U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
202-366-4000


Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Highway History

<< Previous Contents Next >>

A Maximum of Good Results: Martin Dodge and the Good Roads Trains

Results of the Southern Railway Good Roads Train

The introduction to OPRI Bulletin No. 23 summarized the 5-month tour:

Sample roads were constructed and conventions held at eighteen places. The total length of completed road made was from 12 to 15 miles, and included samples made of earth, gravel, sand and clay, chert, shell, and macadam. The conventions lasted from one to three days each, and were participated in by large numbers of people. Of these conventions five were State conventions, two were general, and the rest district conventions. Five State and five district good roads associations were organized to carry on active work in creating sentiment for highway improvement . . . . General interest was displayed in the progress of the train and in the conventions held, and a great sentiment was created throughout the South in favor of road improvement. [p. 10]

Perhaps, the introduction said, "no more noteworthy industrial movement has taken place in the United States in recent years and none which will have more effect on the development of one of the great sections of the country."

Good Roads Magazine shared that view. A retrospective in the June 1902 issue called the Southern Railway Good Roads Train "one of the most remarkable and instructive enterprises ever undertaken." It summarized its two primary purposes:

[To] arouse the South to take an enthusiastic interest in the subject of highway improvement, and at the same time to show in the most practical and spectacular way just how good roads should be made. The secondary objects, of course, included the desire of the machinery makers to promote the good roads movement, and create a larger market for their respective products, and the ambition of the railroad to increase the population and promote the general welfare of the section through which it passes, which will eventually repay the railroad company by increased traffic for the heavy expense to which it was put in hauling the train over its line and permitting the use of its cars and sidetracks during several months.

There can be no doubt whatever that the first primary object was accomplished immediately by each convention. Seldom has the Sunny South been aroused to so high a pitch of enthusiasm over so prosaic a subject as it has been during the past winter over the need of better roads. Every convention held had the sanction and hearty personal co-operation of the Governor of the state and of the mayor of the city in which it was held, and each one was well attended by 200 to 500 or 1,000 delegates and spectators who took a profound interest in the proceedings. All of the newspapers devoted columns daily to the work of the train crew and to reporting the sessions of the convention . . . . In a dozen other ways was made manifest the degree to which our Southern brethren's common sense and pride were touched. [p. 2-3]

After describing the activities of the train at each stop, the retrospective said that "the immense value of the enterprise will be readily appreciated, but it cannot be overestimated." It continued:

The double value of combining the theoretical and abstract side of the great question of road improvement with the practical and concrete demonstration as an object lesson will be readily recognized. Long after the enthusiasm stirred up by the addresses in the convention has abated, the memory of the invasion of the Good Roads Train and the dispatch and ease with which the experienced crew constructed the sample stretches of improved roadway will linger, and the improved pieces of road themselves will, by contrast with the old and unimproved, be the strongest argument and most persistent reminder of the necessity of putting all of the main thoroughfares in the immediate vicinity in equally good condition. [p. 8]

The fact that these samples are widely distributed in leading cities of the South will also have the effect of promoting the good roads cause throughout a wide territory, and the discussion of the subject in these principal centers will tend to keep it alive in all.

In OPRI's 1902 annual report, Dodge printed several accounts from local participants in the expedition. Henry Fonde, President of the Southern Alabama Good Roads Association in Mobile, reported that while enthusiasm "has somewhat subsided, there is still a very healthy interest" in good roads in the State. His association had encouraged each county to create its own good roads association in time for a statewide meeting in Montgomery during the fall before the next meeting of the State legislature.

In Lynchburg, Dr. Charles Minor Blackford, Jr., said that he had consulted residents in the vicinity of the model road. "The traffic varies from the passage of a light buggy or wagon to the heaviest hauling, and I find no dissatisfaction expressed with the road by any class of users." Although the object-lesson road had not yet inspired additional road construction, "I think the example will tell when new construction is begun."

