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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 63· No. 3 > Editor's Notes

Nov/Dec 1999
Vol. 63· No. 3

Editor's Notes

As we close out the 20th century, it is interesting to look back to near the beginning of the century and see that while circumstances are different now, the basic problems of highway officials and engineers are strikingly similar.

Even though we may soon be able to "drive" a flying car that lifts off and lands vertically and streaks across the sky at almost 600 kilometers per hour (see "Flying Car Prototype Developed" in the "Along the Road" department of this issue), as long as cars move on wheels, road maintenance and pavement preservation will be major concerns of highway agencies and industry.

Most of the articles in this issue are related to managing and maintaining highway assets, including roads and bridges. Going back to the first issues of Public Roads published in 1918, we see that most of the articles in those early issues also focused on maintenance — albeit, there were only 5 million cars and commercial vehicles registered in the United States in 1917, and most of the roads were not paved with asphalt or concrete. The following information is taken from some of the first articles to appear in Public Roads.

Roads in Illinois are generally in good condition despite delays and higher prices. It is evident that systematic maintenance of all roads is a necessity. The economy of the state depends almost entirely upon the way they are maintained, and so, the state division of highways is exerting every possible effort to maintain all state roads in a condition of greatest serviceability commensurate with economy.

The current existing conditions — the shortage of material and the high cost of labor and equipment added to the urgent necessity for maintenance — come at a time when, in many sections, the increase in truck traffic is causing more rapid wear than many road organizations are fully prepared to meet from current funds.

Maintenance is Rhode Island's big problem. The state is confronted by the fact that many roads cannot stand today's traffic.

Over the past four years, many old and inadequate bridges in Michigan have been replaced with well-built, modern structures, capable of carrying a moving load of 18 tons.

Roads in New York are bearing a heavy and almost unforseen increase in traffic, and the state advocates placing a reasonable limit on the loads of motor trucks to avoid the rapid destruction of the roads. Many people believe that the three-ton truck answers nearly all the present-day requirements, but the general opinion is that the five-ton truck might well be considered the maximum. Massachusetts and Connecticut are also seeking to restrict truck loads.

The Maryland legislature passed a bill prescribing motor licensing fees that increase with the load capacity of the vehicle. The maximum fee is $500 for seven-ton trucks.

The deterioration of sections of New Jersey's main trunk highways has been so rapid that the state is unable to finance construction to meet the increasing requirements.

In Pennsylvania, heroic measures and expedients are being applied to keep in repair the main arteries of travel, which today are being subjected to unprecedented traffic by all classes of vehicular transportation. The state's greatest asset is "system" — organization and long-range planning. Having compiled statistics of our resources and geological deposits during the course of several years of our maintenance operations, it was possible to plan this work long in advance of the actual working season.

I guess this is another example of the adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same," and we will enter the new century still struggling with the same fundamental problems with which our predecessors grappled more than 80 years ago.

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