American Rural Highways
by T. R. Agg
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[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an obvious error is noted at the end of this ebook.

Also, on pages 47-48, the Greek letter theta is represented by THETA. In chemical and mathematical notations, a subscript is enclosed in braces and preceded by an underscore (e.g., H_{2}O.)]






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T. R. AGG, C.E.






AMERICAN RURAL HIGHWAYS was written for use as a text or reference in courses dealing with rural highways and intended for agricultural engineers, students in agriculture and for short courses and extension courses. The reader is assumed to have familiarity with drawing and surveying, but the text is adapted primarily for students who do not receive training along the lines of the usual course in Highway or Civil Engineering.

The text is intended to familiarize the student with the relation of highway improvement to national progress, to indicate the various problems of highway administration and to set forth the usual methods of design and construction for rural highways in sufficient detail to establish a clear understanding of the distinguishing characteristics and relative serviceability of each of the common types of roadway surface.

Experience with classes made up of students in agriculture or agricultural engineering and with trade school students in road making served as a guide in the selection and arrangement of the material. Detailed discussion of tests of materials and of the theory of design has to a considerable extent been eliminated as being outside of the scope of the course for which the text is intended.

In the preparation of American Rural Highways reference was had to many books on highway subjects and to current periodical literature. Wherever direct extracts were made from such source, appropriate acknowledgment appears in the text.


AMES, IOWA, AUGUST 18, 1920.





Transportation Problem—National in Scope—Development in Traffic—Location or Farm to Market Traffic—Farm to Farm Traffic—Inter-City Traffic—Inter-County and Inter-State Traffic—Rural Education—Rural Social Life—Good Roads and Commerce 1-12



Township Administration—County Administration—State Administration—Federal Administration—Special Assessments—Zone Method of Assessing—General Taxation—Vehicle Taxes—Sinking Fund Bonds—Annuity Bonds—Serial Bonds—Comparison of Methods of Issuing Bonds—Desirability of Road Bonds 13-28



The Necessity for Drainage—Importance of Design—Surface Drainage—Run-off—Ordinary Design of Ditches—Underground Water—Tile Drains—Lying Tile—Culverts—Length of Culvert— Farm Entrance Culverts—Metal Pipe—Clay and Cement Concrete Pipe—Concrete Pipe—Endwalls for Culverts—Reinforced Concrete Box Culverts—Drop Inlet Culverts 29-41



Necessity for Planning—Road Plans—Problems of Design— Preliminary Investigations—Road Surveys—Alignment— Intersections—Superelevation—Tractive Resistance—Rolling Resistance—Internal Resistance—Air Resistance—Effect of Trades—Energy Loss on Account of Grades—Undulating Roads— Guard Railing—Width of Roadway—Cross Section—Control of Erosion—Private Entrances—AEsthetics 42-62



Variations in Soils—Variation in Rainfall—Cross Sections Elevating Grader—Maney Grader—Slip Scraper—Fresno Scraper—Elevating Grader Work—Use of Blade Grader— Costs—Maintenance—Value of Earth Roads 63-73



The Binder—Top-soil or Natural Mixtures—Sand-clay on Sandy Roads—Sand-clay on Clay or Loam—Characteristics—Natural Gravel—The Ideal Road Gravel—Permissible Size of Pebbles— Wearing Properties—Utilizing Natural Gravels—Thickness of Layer—Preparation of the Road—Trench Method—Surface Method—Maintenance 74-88



Design—Properties of the Stone—Kinds of Rocks used for Macadam—Sizes of Stone—Earth Work—Foundation for the Macadam—Telford Foundation—Placing the Broken Stone— Rolling—Spreading Screenings—Bituminous Surfaces—Maintenance Characteristics 89-97



Destructive Agencies—Design—Concrete Materials—Fine Aggregate—Proportions—Measuring Materials—Preparation of the Earth Foundation—Placing Concrete for Two-course Road—Curing the Concrete—Expansion Joints—Reinforcing—Bituminous Coatings on Concrete Surfaces—Characteristics—Maintenance 98-105



Vitrified Brick—Paving Brick—Repressed Brick—Vitrified Fiber Brick—Wire-cut-lug Brick—Tests for Quality—Other Tests— Foundation—Sand Bedding Course—Sand Mortar Bedding Course— Green Concrete Bedding Course—Bituminous Fillers—Mastic Fillers—Marginal Curb 106-115



Classes of Bituminous Materials—Coal Tar—Water Gas Tar—Natural Asphalt—Petroleum Asphalt—Mixtures—Classification According to Consistency—Road Oils—Liquid Asphalts—Asphalt Cements— Fillers—Bitumen—Specifications—Surface Treatments—Applying the Bituminous Binder—Finishing the Surface—Patching— Penetration Macadam—Foundation—Upper or Wearing Course— Patching Characteristics—Hot Mixed Macadam—Foundation—Sizes of Stone—Mixing the Wearing Stone—Placing and Wearing Surface—Seal Coat—Characteristics—Asphaltic Concrete— Bitulithic or Warrenite—Topeka Asphaltic Concrete—Foundation —Placing the Surface—Characteristics 116-129



Petrol Maintenance—Gang Maintenance—Maintenance of Earth, Sand-clay, Gravel and Macadam Roads 130-134

Index 135





Transportation Problem.—Public highways, like many other familiar things, are utilized constantly with little thought of how indispensable they are to the conduct of the business of a nation or of the intimate relation they bear to the everyday life of any community. The degree to which a nation or a community perfects its transportation facilities is an index of its industrial progress and public highways constitute an important element in the national transportation system. It is to be expected that the average citizen will think of the public highway only when it affects his own activities and that he will concern himself but little with the broad problem of highway improvement unless it be brought forcibly to his attention through taxation or by publicity connected with the advancement of specific projects.

National in Scope.—The improvement and extension of the highway system is of national importance just as is development and extension of railways, and concerted action throughout a nation is a prerequisite to an adequate policy in regard to either. It is inconceivable that any community in a nation can prosper greatly without some benefit accruing to many other parts of the country. Increased consumption, which always accompanies material prosperity, means increased production somewhere, and people purchase from many varied sources to supply the things that they want. Good transportation facilities contribute greatly to community prosperity and indirectly to national prosperity, and the benefits of highly improved public highways are therefore national in scope. This fact has been recognized in Europe, notably in England, France and Belgium, where the public highways are administered largely as national utilities.

Until recent years, highway improvement in the United States has been subordinated to other more pressing public improvements, but during the World War the inadequacy of the transportation system of the United States became apparent. While such an unprecedented load upon transportation facilities may not recur for many years, it has become apparent that more rapid progress in highway improvement is necessary and in the United States the subject is now likely to receive attention commensurate with its importance.

Development of Traffic.—The character and extent of the highway improvement needed in any locality is dependent entirely on the demands of traffic. In sparsely settled areas, particularly those that are semi-arid or arid, the amount of traffic on local roads is likely to be small and the unimproved trails or natural roads adequate. But as an area develops either on account of agricultural progress or the establishment of industrial enterprises, the use of the public highways both for business and for pleasure increases and the old trails are gradually improved to meet, at least to some degree, the new demands of traffic. In sparsely settled areas, it is possible for the public to accommodate its use of the highways to the physical condition thereof, and business is more or less regulated according to the condition of the roads. This is not always pleasant or economical but is the only possible arrangement. In populous districts, with diversified activities, it becomes imperative to have year-round usable roads in order to transact with reasonable dispatch the regular business of the industries. Anything less will handicap normal community progress.