S. L. Patterson, North Carolina's Commissioner of Agriculture and Immigration, also found that "little actual work" had been accomplished since the Southern Railway Good Roads Train passed through the State, but "the increased interest in building and maintaining good roads has been very marked in North Carolina . . . ." Numerous inquiries had come from around the State "for information and for copies of the recent road laws passed by our legislature, the adoption of which is optional with the county commissioners." Overall, he reported an "awakening of our people to the great necessity of road improvement."

P. H. Hanes, president of the North Carolina Good Roads Association in Winston-Salem, requested a second visit of the train in the fall. "It would do more, in my opinion, to promote the good roads movement than anything that can be done." The road built north of the city "is an excellent piece of work, and is standing the travel beyond my expectation; in fact, it is almost a perfect piece of work." The road and the visit by the Good Roads Train inspired the good roads movement in every part of the State, he said, "and within twelve months, in my judgment, its friends will be organized and ready for work."

The annual report also quoted State Geologist Earle Sloane of South Carolina as saying that the "short bit of road constructed at Charleston by the good roads train . . . [has] well withstood the test to which it has been subjected" although traffic "has not been of a heavy order." The interest in good roads promoted by the Southern Railway Good Roads Train "is continually extending, and is worthy of the highest commendation." Sloane anticipated that, "The greatest benefits are to come to us through ready transportation from the farms to the common carriers." He added that, "One of the foremost tenets proclaimed in the present gubernatorial campaign is 'good roads.'" [p. 311-312]

For the 1903 annual report, Dodge again reported on the effects of the Southern Railway Good Roads Train. After summarizing the train's agenda, Dodge quoted extensively from Senator Daniel's "itinerant college" speech in Lynchburg, Virginia. He then cited a few of the many "gratifying reports" received "showing the beneficial results following this great good-roads expedition." He reprinted several comments cited in the 1902 report, but added excerpts from two letters from W. L. Spoon, the road expert employed in the OPRI's southern division under Professor Holmes. The first was written from Goldsboro, North Carolina, on October 6, 1902:

I was at Winston, N.C., last week and went up to see the first piece of work done by the good roads train, and I am delighted with its excellent condition. It is as fine as any road in North Carolina to-day. It has been extended for nearly 1 mile. I have no doubt you will be delighted to know this.

Spoon also inspected the object-lesson road built at Raleigh. His letter of December 16, 1902, reported that the road "is in excellent condition." Although the work "was seriously interrupted by the severity of the weather, and had to be left partially incomplete . . . it shows excellent construction in the foundation . . ." This characteristic was "evidenced by the fact that the very heavy traffic it daily bears does not wear the surface into holes or uneven places." He explained that aside from its traffic service, the road had performed its "greatest value" by exposing visiting delegates, many of whom had never seen a macadam road, to "the actual work of constructing a macadam road upon sound, scientific principles." Spoon continued:

Aside from the local benefit derived from the good road built as a road of service, by far the greater value to the State was the educational feature, which has a scope of influence commensurate with the size of the visiting delegation, and, since that was very large, it is easy to see how the value of the visit of the good roads train to Raleigh is of incalculable benefit as an educator. Indeed, I may say truthfully that the three stops of the good roads train in North Carolina did more to arouse good roads sentiment throughout the State than any and all agencies heretofore employed combined. North Carolina will give a good account of herself at no very distant date. [p. 337-338]

The Great Northern Good Roads Train

At the start of FY 1903 on July 1, 1902, Dodge used an increased appropriation to expand the number of OPRI divisions. He appointed Colonel Richardson of the NGRA to be the special agent for the Middle Western division. Jay F. Brown of Cleveland, mentioned earlier as the engineer on the Wooster Pike project, became the special agent for the Central division. (Brown appears to have confined his work as special agent to northern Ohio, where he was aided by Joseph H. Dodge, an OPRI road expert who was also Martin Dodge's brother.)

The Southern Railway Good Roads Train was the most extensive of the good roads trains, but the OPRI and NGRA jointly sponsored one more expedition. With the support of the rail company's President, J. J. Hill, the Great Northern Railway Good Roads Train began on September 1, 1902, at the Minnesota State Fair between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Dodge supervised the train, while Colonel Richardson and OPRI Special Agent Abbott were in charge of promotional work. The train was scheduled to conclude its demonstration in Portland, Oregon, on October 20.

