History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

Interstate Highways
highwaysI remember the construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike during the 1950s and 1960s. As a child and young adult, this was my first exposure to parts of what was to become our Interstate Highway System. The amount of money that was involved in both construction, and the collection of tolls after the highway was opened seemed remarkable to me. Many readers in the Western United States may find the idea of paying tolls to drive on a road unfamiliar. Roads are necessary. Without roads you could not transport merchandise from one location to another, and trade or commerce would be virtually nonexistent.

 
Toll roads, particularly along and near the East Coast of the United States are often called turnpikes. The term turnpike originated from pikes, which were long poles that blocked passage until the fare (or toll) was paid and the pike was turned at a toll house. In early U. S. history, many individual citizens would maintain nearby stretches of road and collect a fee from people who used that specific stretch. Eventually, companies were formed to build, improve, and maintain a particular segment of roadway, and tolls were collected from users to finance the work. The first major toll road in this country was the Philadelphia Lancaster Turnpike which opened in 1795.

 

In 1919 the United States Army organized a convoy to travel 3,250 miles along the Lincoln Highway from Washington, D. C. to Oakland, California. It was a grueling fifty- six day journey. It was meant to highlight the need for better highways in this country; and it was successful in that regard. While the convoy did reach speeds of 32 mph, the average for the entire journey was just 5.65 mph! The convoy was forced to repair or rebuild bridges. The convoy also had to repair sections of road and contend with breakdowns of their own vehicles and equipment. The convoy…

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