The advent of the motor driven vehicle in the United States has resulted in a greatly increased use of the public highways of agricultural areas, even of those that are sparsely populated, because of the convenience of the motor vehicle both for passenger and for freight service. Probably in excess of 90 per cent of the tonnage passing over the rural highways in the United States is carried by motor vehicles. This class of traffic has really just developed and no one can predict what it will be in ten years, yet it has already introduced into the highway problem an element that has revolutionized methods of construction and maintenance.

A different set of traffic conditions exists in those parts of the United States where large areas are devoted primarily to industrial pursuits, the agricultural development being of secondary importance. Public highways connecting the industrial centers are indispensable adjuncts to the business facilities in such communities and are ordinarily subjected to a very large volume and tonnage of traffic consisting principally of motor vehicles. The roads first selected for improvement will not be those serving the agricultural interests of the district, but rather those serving the industrial centers. Inter-city roads of great durability and relatively high cost are necessary for such traffic conditions.

Not infrequently the transportation needs will require a system of both inter-city and rural highways in the same community. There are few areas in the United States where there is no agricultural development. It is apparent therefore that the nature of the highway systems and the administrative organization under which they are built and maintained will differ in various states or areas according to the nature of development of that area agriculturally and industrially. In planning improvements of highway systems, it is recognized that one or more of several groups of traffic may be encountered and that the extent and nature of the improvement must be such as will meet the requirements of all classes of traffic, the most important being first provided for, and that of lesser importance as rapidly as finances permit.


Local or Farm to Market Traffic.—In strictly agricultural communities the principal use of the highways will pertain to agricultural activities and most of it will be between the farm and the most convenient market center. In the ordinary state, the number of rural families will not average more than six to eight per square mile, but in some districts it may reach twenty families per square mile. The travel from the district around a market center will originate in this rather sparsely populated area and converge onto a few main roads leading to market. The outlying or feeder roads will be used by only a few families, but the density of traffic will increase nearer the market centers and consequently the roads nearer town will be much more heavily traveled than the outlying ones. It is apparent therefore that considerable difference may exist in the kind of construction adequate for the various sections of road where farm traffic is the principal consideration. This traffic is made up of horse drawn wagons, transporting farm products and of horse drawn and motor passenger vehicles, the motor traffic comprising 80 per cent or more of the volume of traffic and a greater per cent of the tonnage. Motor trucks are now employed to some extent for marketing farm products and, where surfaced highways have been provided, this class of traffic is superseding horse drawn traffic.

Farm to Farm Traffic.—In the ordinary prosecution of farming operations, a considerable amount of neighborhood travel is inevitable. Farmers help each other with certain kinds of work, exchange commodities such as seed, machinery and farm animals and visit back and forth both for business and pleasure. To accommodate this traffic, it is desirable to provide good neighborhood roads. Traffic of this sort follows no particular route and can to some extent accommodate itself to the condition of the highways without entailing financial loss, although some discomfort and some inconvenience may result from inadequate highway facilities. This traffic will be partly motor and partly horse drawn, but the proportion of motor driven is large.

Inter-city Traffic.—In strictly agricultural districts there is a large amount of travel between towns, both for business and for pleasure. The pleasure travel is mostly in motor vehicles and a considerable part of the business traffic is the same, although horse drawn vehicles are employed to some extent.

In industrial districts there is a large volume of this class of traffic consisting of motor passenger vehicles used for business and for pleasure and of motor freight vehicles used for general business purposes. In addition, there is certain to be a large amount of motor truck freight traffic incident to the particular industrial pursuits of the cities. Where adequate public highways connect industrial centers, there is invariably a very large amount of inter-city traffic, due in part to the needs of industry and in part to concentration of population in industrial centers.

Inter-County and Inter-State Traffic.—Automobile touring is a popular means of relaxation, especially on the part of those who live in the cities, although it is by no means confined to them. Traffic of this kind follows the routes where roads are best and passes entirely across a county, attracted by some public gathering. Often it is inter-state in character, made up of tourists who are traveling to distant pleasure resorts. Such traffic at present constitutes a relatively small part of the travel on public highways, except on certain favorable routes, but as the wealth of the country increases and good touring roads are numerous, long distance travel will increase and will eventually necessitate the construction of a number of well maintained national highways, located with reference to the convenience of the automobile tourist.


It is well to recognize the intimate relation public highways bear to the economic progress of a nation. Normal development of all of the diverse activities of a people depends very largely upon the highway policy that is adopted and whether the actual construction of serviceable roads keeps pace with transportation needs.

Rural Education.—It has become increasingly apparent during the World War that the demand upon North America for food stuffs is to become more and more insistent as the years pass. Already the consumption in the United States has approached quite closely to the average production and yet the population is constantly increasing. The time is not far distant when greater production will be required of the agricultural area in North America in order to meet the home demand for foodstuffs, and many thousands of tons will be needed for export. This need can only be met by agricultural methods that will increase greatly the present yield of the soil. The adoption of better agricultural methods must of necessity be preceded by the technical training of the school children who will be the farmers of the next generation, which can best be accomplished in graded schools with well equipped laboratories and with suitably trained teachers. The problem of providing such schools in rural communities has, in some instances, been solved by consolidating a number of rural school districts and constructing a well equipped building to accommodate the students from an area several miles square. An educational system of this sort can reach its highest usefulness only when adequate public highways facilitate attendance of pupils. The whole trend of rural educational progress is toward a system which is predicated upon a comprehensive highway policy in the district.

Rural Social Life.—Closely allied to the rural educational problem is the rural social problem. Motor cars and good roads do a great deal to eliminate the isolation and lack of social opportunity that has characterized rural life in the United States. A high order of citizenship in rural communities is essential to the solution of many problems of rural economics, and such citizens will not live away from the social opportunities of modern life. The rural school house and the rural church may become social centers and local plays, moving picture shows and lectures and entertainments of other kinds made available to those who live in the country. Their enjoyment of these social opportunities will be much more general if the public highways are at all times in a condition to be traveled in comfort. Good homes and good schools on good roads are prerequisites to the solution of many rural problems.

If there is opportunity for those who live in the cities to get some adequate idea of rural life and the conditions under which farming operations are carried on it will correct many misunderstandings of the broad problems of food production and distribution. Reference has frequently been made to the seeming desire on the part of city people to get into the country, and, by facilitating the realization of this desire, a great social service is rendered.

Good Roads and Commerce.—That good highways are almost as necessary as are railroads to the commercial development of a nation is recognized but, unlike the railroads, the highways are not operated for direct profit and the responsibility of securing consideration of the demand for improvements is not centralized. Therefore, sentiment for road improvement has been of slow growth, and important projects are often delayed until long after the need for them was manifest. Movements to secure financial support for highway improvement must go through the slow process of legislative enactment, encountering all of the uncertainties of political action, and the resulting financial plan is likely to be inadequate and often inequitable.

The whole commercial structure of a nation rests upon transportation, and the highways are a part of the transportation system. The highway problem can never receive adequate consideration until public highways are recognized as an indispensable element in the business equipment of a nation.

During the World War all transportation facilities were taxed to the limit, and motor trucks were utilized for long distance freight haulage to an extent not previously considered practicable. As a result, the interest in the motor truck as an addition to the transportation equipment of the nation, has been greatly stimulated. Many haulage companies have entered the freight transportation field, delivering commodities by truck to distances of a hundred miles or more.