The road machinery had been shipped from Chicago to St. Paul over the Burlington route free of charge, according to OPRI's 1903 annual report:

The machinery companies conceded everything asked for and gave the best and most improved machinery for every variety of work necessary, and also traction engines to haul the earth-handling machinery, so for the first time animal power was dispensed with for such service. [p. 339]

The train consisted of nine cars of machinery, plus a dining car and a sleeping car. The annual report called it "the best equipped good roads train ever sent out." The Great Northern Good Roads Train followed the pattern of the previous trains, featuring construction of an object-lesson road and a good roads convention at each stop, with a goal of organizing good roads associations to promote road improvement.

On the State Fair grounds, the crew built 2,000 feet of macadam road using local materials. The road was considered permanent because "the road leading from St. Paul to Minneapolis will pass through these grounds and over this road."

After a 3-day convention at Institute Hall on the fairgrounds, the train moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota, then a city of about 10,000 residents, for a 2-day convention in the city's Davidson Opera House. The object-lesson team built a macadam roadway on St. Germain Street, the first macadam road to be built in this part of the country, according to the OPRI's annual report for 1903. As was customary for object-lesson roads, the experts used local material, in this case granite from area quarries. The annual report stated:

[It] was thought by many that this material could never be used successfully for the purpose because of the lack of cementing properties. By a slight admixture of powdered clay and gumbo, which operated as a binder, and under pressure of the heavy steam rollers there was presented a most excellent object lesson for that community and for all that section of the country. [p. 339]

The report added that, "About 1 mile of road was prepared, but the macadam was placed on only about one-quarter of a mile." Good Roads Magazine explained that the road began at the railroad and consisted of a 16-foot wide roadway, narrowing to 9 feet. In addition, a "portion of earth road was made with graders and packed by a steam roller."

With the weather perfect, "a great many people from town and the surrounding country . . . watched the work with much interest." When the work was completed, it "was pronounced by Director Dodge the best object lesson road he had ever seen made in so short a time." [Good Roads Magazine, October 1902, p. 1]

(According to the annual report, special agent Abbott returned to St. Cloud 2 weeks later "to ascertain whether [the object-lesson road] had been injured by the wet weather and heavy traffic." He reported that it was "preeminently satisfactory.") [p. 339]

The train arrived in Fargo, North Dakota, another city of 10,000, on September 14. The next day, the object-lesson team began construction of a macadam road on Eighth Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, a distance of about 450 feet. OPRI's annual report stated that "the soil [is] so sticky when wet as to make the roads almost impassable." The team faced two concerns. The annual report expressed one:

No macadam road had ever been built in this valley, and it was the common opinion prevailing there that none could be because, as claimed, the earth was too yielding to support any superstructure of stone according to the macadam method; but here success was secured in a high degree by using the same kind of granite and by pursuing the same method of consolidation as at St. Cloud. The Great Northern road transported free 200 cubic yards of granite sprawls from the St. Cloud quarries. In addition to this macadam, an equal amount of gravel road was laid in Fargo. [p. 339]

Good Roads Magazineexpressed the other concern:

It was feared that wet weather would interfere with the work, but after a few showers the skies cleared and fine weather prevailed. The dirt, in its wet state, gave the engineers an opportunity to study its peculiar characteristics to better advantage. The progress of the work was watched by a good number of interested spectators, but the attendance was not as large as had been anticipated, owing to the fact that it was at the season of year when the farmers were compelled to secure their crops.

Similarly, attendance at the 2-day convention in the Opera House "was very fair, everything considered." [Good Roads Magazine, November 1902. p. 2]

The train moved to Grand Forks "an enterprising city of over seven thousand," as explained in Good Roads Magazine. The "second city" of the State, an "important railroad center" and the State's "chief manufacturing city," Grand Forks, home of the State university, had "broad, well-paved streets, is well lighted, and has imposing business houses and handsome residences." The magazine described the object-lesson road:

The rock used for the macadam section was St. Cloud granite, which was brought for the purpose. Three distinct kinds of road were constructed: one of granite bound with clay and finished with fine granite, the second made of granite bedt with a four-inch gravel layer on top, the third a stretch of road built of gravel alone, no clay being used. Inclement weather, however, prevented the completion of the work until Monday, the 29th. The work was watched with interest by many visitors from the city and people from the northern part of the State and from the State of Minnesota.

