Hooray for good roads

The other day, while waiting in the constant construction traffic jam at 96th Street and Meridian St., I was reminded of the vast improvement of our roads since the early 1900’s.

1906 Maxwell on road
1906 Maxwell on road

In 1909, there were 2.2 million miles of roads in the United States. Only about 190,000 miles were surfaced. Most travel was in urban areas, with travel into the country being attempted only in fair weather. Rain quickly turned country roads into thick, deep mud ruts, making travel extremely difficult. This photo in our book Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana shows a 1906 Maxwell touring car stopped on a furrowed muddy road with the driver attempting to coax the family dog back to the car. Thank goodness we don’t have to endure roads like that today.

Good roads came as automotive transportation and commerce expanded across the nation. One of the beacons of the good roads movement was Hoosier entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher. In September 1912, at a dinner for the leaders of Indianapolis automobile manufacturing, he proposed the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway from New York to San Francisco. Fisher proposed donations of cash from the manufacturers of automobiles and accessories to fund this great project. This project later became known as the Lincoln Highway and was off and running. In the mid-1920’s, the federal government took over the funding of interstate highways.

The Interstate Highway System we know today was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1956. The interstate highways of the 1960’s may have been state-of-the-art at the time, but they are severely stressed under today’s conditions.

So, I guess it’s time we all pause when we encounter road construction. We never had it so good. Happy motoring.

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

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