The part the motor truck will play in the future can only be estimated, but it seems clear that the most promising field is for shipments destined to or originating in a city of some size and a warehouse or store not on a railroad spur, and especially when the shipments are less than car load lots. The delays and expense incident to handling small shipments of freight through the terminals of a large city and carting from the unloading station to the warehouse or other destination constitute a considerable item in the cost of transportation.

Mr. Charles Whiting Baker, Consulting Editor of Engineering News-Record, states:[1]

[1] Engineering News Record, July 10, 1919.

"It costs today as much to haul a ton of farm produce ten miles to a railway station as it does to haul it a thousand miles over a heavy-traffic trunk-line railway. It often costs more today to transport a ton of merchandise from its arrival in a long train in the freight yard on the outskirts of a great city to its deposit in the warehouse of a merchant four or five miles away than it has cost to haul it over a thousand miles of railway line."

Nevertheless it seems probable that new methods of operating the motor truck transport, and possibly new types of trucks or trucks and trailers will be developed so that freight traffic over many roads will be of considerable tonnage and an established part of the transportation system of the nation. In the article above referred to are given the following data relative to the cost of hauling on improved roads by motor truck and these cost estimates are based on the best information available at this time. They should be considered as approximate only, but serve to indicate the limitations of the truck as a competitor of the steam railway.



- - - - - - - - A B C D E F Average Total - - - - - - - - Driver $5.00 $5.20 $5.00 $5.00 $5.17 $5.50 $5.13 Tires 3.00 3.75 2.00 2.00 2.00 3.00 2.68 Oil, etc. .30 ... .30 .50 .25 .25 .35 Gasoline 3.00 4.00 3.50 4.65 2.08 3.75 3.50 $11.66 - - - - - - - -


-+ + + + + + + Average A B C D E F Total -+ + + + + + + Depreciation $3.50 $4.19 $3.60 $3.40 $3.67 $4.00 $3.77 Interest 1.20 1.26 1.08 1.22 1.10 1.00 1.15 Insurance 1.50 2.54 1.26 2.10 .86 .50 1.47 Garage 1.00 1.20 1.00 1.00 .89 1.00 1.01 Maintenance .50 ... .50 ... 1.00 ... .75 Overhaul 1.33 2.75 1.80 1.60 2.00 3.00 2.07 License .17 .27 .20 .20 .20 .20 .20 Body upkeep .25 ... .30 .10 .40 ... .27 $10.69 Supervision .50 2.93 2.05 1.90 ... ... 1.90 1.90 Lost time 2.20 ... 1.67 3.40 2.50 1.97 2.57 2.57 - - - - - - - 23.45 28.09 24.26 28.07 22.12 24.17 26.82 -+ + + + + + +



Driver's wages[1] $1500 Depreciation (20% on $6000 investment) 1200 Interest (6% on $6000 investment) 360 Insurance 450 Garage (rental, upkeep, etc.) 300 Maintenance, minor repairs and supplies, tire chains, tools, lamps, springs, equipment, etc. (estimated) 300 Complete overhaul once a year 600 License fee 60 Body upkeep, repairs, painting, etc. 90 Supervision 696 ——- Total per annum $5556

Overhead charges per day for 240 days in the year, actual operation $23.15 Overhead charges per mile for 50 miles per day .463

[1] In the above table the driver's wages have been placed under overhead charges because the driver is paid by the month and his wages continue even though the truck is idle because of repairs, bad weather or lack of business, unless, of course, the idleness should be of long duration, when the driver might be laid off.


- - Cost Cost per day per mile - - Tires (based on present tire guarantee) $3.00 $0.06 Lubricants .50 .01 Gasoline (3-1/2 miles per gal., 14 gal. at 25c) 3.50 .07 - - 7.00 0.14 - -

Total of overhead and direct charges for 240 days per year operation, per day $30.15 Per mile .603 Cost per ton-mile for full loads one way and empty returning .2412 Cost per ton-mile for full loads one way and half load returning .16

The significance of these figures becomes apparent when they are compared with the cost of hauling freight over trunk-line railways with heavy traffic where the cost per ton-mile, including terminal charges, ranges from 1.7 mills per ton-mile to 4.4 mills per ton-mile.

In view of these facts it seems reasonable to suppose that motor vehicles for use on the public highways are more likely to be employed to supplement the rail transport than to compete with it. To the actual cost of operation of motor trucks given in Table 2, there should be added the proportionate cost of maintaining the highway for the use of the truck, which is partly covered by the item "License Fee" in the table. The license fee would necessarily be considerably larger if it were to compensate adequately for the wear on the highways over which the trucks operate. This will still further increase the cost of hauling by motor truck.

Motor trucks are employed for many kinds of hauling where their speed and consequently their daily capacity is an advantage over team hauling that is decidedly worth while. It probably could be shown that for many kinds of hauling, teams are more economical than motor trucks, but when promptness and speed and the consequent effect on dependent activities are considered, the motor truck often has a distinct advantage, and the use of the truck to replace horse drawn vans is progressing rapidly. This is true not only in the cities, but also in the smaller towns and in the country. Motor trucks have been adopted in a great many communities for delivery of farm products to market, and this use of the truck is certain to increase rapidly. But trucks in this service will use the secondary roads as well as the main or primary roads.

These observations emphasize the extent to which the highway policy of the nation must be predicated on the use of the highways by motor vehicles.



The systems of highway administration extant in the various political units in the United States present a patchwork of overlapping authority and undetermined responsibility. Highway laws are being constantly revised by state legislatures and with each revision there is some change in administrative methods and often the changes are revolutionary in character. In most states, the trend is away from county and township administration and toward state administration, with provision for considerable participation by the federal government.

It will be pertinent to consider briefly the present functions of each of the administrative authorities having duties in connection with highway work in the United States, although these duties vary greatly in the several states and change periodically with the action of legislatures.

Township Administration.—Township or "Town" authority is a survival of the old New England town government and the town board consists of three or more trustees who hold office for fixed terms. The usual term is three years, but is less in some states. The incumbent is generally a man who has other responsibilities of a public or private nature and who gives but little of his time to highway matters. In some states the pay is a fixed annual salary and in others a per diem with some limitation on the amount that may be drawn in any one year, which limitation may be statutory or may be by common consent.

The township highway commissioners or trustees have jurisdiction over certain of the roads in the township, usually best described as all roads not by law placed under the jurisdiction of some other authority. In certain instances, the township authorities have charge of all of the roads in the township, which would mean that no "county" or "state" roads happened to be laid out in that township. It is a matter of general observation that the trend of legislation is toward removing from the jurisdiction of the township officials all roads except those upon which the traffic is principally local in character. The actual mileage of roads in the United States that is at present administered by township officials is large, probably constituting not less than seventy per cent of the total mileage.

In most states the township officials are responsible for the maintenance of the roads under their jurisdiction and also supervise such new construction as is undertaken. This includes the construction of culverts and bridges as a rule, but in some states the county board of supervisors is responsible for all of the bridge and culvert work on the township roads. In other states, the township board is responsible only for bridges or culverts that cost less than a certain amount specified by law (usually about $1000) and the county board provides for the construction and upkeep of the more expensive bridges and culverts.

Funds for the work carried out by the township road officials are obtained by general taxation, the amount that may be levied being limited by statute and the actual levy being any amount up to the maximum that the township board deems necessary for its purposes. It is the general observation that the tax levy is usually the maximum permitted by law.