The 2-day convention was held in the Pioneer Club Rooms, but the magazine observed, "Could the convention have been held early in the summer when the harvest did not demand the attention of the farmers the attendance would have been much larger." [Good Roads Magazine, November 1902, p. 3]

Even before the Great Northern Railway Good Roads Train reached Great Forks, participants had decided to end the train after the convention in that city. The October 1902 issue of Good Roads Magazine discussed the decision:

The reason given for discontinuing the train is that it is at a time when the farmers are especially busy, and it has been impossible to secure the desired attendance. The railroad company, therefore, it is said, did not see its way clear to running the train further for the present. The Government officials, however, have arranged to carry out the programme as arranged so far as holding conventions at Seattle, Portland, and other points is concerned, and it is expected that very profitable results will follow the meetings, as every effort will be made to bring out a large attendance. [p. 18]

The reduced team consisted of Dodge, Richardson, and Abbott; F. H. Hitchcock, chief of the Foreign Market Division of the Agriculture Department, and J. R. Taggart and B. S. Thorp. An OPRI photograph reprinted in the December 1902 issue of the magazine showed the "party at the time of leaving Grand Forks." Dodge and three others are seated in a horse-drawn carriage, with the two other members of the team standing alongside it. [p. 23]

On October 11, 1902, Dodge wrote to Secretary Wilson from Seattle. The letter, reprinted in the December 1902 issue of Good Roads Magazine, [p. 23-24] began:

Dear Sir:– I take pleasure in sending you herewith a large number of newspaper clippings, which contain an abridged report of the work that we have done with the good roads train in the Northwest and of the manner in which it was received.

After summarizing the activities of the Great Northern Railway Good Roads Train in language that would later appear in the annual report, Dodge continued:

When I made application for the train, I requested that it should be sent entirely across the country to the Pacific coast. The request was not acceded to at first, and when the company decided to put on the train, they only agreed to run it through the prairie country, because they said the season would be too short to reach the Pacific slope before the rainy season would set in. I had hoped in the beginning that we should not be required to stop oftener than once in 500 miles, but the railway company insisted on stopping at the places I have named, all of them being within 250 miles of St. Paul. Bu this time a full month had passed, and the distance from Grand Forks to Seattle, our next stop, is fully 1,500 miles, so the railway company concluded that inasmuch as there could be but two or three more stands made at best this year, it would not be wise to run the train 1,500 miles and return it within a short time, making 3,000 miles for not to exceed three exhibitions.

Our main purpose now is to call the people together in conventions at different times and places, and discuss the road question with them, give them such information as we have, and ascertain from them what they desire. In this we have been eminently successful at this place, not only by reason of the great number of persons attending the convention and the remarkable interest manifested in the subject, but also on account of the formation of a permanent state organization for carrying on the work here in the future. Mr. Samuel Hill, who you know is the son-in-law of Mr. J. J. Hill, was chosen president of the new association, and tells me that he is very anxious to have his name identified with the movement in the state and with the permanent improvement of the highways-a thing greatly needed in this section the country.

We go from here to Portland for a full week, and from there to the Inter-Mountain Fair at Boise, Idaho.

Very respectfully,
Martin Dodge, Director [p. 23-24]

(Samuel Hill, who had married J. J. Hill's daughter Mary in 1888, would become one of the great figures in the Northwest during the Good Roads Era, associated particularly with the Pacific Highway along the West Coast and the Columbia River Highway, now an All-American Road under the National Scenic Byway Program.)

In this way, the final Good Roads Train with OPRI's full support came to an end.

