Good streets an expensive necessity
If there is one common problem shared by cities, counties and states it is providing quality, well-maintained streets and roads. About this time of year, a combination of frozen moisture and low temperatures starts taking its toll and the results are chuck holes and angry drivers.
Throw in the problem of snow and ice removal following a storm; it is easy to see that streets are a continuing source of frustration for governmental units. Oh, yes, I failed to mention complaints about snow removal.
Actually, chuck holes are like dandelions, you fix them and like magic they reappear. When it comes to streets and road maintenance, there is no final answer. Yet everyone knows quality roads are a necessity that has existed since earliest times.
Probably the first real road was between Ur and Babylon in 4000 BC. The idea of the road was to speed commerce and information between the two ancient kingdoms. Pharaoh Cheops built a road to the Great Pyramids in about 2500 B.C. The dimensions of the road were listed as 60 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Roads are mentioned in the Old Testament but there are no specifics given.
The great road builders of the ancient world were the Romans who constructed 53,000 miles throughout their far-flung kingdom.
The Romans built paved roads using a base of flat rocks. Then stone gravel was mixed with lime and topped with a lava layer. In all, their roads were from three to five inches thick and ranged from eight feet to 35 feet in width.
The Romans devised a system requiring governmental units along the roads to be in charge of maintenance. In general, the road system allowed the Romans to control the ancient world through relative rapid transportation of goods and military units.
Good roads, however, proved to be one of the down falls of the Incas. The invading Spaniards were able to use their quality roads to move troops in their conquests.
In the 18th century and 19th century, road building became a major goal for European countries. In England, Thomas Telford and John Landen McAdams were among the leaders in modern road building. They used a rock base covered with gravel. But the biggest boom in the building of roads came with the development of asphalt or macadam.
Probably the most unusual base for roads were logs laid side-by-side in what was called “corduroy” road. It was a popular method of quick road building during the Civil War.
The real push for good roads came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the development of bicycles and automobiles. An organization “The Good Road Movement” successfully lobbied governmental units for better roads, and in 1917 New Jersey became the first state to assume control of highways. Soon other states assumed control of roads.
President Eisenhower is credited with advancing the inter-state highway system after World War II. Supposedly he was impressed with the German highway system, which allowed high-speed travel. While it had detractors, the system greatly improved highway safety. In fact, it seems strange driving on a two-lane highway now.
Most cities are working to upgrade street systems, which are a real challenge due to reduced revenue. What most folks don’t realize is how expensive street work actually can be. According to Kevin Bruemmer, Bonner Springs Public Works director, redoing one mile of a two-lane city street with a width of 22-feet using the recycling in place method costs $15 per square foot, or $193,000. Using the chip-and-seal method costs $25,814. Edwardsville recently spent about $55,000 on a street maintenance and snow removal truck.
There is no doubt that street repairs are a major expense to governmental units. Yet good streets and roads are necessary to modern travel.