In many states, township officials are permitted to issue bonds for road construction, almost invariably, however, with the restriction that each issue must be approved by the voters of the township. There is always a provision that the total amount of bonds outstanding must not exceed the constitutional limit in force in the state. In several states, the townships have large amounts of road bonds outstanding.

County Administration.—In some states the county is the smallest administrative unit in the road system. A county board, called the board of county supervisors or board of county commissioners consisting of from three to fifteen members, is the administrative authority. Its members are elected for fixed terms which vary in length from one to five years. The county board usually has many public responsibilities other than highway administration, and is generally made up of men with considerably more business ability than the average township board.

The county board has jurisdiction over all of the highways in the county in some states, and in others it has charge of only the more important highways. In most states, the laws set forth specifically what highways shall be under the jurisdiction of the county authorities.

In addition to having direct supervision of the improvement and maintenance of the roads assigned to county administration, the county boards in some states arrange for the construction of all culverts and bridges on the roads that are under township supervision, or at least the more expensive bridges and culverts on such roads. Sometimes this is accomplished by granting county aid for township bridges, under which system the county pays a part of the cost of the construction of bridges on the township roads. The amount of aid varies, but is generally about one-half of the cost, and the township and county officials jointly assume the responsibility of arranging for the construction by contract or otherwise.

The county board obtains funds for road work through a direct tax on all property in the county, the maximum rate being limited by statute. County boards are also authorized to issue bonds for road construction under statutory restrictions and limitations similar to those effective in the township as to total amount issued, and many millions of dollars' worth of highway bonds have been issued by county authorities in the United States.

State Administration.—In a state, the administrative authority in highway matters is vested in a board of commissioners usually consisting of three or more members. In a few states, the administrative authority is delegated to a single commissioner. Where the authority is vested in a board, that board is usually appointed by the governor. In several states one or more members of the commission hold that position ex officio; for example, in several states the governor is by law a member of the commission, in others the secretary of state or the dean of engineering at the State University or the state geologist is a member of the commission. Where the administrative authority is a single commissioner he may be elected along with other state officers, but this is the case in only a few states.

The authority of the state highway department varies in the several states, but in general the departments serve in the dual capacity of general advisers to the county and township authorities on road matters and as the executive authority responsible for the construction of those highways that are built entirely or in part from state or federal funds.

State highway departments consist of the commission or commissioner, and the technical and clerical staff required to perform the duties imposed on the state organization. To some extent the state highway departments are able to encourage economical and correct construction of highways by the township and county authorities by furnishing them standard plans and specifications and by formulating regulations to govern the character of construction, but such efforts are likely to be more or less ineffective unless the state authority has supervision of the allotment of state or federal funds to the various counties and townships. Nevertheless, most state highway departments do a great deal of advisory work in connection with the highway construction carried out by county and township authorities.

State highway departments are supported by funds obtained in various ways, laws differing greatly in this respect. The necessary support is in some states appropriated from funds obtained by general taxation, and is in others obtained from automobile license fees. In still others, the funds are secured by a combination of the two methods mentioned above. In addition to these support funds, a certain part of the money obtained as federal aid may be employed for the engineering and inspection costs on federal aid roads. The above mentioned funds are required to maintain the state highway department. In addition, the departments have supervision of the expenditures of construction funds which can be used for road construction and maintenance, and may not be expended for salaries or other overhead expense.

In a number of states, automobile license fees are set aside for financing road construction and maintenance, and the work paid for from the fees is carried out under the supervision of the state highway department.

In a number of instances, state bonds have been issued for road construction, and the expenditure of the proceeds of the sale of road bonds has usually been supervised by the state highway department.

All federal aid funds allotted to a state must be expended under the direction of the state highway department.

Federal Administration.—Federal authority in highway work is vested in the Bureau of Public Roads of the United States Department of Agriculture. The official head is the Secretary of Agriculture, but the administrative head is the Director of the Bureau. In this Bureau are the various instrumentalities needed for carrying on investigations and furnishing information to the various states on highway subjects. The Bureau also supervises the construction of federal aid roads in a general way through district engineers, each of whom looks after the work in several states.

Funds for the support of the Bureau of Public Roads are obtained from congressional appropriations to the Department of Agriculture and from a percentage of the funds appropriated for federal aid.

Federal aid is money appropriated by Congress to be distributed to the various states to stimulate road construction. It is granted to the states on the condition that the states will expend at least an equal amount on the projects involved. The states in turn usually give a suitable part of the state allotment to each county. There are various limitations as to the amount of federal aid per mile of road and the type of construction that may be employed, but these are matters of regulation that change from time to time.

It will be seen that each of the administrative authorities, except the Bureau of Public Roads, is to some extent subservient to a higher authority, and the Bureau of Public Roads is supervised by the United States Congress. Considerable diplomacy is required on the part of any administrative authority if his contact with other officials is to be without friction. This is especially true in connection with the formulation of a policy regarding the types of construction to be adopted for an improvement. The responsibility for the selection is variously placed on the township, county or state authority, the laws not being uniform in this respect. If state or federal funds are allotted to an improvement, the state authority either makes the selection of the type of construction or the selection is made by some subordinate authority subject to the approval of the state highway department. Where the improvement is paid for exclusively with township or county funds, the selection is often made by the township or county authority without review by higher authority. Many abuses have crept into highway administration through the unscrupulous methods of promoters of the sale of road materials or road machinery. A great deal of the selling activity of the agents for these commodities is entirely irreproachable, but it is well known that such is not always the case. As a result, the tendency of legislation is to require the state highway department to approve contracts for materials or construction entered into by the township or county authorities. The state highway departments can secure the requisite technical experts to determine the merits of materials and equipment and, in spite of some glaring examples of inefficiency or worse, have made a good record for impartiality and integrity as custodians of the funds for which they are responsible.


The paramount problem in highway administration is the development of an adequate financial plan for carrying on road improvement. The necessary expenditures are enormous, although the money so expended is probably much less than the actual benefit resulting from the improvements.

Special Assessments.—There is presumed to be a direct and recognized benefit conferred on farm lands by the construction of improved highways adjacent thereto. Therefore, it is equitable to charge a part of the cost against the lands so benefited.

The principle of paying for public improvements by a special assessment upon private property has been long established and a large proportion of the public improvements in the cities and towns have been made financially possible through the medium of special assessments on abutting and adjacent property. The same principle has been applied to the financing of drainage projects for reclaiming farm lands. Recently the special assessment method has come into limited use in financing rural highway improvements. The policy in such cases is to assess the abutting and adjacent property in a zone along the improved road for a percentage of the cost of the improvement. The amount so assessed does not ordinarily exceed one-fourth of the total cost of the improvement and may be considerably less. The assessment is spread over an area extending back from one to six miles from the improved road. The assessment area is generally divided into about four zones parallel to the road. The zone next the road is assessed at a rate arbitrarily determined as a fair measure of the benefit, and each succeeding zone is assessed at a somewhat lower rate. Generally about three-fourths of the total assessment is placed on the half of the assessment area lying next to the road.

Many systems of making assessments have been proposed which are mechanical in application after the area and rate of distribution of benefit have been established, but in practice it is always found necessary to make adjustments on individual parcels of land because of variation in benefits received and it is impossible to eliminate the exercise of human judgment in equalizing the assessments.