James Abbott on the Great Northern Railway Good Roads Train

The December 1905 issue of Good Roads Magazine contained an article by former OPRI special agent Abbott, on "Some Object Lesson Road Lessons." He explained that General Stone, "a civil engineer, a practical road builder, and a conscientious and enthusiastic official," had initiated the object-lesson road plan of instruction about 10 years earlier. He explained that General Stone developed a "four-sided scheme of co-operation" under which a community applied for an object-lesson road, manufacturers provided equipment, railroads provided transport, and the ORI provided experts. In practice, the emphasis was on education:

During the building of this piece of road every newspaper published in the vicinity found it a prolific topic of news. Thousands of people came to view the process, many from considerable distances. To all of them the expert explained each process and the reason for it. It was a daily school in the whole theory and practice of road building. A convention was always held, lasting two or more days, at which the subject of highway construction discussed in all its phases-historic, economic, social, legislative, administrative, and to its deliberations the press gave wide publicity. Numerous photographs were obtained illustrating every feature of the work in progress. These were published by the press and made into lantern slides. Widely separated localities were selected for these demonstrations. Professors and students from agricultural colleges and State universities went to them to see and learn and to attend the conventions. Many of them secured the photographs for lantern slides to illustrate lectures in their respective institutions. Mr. Eldridge, the assistant director, went from town to town, all over the United States, delivering instructive lectures, illustrated by views of these object lesson roads and processes.

Abbott considered this original phase of object-lesson road construction a success:

For years this object lesson road method was practiced by the office with unqualified benefit to the whole country. It was undoubtedly an important factor in educating public sentiment in several States, which later established highway commissions.

The original practice of object lesson road plan was judicious and effective. It met the needs of the people and fulfilled the spirit of the law.

The second era of the object-lesson road, Abbott said, was the period of the Good Roads Trains, particularly the trains operated by the Illinois Central and Southern Railway:

They operated in the Southern States, where highway conditions were all very crude, in communities where the majority of the people had never seen a good road, knew nothing of up-to-date road building apparatus or methods-and to whom the spectacular particularly appealed.

During the conventions at each stop, "staff immediately began giving a show entirely novel in those parts," offering opportunity for "the little social functions which characterize the impulsive hospitality of that southern clime:

It was all refreshingly novel and much good-road seed was planted. The moderate sums exacted from the communities for expenses were generally regarded as reasonable and cheerfully paid.

He gave credit to Colonel Richardson, who according to Abbott had been appointed a special agent of the OPRI "in order that his peculiar talents might be utilized and to him was intrusted the conduct of the campaign." Abbott added:

If there exists in the United States another man as well fitted by nature and training for such a duty, the writer, in his somewhat extended experience of the good roads cause, has never met him.

Richardson's talents were especially useful in dealing with critics:

The occasional roars of practical utilitarians, who failed to recognize in the visible results the wonderful stretches of perfected highway pictured in advance to their imagination, were mostly dissipated and rendered innocuous by the genial and tactful Richardson. But for his executive ability and peculiar genius for that work, the short comings, incongruities, and ludicrous features of the plan and its personnel would have usurped the limelight.

Along the trail of the train, people would have laughed at the droll features and largely missed the beneficial lessons.

The Great Northern Good Roads Train launched the third era of object-lesson roads. "It was an ill-advised attempt to transplant to an uncongenial clime and environment an exotic which had thrived in other regions and under very different conditions." He did not fault the railroads, which "were generous in the extreme":

No such company of highly skilled, practical road experts was ever grouped together for work before or since . . . . All on the train were the railroad's guests, and no restriction was placed on their numbers. Every comfort of the modern railroad was furnished, the best chef on the system was detailed for the train and an assistant furnished him. President James J. Hill's especial train porter was one of the two provided. Every good thing to eat to be had in the market was served in abundance, cooked fit for a king's table. There was even a conductor, gifted with talent for song and story, who endeared himself to all by his delightful personality.

The train was the "star attraction" of the Minnesota State Fair at Hamline on the boundary between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The object-lesson road, however, did not go smoothly:

After grading had been in progress for two days in accordance with stakes and instructions of the engineer designated by the fair management, it suddenly developed that the stakes and instructions were in error, and instead of a cut there should have been a fill. Activities were reversed and the dirt returned to the place from whence it had been abstracted. Just previous to the transposition act the plow of an elevating grader had severed in twain a water main. Frantic appeals to the fair management to repair the damage before it should be forever too late were responded to by a zeal of movement suggestive of the tortoise.

