Sunday, June 10, 2018

More Paved Highways, Better Bridges Demanded by “Good Roads” Groups [otd 06/10]

On Tuesday, June 10, 1913, the Fourth Annual Convention of the Intermountain Good Roads Association opened in Boise. Convention sessions ran through Thursday evening, with such topics as "Good Enough Roads for the Traffic." Thursday morning, former Idaho Governor James H. Hawley spoke on "Good Roads and Their Relation to Mining."
Mud is the enemy. National Archives

On Friday, the convention offered a tour to the Arrowrock Dam site. The dam was then about two years from completion. At this fourth convention, member states were identified as Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Roads in Colonial America were notoriously bad. As long as most people lived near the Atlantic coast, goods and people could travel by small ships built for that trade. Roads stretching inland were little more than widened trails scraped on the surface. That slowly improved, mostly through the efforts of toll road builders.

Thus, except for special cases, almost the only decent road surfaces were the streets in towns that could afford them. Rural areas largely made do with dirt tracks that turned to bottomless quagmires when it rained. Farmers knew they would benefit from better roads. However, the status quo was “good enough” most of the year and they shied away from the cost for something they used only once in a while.

Oddly enough, pressure for change arose from what was essentially a recreational fad, the bicycle. Without going into the morass of who invented what, when, bicycles were “all the rage” in the United States by the 1870s. Clubs proliferated, and they wanted to do more than just pedal around town. Thus, bicycle enthusiasts started the Good Roads Movement in 1880.

Good Roads associations quickly grew all over the country. The advocacy changed as cars became more common, and automobile companies took up the cause. By 1913, better roads and bridges for motor vehicles were the main focus.

The first Intermountain Association convention had urged "the American Automobile Association to consider a transcontinental route from New York to San Francisco or Los Angeles or the north coast cities." Such a planned road would hopefully replace the hit-or-miss (often "miss" in the West) patchwork of locally-maintained routes.

The Boise convention passed a resolution that expressed the delegates' "appreciation" of national efforts to construct such a route: "a great national free thoroughfare for the accommodation of all sorts of transportation."

Delegates also advocated educational improvements. They recommended the creation of collegiate engineering coursework "wherein shall be given special consideration and attention to the subject of public highways." Moreover, the faculty offering that coursework should establish an outreach program to provide instruction for county road builders and overseers.

As it happened, the University of Idaho already had such a program. They had completed their second annual good roads short course just months earlier. One of the lecturers was David B. Steinman, who would go on to become a world renowned bridge designer [blog, tomorrow].
Howdy! Montana State University Archives.

Another resolution said, "we demand the opening of the Yellowstone and all other natural parks to motor-propelled vehicles, thus enabling the people of our country to 'See America First'." That resolution paid off two years later, when the first cars were admitted to Yellowstone Park.

At the conference, delegates elected prominent Boise physician Dr. Lucien P. McCalla to be the Association’s next President. Within a day of so of the convention’s closing, Dr. McCalla received a telegram welcoming the Intermountain Association as an affiliate of the National Highways Association. Such recognition was expected to significantly enhance the prestige and resources of  the regional body.
References: [Brit], [French]
“Fourth Annual Convention of the Inter-Mountain Good Roads Association,” Better Roads Magazine, Vol. III, No. 7, Better Roads Publishing Company, Jamestown, Ohio (July 1913).
William Clark Hilles, The Good Roads Movement in the United States: 1880-1916, M. A. thesis, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina (1958).
“Join National Organization on Highways,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (June 14, 1913).
Mary Pickett, “Powered Vehicles had Bumpy Start in Yellowstone, Glacier Parks,” Montana Standard, Butte (October 4, 2008).
“Resolutions of the Good Roads,” The Evening Standard, Ogden, Utah (Sept 26, 1910).

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