Zone Method of Assessing.—The area to be assessed on each side of the improved road is divided into zones usually four in number, but a larger or smaller number of zones may be adopted. The rate for each zone is then arbitrarily determined. For a typical case, the first of four zones would receive an assessment of 50 per cent of the amount to be borne by the area; the second zone 25 per cent, the third 15 per cent and the fourth 10 per cent. Other percentages sometimes adopted are 45, 25, 20 and 10 and 60, 20, 15 and 5. The set of percentages first mentioned seems to insure the most equitable distribution for an area all of which is substantially equally productive.

When a road, for the improvement of which an assessment is being made, lies on two or more sides of a parcel of land all of which is within the assessment area, the rate is arbitrarily reduced to relieve that parcel of land somewhat, or the assessment is first spread as above outlined and afterward equalized as judgment dictates.

In applying the zone method some difficulty is encountered in determining an equitable distribution on those parcels of land lying partly in one zone and partly in another, but the rate may be arrived at with reasonable accuracy by pro-rating in accordance with the exact conditions.

In. Fig. 1, let it be assumed that the assessment area is to be two miles wide, one mile on each side of the road and the various ownerships to be indicated by the parcels of land numbered 1 to 8, as shown. Each zone for the assessment of the 3-1/4 mile section is 1/4 mile wide and the rates for the several zones are 50, 25, 15 and 10 per cent respectively. Let it be assumed that the portion of the cost of the 3-1/4 miles of road to be assessed on the area shown is $20,000. The assessment would then be as follows:

- - Rate x frontage on Amount of Parcel Rate improved road = Assessment Assessment assessment units per unit[1] 1 2 3 4 5 - - 1 a 50 50 x 2640 = 132,000 $0.016655 $1558.46 b 75 75 x 1320 = 99,000 1153.90 2 40 40 x 2640 = 105,600 1230.77 3 10 10 x 2640 = 26,400 307.69 4 25 25 x 1320 = 33,000 384.66 5 [2]85 85 x 5280 = 448,800 5230.88 6 15 15 x 5280 = 79,200 923.08 7 [2]65 65 x 7920 = 514,800 6000.00 8 35 35 x 7920 = 277,200 3230.77 - - 1,716,000 $20000.00 - -

[1] The assessment per unit is obtained by dividing the total assessment by the total of column three.

[2] On these two parcels, it is decided that more than half of the zone rate should apply to the half of the zone toward the improved road, but some modification of the rates adopted might be justified.

The assessment of the cost of the east and west one-mile section of road is made up in like manner, and let it be assumed that the portion of the cost of this road that is to be assessed on the area shown is $5500. The assessment area will be one mile wide and each zone one-fourth mile in width and the rates for each zone the same as before.

+ -+ + + - Rate x frontage on Amount of Parcel Rate improved road = Assessment Assessment assessment units per unit -+ + + - 1 a 75 75 x 1320 = 99,000 $0.010417 $1031.25 b 15 15 x 2640 = 39,600 412.49 2 75 75 x 2640 = 198,000 2062.53 3 50 50 x 1320 = 66,000 687.51 4 a 25 25 x 1320 = 33,000 756.25 b 15 15 x 2640 = 39,600 5 10 10 x 3300 = 33,000 343.73 6 10 10 x 1980 = 19,800 206.24 - - 528,000 5500.00 + -+ + + -

It will be noted that the combined assessment for the two sections of road is especially heavy on parcels 1, 2 and 3. In order to prevent unjust charges against such properties, laws usually limit the total assessment against any parcel of land to a fixed percentage of a fair market value or of the assessed value. The assessment on these parcels would be reduced as seemed expedient and the deficit would be distributed over the remainder of the area in the same manner as the original assessment was spread. In practice such re-distribution is ordinarily made by the arbitrary adjustment in accordance with what the authorized officials consider to be fair and equitable. The method outlined is merely a mechanical means of securing distribution and must not be considered as an infallible method of making the assessment. It is always necessary to review the results in the light of the actual benefits to be presumed for each parcel of land. Nevertheless, the method outlined will prove equitable in a majority of cases.

General Taxation.—There is a general community benefit derived from the construction of good roads in that the actual cost of marketing farm products is lessened with a resulting lowering of the price to the consumer. The benefit also accrues from the greater facility with which all community business may be conducted. The introduction of better opportunities for social, religious and educational activities in the rural districts which results from improved highways is also a community benefit of no mean importance. A part of the cost of road improvement may therefore be equitably paid from funds obtained by general taxation.

A considerable portion of the current expense of maintaining the township and county highway work and at least a part of the cost of maintaining state highway activities is met from funds obtained by general taxation. Likewise, the funds required for the amortization of bond issues are often obtained from general taxation although vehicle license fees are sometimes used for that purpose.

General taxes are levied on all taxable property in a political unit under statutory provisions regulating the amount of the levy and the purpose for which the revenue is to be used. In the aggregate, the road taxes are large but in the township or county the rate is generally small compared to some other taxes, such as the school tax.

Vehicle Taxes.—The great direct benefit derived by those who actually operate vehicles over the roads justifies the policy of requiring a vehicle to pay a license fee in lieu of other taxes, the funds so obtained to be used for the construction and maintenance of public highways. In practice, this method has already been applied to motor vehicles in most states and has proven to be an important source of revenue. Its application to horse-drawn vehicles has not been attempted, due probably to the fact that such horse-drawn vehicles as use the public highways are also employed about the farm or in the towns and the determination of an equitable basis for taxation involves many difficulties.

The rate of the fee for motor vehicles should be based on their destructive effect on the road so far as that is possible. The scale of fees should therefore take account of weight and speed of vehicle and if the license is in lieu of all other taxes, it should also be graduated with the cost of the vehicle.

When funds are thus derived, every precaution should be taken to insure that the money is used judiciously for construction and especially for maintenance on those roads most useful to motor traffic.

Highway Bonds.—Bond issues for road improvement afford a means of constructing roads and paying for them while they are being used. A very large volume of such bonds are outstanding in the United States. Road bonds should be issued only for durable types of improvement and the life of the bond should be well within the probable useful life of the road surface. It is customary and highly desirable that the general nature and extent of the improvement be established before the bonds are issued. It is desirable that bond issues be subject to approval by referendum before issue and that is provided in every instance.

Highway bonds are of three classes known as Sinking Fund, Annuity and Serial Bonds, respectively. The earlier bonds issued were almost all of the sinking fund class, but in recent years the serial bond has been widely employed and is probably the most satisfactory to administer.

Sinking Fund Bonds.[1]—When this type of bond is employed, the amount of the expenditure for road improvement is determined upon and the length of the period during which tax payments shall be made is settled. To employ a concrete example, it may be assumed that $100,000 is to be expended for road work and is to be paid at the end of ten years. The interest rate on the bonds will vary with the condition of the bond market and the stability of the political unit issuing the bonds, but is usually about 5 per cent. Knowing these factors, the amount to be added to the sinking fund each year is computed. In order to pay the interest on the bonds, a tax of suitable rate is levied, and in order to retire the bonds at the end of the period, a sum is set aside each year which is supposed to be invested and draw interest which will be added to the principle, and the principle and interest comprise the sinking fund. The principle of the sinking fund is obtained by tax levies, a sum being added to the principle of the sinking fund each year.

[1] For a more detailed discussion of highway bonds see Bulletin 136, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, which is the basis of this discussion.

The success of this method of financing depends upon the proper administration of the sinking fund. It must be invested with fidelity and the fund be kept intact. Usually the sinking fund cannot be invested at as high a rate of interest as the bonds bear and there is some loss as a result. Road bonds bearing 5 per cent interest can usually be sold at par while the sinking fund will usually net about 3 or 3-1/2 per cent interest. The total cost of a bond issue will be greater by the sinking fund method than by either of the other methods described.