It requires no heated imagination to conceive the sort of foundation for a macadam road which would be evolved from such complications. To augment the gaiety of the occasion every man, woman and child who visited the fair ground seemed to feel called on to distribute themselves over the right of way, and a constantly recurring tragedy was averted only by stopping the machines every few feet.

Under these conditions, it was not surprising that on Saturday afternoon the general passenger traffic manager of the system, contemplating the accomplishment and measuring the value of the demonstration only by what was in sight, suggested the prompt relinquishment of the train and vigorously asserted that "such demonstrations would set back the cause of road improvement in a region for five years."

The demonstration at St. Cloud also had its share of problems that "illustrated how difficult it might be for a human being to recognize in such demonstrations any benefit beyond the actual value in dollars and cents of the short piece of road constructed." Abbott described a member of the local committee that had arranged for the visit as the equipment was being moved from the railroad to the demonstration site:

He saw the crusher break through a rotten culvert, and noted with impatience that it required men and effort and time to put it on to terra firma again. He observed an unavoidable delay which occurred in erecting the bins and making certain needed changes. Noon of the second day had passed and not a pound of road had been crushed. At last the strain upon his feelings was too much, and they suddenly let go, and then and there Mr. Committeeman threw a fit, with most painful and aggravated spasms-such a woeful waste of money was a grievous matter indeed. In his view, the mountain had groaned and not so much as a ridiculous mouse even had yet been brought forth.

At least the city was glad that the project would publicize the crushed granite that was available for projects elsewhere in the State. "This was fully recognized by the alert, practical citizens of the place, and St. Cloud had no kick coming if the short piece of object lesson made for them did cost a few cents per foot more than it would average in a large contract."

At Fargo, the experts encountered "several disagreeable rainy days" that "injured the work and greatly restricted accomplishment." At Grand Forks, "the harvest season made such a demand for labor that the local committee were unable to procure the requisite help, and there also a bad storm intervened to retard progress."

Abbott summarized the tour:

Four times the circus was unloaded; four different communities were variously edified, then a kindly disposed Providence induced the railroad company to take the train away, thus depriving the office of Public Roads Inquiries of opportunity for perpetrating in Oregon and Washington during the rainy season a most unfortunate record . . . .

At the end of the fourth week it was quite clearly established in the minds of most on that train that the building of a good object lesson macadam road was not a circus proposition.

Abbott had returned to St. Cloud and Grand Forks recently to see the object-lesson roads left behind. At St. Cloud, the road "has sustained the traffic of wagons bringing in enormous loads of granite from neighboring quarries." The road had not received any maintenance in the 3 years since it was built:

That part of the road which was macadamized for a width of sixteen feet has stood the test wonderfully. Not a weak spot has developed, not a rut appeared. That [part that was] nine feet in width has not been so fortunate; it has both ruts and holes and the edges in places have broken down.

The macadam had not broken through, but "the heaving of frost has disturbed its shape, and made the surface somewhat irregular." He continued:

Still the portion made wholly of granite, sixteen feet wide and six inches thick, after rolling, has stood and is regarded by the farmers bringing in loads over it as a success.

Fargo was a different story:

At Fargo not a trace of macadam remains. Here and there, a careful search in the mud discloses a fragment of granite to identify the place where the macadam was. Experimental pieces were made in each place of all gravel, and of granite and gravel combined.

Overall in the two cities, "Nothing stood the test excepting all-stone, sixteen feet wide and six inches thick, standard-made macadam."

One reason for the differences was the soil in the two places. The natural soil in St. Cloud "was largely a granite detritus, quite porous and readily drained." At Grand Forks, "the soil was that black gumbo so characteristic of the Red River Valley of the North." The surface is flat, making drainage difficult. "Every one said that no thickness of macadam road could be built on it that would survive one winter when the frost sometimes penetrates to a depth of eight feet." The Fargo road "was on the same kind of soil and had no sub-drainage." As a result, "It promptly collapsed the first spring," as would "any similar road in that country undrained."

