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The Trailblazers


No history of road construction in the United States can be complete without an acknowledgment of the difficult pioneering work performed by engineers of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (now called Federal Highway Administration [FHWA]) in the early days of direct Federal construction on national forest and park lands. The men who located, designed, and built the initial highways in the Federal domain, often under adverse conditions, completed important links and extensions that were essential in the development of the Nation's highway systems.

In an effort to preserve the human aspects of the early history of the direct Federal highway construction program individuals associated with the program who are still living were asked to prepare short narratives in their own words in order to capture their interesting and colorful experiences outside the United States. One of the contributors, Mr. Arthur E. Grissom, documented a number of interesting accounts. All of these personal memoirs are compiled in this volume.

Acknowledgment is made to Mr. William O. Comella, former Regional Engineer of FHWA Region 15 and Regional Administrator of FHWA Region 3, for his efforts in initiating this project for assembling the personal experiences of engineers in the early road building program. The introductory article outlining the history of the FHWA direct Federal highway construction program is abstracted from a more comprehensive report on this subject prepared by Mr. Comella in 1975.


This volume is dedicated to the intrepid individuals, engineers, members of survey crews, and others who in the early days of road construction on public lands laid the groundwork for expansion of our Nation's highway transportation network and opened up vast areas of natural resources and areas of unsurpassed beauty. The pioneers who designed and built roads and bridges across mountain, desert, and forest barriers played a vital role in the history of American highways. Much of their work was performed under very difficult conditions. These men accepted hardship and personal privation for the love and challenge of the work. In recognition of their efforts and to perpetuate their memory this volume is respectfully dedicated.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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