Annuity Bonds.—Annuity bonds are drawn in such a manner that the amount of the payment for principle and interest is the same each year during the life of the bond. When the amount of the issue and the rate of interest has been determined and the amount of the desired annual payment has been determined, the number of years the bonds must run is computed.

This method is convenient in that the amount of the tax to be levied each year remains constant.

Serial Bonds.—Serial bonds are drawn so that a uniform amount of the principle is retired each year after retirement starts and the total interest payments decrease each year after the first bonds are retired. The first bond may not be retired for a number of years after the issue of the bonds, but when it once starts retirement proceeds at a constant rate annually.

Comparison of Methods of Issuing Bonds.—The relative costs of financing by either of the three methods depends upon the rate of interest in each case and the net rate secured on the sinking fund provided for retiring sinking fund bonds.

For comparative purposes, some typical examples are given in Table 3. These illustrate the differences in total cost of securing $100,000 by each of the three methods at various interest rates.



-+ -+ -+ - Annual Sinking Fund Compounded Interest Annually at on Bonds + + + -+ Annuity Serial 3 per cent 3-1/2 per cent 4 per cent -+ + + -+ -+ - 4 $154,431 $150,722 $147,163 $147,163 $142,000 4-1/2 164,431 160,722 157,163 153,752 147,250 5 174,431 170,722 167,163 160,485 152,500 5-1/2 184,431 180,722 177,163 167,359 157,750 6 194,431 190,722 187,163 174,369 163,000 -+ + + -+ -+ -

Desirability of Road Bonds.—In theory the bond method of financing enables the highway authorities to construct a large mileage of roads in a few years and spreads the cost over the period during which the public is being benefited. Better prices are obtained on contracts for a large mileage than for smaller jobs, and the community can receive the benefit more quickly than where construction proceeds piecemeal with current funds. The vital consideration is to insure that the term of the bonds is well within the useful life of the road, and that ample provision is made to maintain the roads during that period. Under proper restrictions the bond method of financing is to be commended. The bonds are an attractive investment and readily marketable on satisfactory terms.



The Necessity for Drainage.—The importance of drainage for all roads subject to the effects of storm or underground water has always been recognized by road builders, but during recent years constantly increasing attention has been given to this phase of road construction. It is unfortunate that there has in the past been some tendency to consider elaborate drainage provisions less necessary where rigid types of surfaces were employed. It has become apparent, from the nature of the defects observed in all sorts of road surfaces, that to neglect or minimize the importance of drainage in connection with either earth roads or any class of surfaced roads is to invite rapid deterioration of some sections of the roadway surface and to add to maintenance costs.

The degree to which lack of drainage provisions affect the serviceability of the road surface varies with the amount of precipitation in the locality and the manner in which it is distributed throughout the year. In the humid areas of the United States, which are, roughly, those portions east of a north and south line passing through Omaha and Kansas City, together with the northern part of the Pacific slope, precipitation is generally in excess of 30 inches per year and fairly well distributed throughout the year, but with seasonal variations in rate. In these areas, the effect of the precipitation, both as regards its tendency to lower the stability of soils and as an eroding agent, must be carefully provided against in highway design.

Outside of the areas mentioned above, the precipitation is much less than 30 inches per year and its effect as an agent of erosion is of greatest significance, although in restricted areas there may be short periods when the soil is made unstable by ground water.

Importance of Design.—The drainage system for a proposed road improvement ought to be designed with as much care as any other element, and, to do so, a study must be made of all factors that have any bearing on the drainage requirements and the probable effectiveness of the proposed drainage system. The well established principles of land drainage should be followed so far as applicable.

The basic principle of road drainage is to minimize the effect of water to such an extent that there will always be a layer of comparatively dry soil of appreciable thickness under the traveled part of the road. This layer should probably never be less than two feet thick and for soils of a structure favorable to capillary action it should be at least three feet thick. The means employed to accomplish the requisite drainage will be as various as the conditions encountered.

Surface Drainage.—The drainage method which is by far the most nearly general in application is that which utilizes open ditches, and the system which employs these ditches is usually referred to as surface drainage. The full possibilities of this method of minimizing the effects of storm water are rarely fully utilized in road construction. Very frequently, deterioration of a road surface is directly attributable to failure to provide adequately for the removal of the storm water or water from the melting of snow that has fallen on the road, or water that flows to the road from land adjacent thereto. Surface water can usually most cheaply and expeditiously be carried away in open ditches, although special conditions are occasionally encountered which require supplementary tile drains. The cross section commonly adopted for roads lends itself naturally to the construction of drainage ditches at the sides of the traveled way, and these are usually the principal dependence for the disposal of storm water.

Run-off.—The capacity required of side ditches to insure satisfactory surface drainage will be affected by the amount and nature of the precipitation in the region where the road is built. The annual rainfall in a region may amount to several feet, but may be well distributed throughout the year with an absence of excessive rainfall for short periods, that is, flood conditions may rarely occur. In other areas, the annual rainfall may be comparatively small but the precipitation occurs at a very high rate, that is, flood conditions may be common, or it may be at a low rate extending over a considerable period. These peculiarities must be known before an adequate drainage system can be planned.

It is almost universally true in the United States that precipitation at a very high rate will be for a relatively short duration, and during these short periods, which usually do not exceed thirty minutes, a portion of the water that falls on the areas adjacent to the road and that drains to the road ditches will soak into the soil and therefore not reach the ditches along the road. The extent to which the water is taken up by the soil will vary with the porosity and slope of the land and the character of the growth thereon. Cultivated land will absorb nearly all of the water from showers up to fifteen or twenty minutes duration; grass land a somewhat smaller percentage; and hard baked or other impervious soil will absorb a comparatively small amount. Rocky ground and steep slopes will absorb very little storm water.

The surface of the road is designed to turn water rapidly to the ditches, but when the material is the natural soil, there is always considerable absorption of storm water. Surfaces such as sandclay, gravel and macadam do not absorb to exceed 10 per cent of the precipitation during short showers. Bituminous surfaces, brick and concrete pavements, do not absorb an appreciable amount of storm water.

Generally it is best to assume that if a rain lasts for forty-five minutes or more, all of the water will run off, as the soil will reach a state of saturation in that time. This is not true of deep sand, but is for nearly all other soils.

The ditch capacity needed will therefore depend upon the area drained, the character of the soil, the slopes and the rainfall characteristics of the region, and upon the nature of the road surface.

For a required capacity, the cross section area of the ditch will vary inversely as the grade, because the velocity of flow increases with an increase in the grade of the ditch. If the surface water must be carried along the road for distances exceeding five or six hundred feet, the ditch must be constructed of increasing capacity toward the outlet in order to accommodate the accumulated volume of water.

The velocity of flow varies not only with the grade, but with the shape of the cross section, cleanness of the channel, the depth of the water in the channel, alignment of the channel and the kind of material in which the channel is formed. It is not necessary to go to great refinement in the design of the side ditches for the ordinary case where the water is carried along the road for only a few hundred feet. The ditches are made of ample capacity by using the commonly accepted cross section for a road, which will be discussed in a later paragraph. But where large areas must be drained by the road ditches, it is desirable carefully to design the side ditches. The basis for that design is too lengthy to be included herein, and reference should be made to a standard treatise on the subject.

