that money to this amount for this purpose should be raised by bond issue.  The thought is, that this work once done is finished and long-term bonds could safely be issued to meet this sort of expenditure.  The remaining 60 per cent. of construction, which is not so long-lived, he thinks should be paid out of current revenues of the State; and unless this is done the road surfaces are liable to be worn out before the maturity of the bonds and the State would thus be likely to be called upon for new issues and there would be a constantly growing increase in the bonded debt.

Recognizing these conditions, the Connecticut Good Roads Association at its last meeting adopted the following platform, with which it proposes to go before the Legislature in aid of good roads and the State Highway Commissioner next Winter, and this platform was unanimously adopted:

First—That we approve the suggestion of Commissioner Bennett that the State must appropriate at least $3,500,000 for the purposes set forth in his letter to Gov. Baldwin.

Second—That the money spent in surfacing trunk line roads be expended in permanent pavements.

Third—That we favor a bond issue in the amount of $2,000,000, the proceeds to be expended for purposes of grading, straightening, and for building culverts upon trunk line roads at present unimproved, as for example, the trunk line from Hartford to Colchester to New London, and the trunk line from Middletown to Colchester to Willimantic.

Fourth—That we recommend that the State build no more water-bound macadam roads upon the trunk lines, but in the absence of sufficient funds to place a permanent pavement on State roads shall use a gravel surface where possible or leave the road as a well-drained dirt road.

Fifth—That we approve the idea of Mr. Bennett that the Highway Commissioner should be empowered to condemn land for highway purposes; that a proper method of compensating any property owner who is damaged thereby should be provided, and further, that the highway law should be codified so that the same may be uncontradictory of itself and readily understood and applied.

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