In this article, published after Martin Dodge had left office, Abbott did not mention by name the Director who had been in charge of the good roads train. ["Some Object Lesson Road Lessons," Good Roads Magazine, December 1905, p. 819-823]

Martin Dodge's Other Initiatives

From the start, Dodge had sought increased appropriations for the OPRI. His first annual report as Director, for 1900, recommended increasing the number of special agents from four to eight, along with four road experts and four scientific aides "so that there may be one of these to assist each special agent, and thereby enable us to greatly multiply the object-lesson work of this Office. He continued:

We shall also need improved machinery of various kinds, and I request an appropriation of $18,000 for this purpose.

The increased correspondence of the Office makes it necessary to have a skilled and experienced stenographer, for which I recommend an appropriation of $1,200.

During the past years the usefulness of this Office has been somewhat impaired by insufficient appropriations. The sum of $10,000, which was formerly appropriated for this Office, is none too much for the ordinary work which presents itself in regular course. In addition to this sum there should be at least $2,000 appropriated for the purpose of making experiments and traction tests with wide-tire wagons and also to assist agricultural colleges in object-lesson work in the various States.

I therefore recommend that the sum of $54,320 be appropriated for the use of this Office for the year 1902, as per estimate submitted. [p. 291]

Dodge's 1901 report continued the pursuit of increased appropriations, recommending an increase to $75,000 in 1902. He also recommended that the OPRI purchase its own road equipment instead of relying on equipment loans from manufacturers. Appropriations also would be needed for the salaries and traveling expenses of the engineers and experts as well as shipping costs for the equipment. [p. 252]

In 1902, with the annual appropriation increased to $20,000, Dodge reported that the OPRI had received many requests for object-lesson roads but "we shall be able to comply with only a limited number of them-more, however, than in any previous year, because of the $10,000 increase in this year's appropriation." He explained that, "a minimum appropriation by the General Government is used to accomplish a maximum of good results." He estimated that "for every dollar expended by the Government the local authorities have been stimulated to expend at least $10 in this object-lesson and experimental road work." He recommended that the Department seek an appropriation of $75,000 for the next fiscal year. [p. 313]

In response to Dodge's plea, Congress increased OPRI funding to $30,000 for FY 1903. However, Dodge again sought an increase to $75,000 for 1904, in part to allow the OPRI to buy equipment. "During the present season . . . this Office has had considerable difficulty in securing sufficient machinery; the manufacturers have not been able to fill their regular orders, and have therefore been unwilling to fully supply the Department." He added:

The work of this Office appears to be no longer of tentative character. Year after year it has assumed increased importance and wider scope, and there is now a general demand coming up from all sections of the country that it be made a permanent feature of the work of this Department. It appears fitting, therefore, that it be given a more definite legal status, thereby adding dignity and stability to this branch of the Department's work. I therefore respectfully recommend that the Office of Public Road Inquiries be transformed into the Division of Public Roads, with a statutory roll of officers and employees. [p. 346-347]

Dodge also recommended establishment of a post-graduate school in Washington "where graduates in civil engineering from the land-grant colleges could secure a thorough course in theoretical and practical road building." With the growing public sentiment in favor of good roads, States and counties were raising funds for roads, but "these funds are being injudiciously expended on account of a lack of intelligent and skilled supervision." Although colleges were turning out civil engineers, "most of them know little or nothing about practical road building." Dodge described how the school would operate:

A similar school was established in Paris by the Government of France in the year 1747, and the condition of French roads to-day attests the wisdom of such action. The American school of road building should include a series of lectures by experts of this Office, and some practical work in the road-material laboratory and in connection with the object-lesson road work of the Office in different parts of the country. [p. 332]

Congress appropriated $35,000 for FY 1904, but took no action on Dodge's proposal to establish a national school for road building. In the annual report for 1904, Dodge would repeat his appeal for the school, as well as his appeal for permanent status and an annual appropriation of $75,000. Congress continued the appropriation of $35,000 for FY 1905, Dodge's final year as Director.

<< Previous Contents Next >>
Updated: 10/16/2013
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000