Ordinary Design of Ditches.—For grades of one per cent or less on roads in the humid area, the bottom of the ditch should be at least three and one-half feet lower than the traveled surface of the road, except for very sandy soil. For grades greater than one per cent, this depth may be decreased one foot, and for grades of four per cent and upward, the depth may be still less. These general rules for depth are susceptible of variation but are believed to be the minimum except in arid or semi-arid climates. It is far better to be too liberal in ditch allowance than to be too conservative. In arid or semi-arid regions, the ditch design will be based on the necessity of providing for flood flow and preventing damage through erosion. Ordinary drainage requirements will be satisfactory with the ditch about one foot deep.

If the topography is such that it is evident considerable storm water will flow from the adjacent land to the road ditches, the design must be modified to take this into account. Sometimes such water can be diverted by ditches well back from the road, and thus prevented from flowing into the side ditches along the roadway. It is especially desirable to divert water, which would otherwise flow down the slope of a cut, by means of a ditch on the hill-side above the upper edge of the slope of the cut.

Ditches are not effective unless they afford a free flow throughout their length and have an outlet to a drainage channel of ample capacity. Therefore, ditch grades should be established by survey, especially if the gradient is less than one per cent, and the construction work should be checked to insure that the ditch is actually constructed as planned. A few high places in the ditch will greatly reduce the effectiveness, although these may appear at the time of construction to be slight. Constricted places, such as might be due to a small amount of loose earth left in the ditch, are always to be avoided.

Where the side ditch passes from a cut to the berm alongside a fill, the ditch should be excavated throughout in the undisturbed natural soil, five feet or more from the toe of the slope of the fill, and along the filled portion of the road there should be a berm of three or four feet between the toe of the slope of the fill and the near edge of the ditch.

Underground Water.—In a preceding paragraph, mention was made of the fact that only a part of the storm water runs off over the surface of the ground, the larger part being absorbed by the soil. The water thus absorbed flows downward through the pores in the soil until it is deflected laterally by some physical characteristic of the soil structure. The movement of underground water is affected by many circumstances, but only two conditions need be discussed herein.

Underground water, like surface water, tends to attain a level surface, but in so doing it may need to flow long distances through the pores of the soil, and to overcome the resistance incident to so doing some head will be required. That is to say, the water will be higher at some places than at others. If a cut is made in grading the road, the road surface may actually be lower than the ground water level in the land adjoining the road. As a result, the water will seep out of the side slopes in the cut and keep the ditches wet, or even furnish enough water to occasion a flow in the ditch. Similarly, the higher head of the underground water near the top of a hill may result in ground water coming quite close to the surface some distance down the hill. The remedy in both cases is tile underdrains alongside the road to lower the ground water level so that it cannot affect the road surface.

Sometimes the ground water encounters an impervious stratum as it flows downward through the soil, or one that is less pervious than the surface soil. When such is the case, the water will follow along this stratum, and should there be an outcrop of the dense stratum, a spring will be found at that place. This may be on a highway. The impervious stratum may not actually outcrop but may lie only a few feet under the surface of the road, in which case, the road surface will be so water soaked as to be unstable. The so-called "seepy places" so often noted along a road are generally the result of this condition. This condition can be corrected by tile laid so as to intercept the flow at a depth that precludes damage to the road. Commonly, the tile will be laid diagonally across the road some distance above the section where the effect of the water is noted, and will be turned parallel to the road at the ditch line and carried under one of the side ditches to an outlet.

Tile Drains.—Where the soil and climatic conditions are such that the roadway at times becomes unstable because of underground water rising to a level not far below the road surface, the ground water level is lowered by means of tile underdrains. The function of the tile drains in such cases is precisely the same as when employed in land drainage; to lower the ground water level.

Laying Tile.—The tile lines are usually laid in trenches parallel to the center line of the road near the ditch line and at least 4 feet deep so as to keep the ground water level well down. They must be carefully laid to line and grade. A good outlet must be provided and the last few joints of pipe should be bell-and-spigot sewer pipe with the joints filled with cement mortar. The opening of the tile should be covered with a coarse screen to prevent animals from nesting in the tile.

It is frequently necessary to lay a line of tile at the toe of the slope in cuts to intercept water that will percolate under the road from the banks at the sides. In some cases, it is desirable to back-fill the tile trench with gravel or broken stone to insure rapid penetration of surface water to the tile. In other instances, it is advantageous to place catch basins about every three or four hundred feet. These may be of concrete or of tile placed on end or may be blind catch basins formed by filling a section of the trench with broken stone. When a blind catch basin is used, the top should be built up into a mound, and for a tile or concrete catch basin, a grating of the beehive type should be used, so that flow to the tile will not be obstructed by weeds and other trash that is carried to the catch basin.

Culverts.—Culverts and bridges are a part of the drainage system and the distinction between the two is merely a matter of size. Generally, structures of spans less than about eight feet are classed as culverts, but the practice is not uniform. In this discussion culverts will be defined as of spans of 8 feet or less.

Numerous culverts are required to afford passage for storm water and small streams crosswise of the road, and their aggregate cost is a large item in the cost of road improvement. The size of the waterway of a culvert required in any location will be estimated by an inspection of the stream and existing structure, and by determining the extent and physical characteristics of the drainage area. Sometimes there is sufficient evidence at the site to indicate quite closely the size required, but this should always be checked by run-off computations. The drainage area contributing water to the stream passing through the culvert under consideration is computed from contour maps or from a survey of the ground, and the size of culvert determined by one of the empirical formulas applicable to that purpose. In these formulas, the solution depends upon the proper selection of a factor "C" which varies in accordance with the nature of the drainage area. Two of these that are quite widely used are as follows:

Myers' Formula: a = CA

Where a = area of cross section of culvert in square feet. A = area in acres of the drainage area above culvert. C a factor varying from 1 for flat country to 4 for mountainous country or rocky soil, the exact value to be selected after an inspection of the drainage area.

Talbot's Formula: Area of waterway in square feet =

C [Square root of] ((Drainage area in acres)^3)

Transcriber's Note: The above formula used the mathematical square root symbol in the original. One should read it as "C times the square root of the Drainage area in acres cubed."

C being variable according to circumstances thus:

"For steep and rocky ground C varies from 2/3 to 1. For rolling agricultural country, subject to floods at times of melting snow, and with length of valley three or four times its width, C is about 1/3, and if stream is longer in proportion to the area, decrease C. In districts not affected by accumulated snow, and where the length of valley is several times its width, 1/5 or 1/6 or even less may be used. C should be increased for steep side slopes, especially if the upper part of the valley has a much greater fall than the channel at the culvert. The value of C to be used in any case is determined after an inspection of the drainage area."

Length of Culvert.—The clear length between end walls on a culvert should be at least equal to the width of the roadway between ditches. This is a minimum of 20 feet for secondary roads and ranges from 24 to 30 feet for main roads. The headwall to the culvert should not be a monument, but should be no higher than needed to prevent vehicles from leaving the roadway at the culvert.

Farm Entrance Culverts.—At farm entrances, culverts are required to carry the farm driveway across the side ditch of the road. These culverts are usually about 16 feet along, and should be of a size adequate to take the flow of the side ditch. The farm entrance culvert should be of such design that it can be easily removed to permit cleaning out the ditches with a road grader.


Culverts constructed of concrete and poured in place are called box culverts because of the rectangular form of the cross section. Culverts of pre-cast pipe are known as pipe culverts. Several forms of pipe culvert are in general use.

Metal Pipe.—These may be of cast iron, steel or wrought iron. The cast iron pipe is very durable but expensive and heavy to handle and is not widely used in highway construction. Steel pipe has been employed to a limited extent but its durability is questioned. At least it is known that the pipe made from uncoated, light sheet steel is not very durable. Sheet iron and sheets made from alloy iron coated with spelter have been extensively used and seem to be durable, especially when laid deep enough to eliminate possibility of damage from heavy loads. To insure reasonable resistance to corrosion, the metal sheets should be coated with at least one and one-half ounces of spelter per square foot of sheet and the sheets should not be lighter than 16 gauge for small sizes and should be heavier for the larger sizes.

Clay and Cement Concrete Pipe.—The ordinary burned clay bell and spigot pipe that is employed for sewer construction is sometimes used for culverts. It must be very carefully bedded, preferably on a concrete cradle and the joints filled with cement mortar. Culverts of this type have a tendency to break under unusual loads, such as traction engines or trucks. They may be damaged by the pressure from freezing water, particularly when successive freezing and thawing results in the culvert filling with mushy snow, which subsequently freezes.

Concrete Pipe.—Reinforced concrete pipe is a satisfactory material for culverts, if the pipe is properly designed. The pipe should be carefully laid on a firm earth bed with earth carefully back-filled and tamped around the pipe. The joints in the pipe should be filled with cement mortar, or should be of a design that will be tight.

Endwalls for Culverts.—A substantial retaining wall is placed at each end of the culvert barrel, whatever the type. This is to prevent the end of the culvert from becoming choked with earth and to retain the roadway at the culvert. It also indicates to the drivers the location of the end of the culvert. The endwall extends a foot or more below the floor of the culvert to prevent water from cutting under the barrel. Plain concrete or stone masonry are most commonly used for culvert endwalls.

Reinforced Concrete Box Culverts.—The pipe culvert is limited in application to the smaller waterways. Reinforced concrete is extensively used for culverts of all sizes, but especially for the larger ones. These are usually constructed with endwalls integral with the barrel of the culvert. Culverts of this type must be designed for the loads anticipated to insure suitable strength and stability, and must be constructed of a good quality of concrete. Figs. 2 and 3 show designs for pipe and box culverts.

Drop Inlet Culverts.—In some locations erosion has begun in the fields adjacent to a culvert and it will probably continue until the stream above the culvert has eroded to about the level of the floor of the culvert. This is a reason for placing the culvert as high as the roadway will permit, so long as the area above the culvert will be properly drained. Considerable reclamation of land is possible if the culvert is constructed with a box at the inlet and as shown in Fig. 4. The area up-stream from the culvert will not erode below the level of the top of the box at the inlet end.

Where the stream crossing the road has eroded to considerable depth or has considerable fall, as would sometimes be the case on side hill roads, the culvert barrel would follow the general slope of the ditch but should have a drop inlet. This type of culvert is shown in Fig. 5.



Necessity for Planning.—Sometimes highway improvement is the result of spasmodic and carelessly directed work carried out at odd times on various sections of a road, finally resulting in the worst places being at least temporarily bettered. The grade on the steepest hills is probably reduced somewhat and some of the worst of the low lying sections are filled in and thereby raised. Short sections of surfacing such as gravel or broken stone may be placed here and there. From the standpoint of the responsible official, the road has been "improved," but too often such work does not produce an improvement that lasts, and sometimes it is not even of any great immediate benefit to those who use the roads. In nearly every instance such work costs more in money and labor that it is worth.

Lasting improvement of public highways can be brought about only through systematic and correlated construction carried on for a series of years. In other words, there must be a road improvement policy which will be made effective through some agency that is so organized that its policies will be perpetuated and is clothed with enough authority to be capable of enforcing the essential features of good design and of securing the proper construction of improvements.

Details of highway construction and design must vary with many local conditions and types of surface. The limits of grades and the many other details of design may properly be adopted for a specific piece of work only after an adequate investigation of the local requirements and in the light of wide experience in supervising road improvement.

New ideas are constantly being injected into the art of road building, but these are disseminated somewhat slowly, so that valuable devices and improvements in methods remain long unknown except to the comparatively few who have the means for informing themselves of all such developments.

It follows then that the logical system of conducting road improvement is through an agency of continuing personnel which will supervise the preparation of suitable plans and direct the construction in accordance with the most recent experience.

Road Plans.—The information shown on the plans prepared for road improvement varies somewhat with the design and with the ideas of the engineer as to what constitutes necessary information, but in general the plans show the existing road and the new construction contemplated in an amount of detail depending principally upon the character of the construction. Simple plans suffice for grade reduction or reshaping an earth road surface, while for the construction of paved roads, the plans must be worked out in considerable detail. The essential requirement is that there be given on the plans all information necessary to enable the construction to be carried out according to the intentions of the engineer, that all parts of the work fit together, that the culverts are of the proper size and located at the proper places, ditches drain properly, grades are reduced to the predetermined rate, that excavated material is utilized and that an exact record of the work done is retained. Plans are indispensable to economical road construction and the preparation of the plans is the work of the expert in road design, that is, the highway engineer.

Problem of Design.—The problem of road design is to prepare plans for a road improvement with the various details so correlated as to insure in the road constructed in accordance therewith the maximum of safety, convenience and economy to the users thereof. The degree to which the design will be effective will depend to a considerable extent upon the financial limitations imposed upon the engineer, but skill and effort on the plans will do a great deal to offset financial handicap and no pains should be spared in the preparation of the plans. Moreover, the plans must afford all of the information needed by the contractor in preparing a bid for the work.

Preliminary Investigation.—The first step in road improvement is to secure an adequate idea of the existing conditions on the road or roads involved. The detail to which this information need go will depend entirely upon the purpose of the preliminary investigation, for before a definite plan is prepared, it may be necessary to choose the best from among several available routes. For this purpose, it is not always necessary to make an actual instrument survey of the several routes. A hasty reconnaissance will usually be sufficient. This is made by walking or riding over the road and noting, in a suitable book or upon prepared blanks, the information needed. The items of information recorded will usually be as follows: distances, grades, type of soil on the road and nature of existing surface, character of drainage, location of bridges and culverts and the type of each with notes as to its condition, location of railway crossings and notes as to type, location of intersecting roads, farm entrances, and all similar features that have a bearing on the choice of routes. These data can be obtained in a comparatively short time by a skilled observer who may drive over the road in a motor car. Sometimes it may be desirable to make a more careful study of some certain sections of road and this may be done by waking over the section in question in order to make a more deliberate survey of the features to be considered than is possible when riding in a motor car.

Factors other than relative lengths of routes will obviously determine the cost of improvement and the comparative merits of the improved roads. Some special characteristic of a road, such as bad railroad crossings or a few bad hills, may eliminate a route, or availability of materials along a route may offset disadvantages of alignment or grade.

In special cases, complete surveys of routes may be required finally to select the best route, but these instances are few in number.

Road Surveys.—When a road has been definitely selected for improvement, a careful survey is made to furnish information for the preparation of the plans. This will consist of a transit survey and a level survey.

The transit survey is made by running a line between established corners following the recorded route of the road, or if no records are available or the road is irregular in alignment, by establishing arbitrary reference points and running a line along the center line of the existing road or parallel thereto. The topography is referenced to this line in such completeness that it can be reproduced on the plans. The level survey consists in taking levels on cross sections of the road at one hundred foot intervals, and oftener if there are abrupt changes in grade. Special level determinations are made at streams, railroad crossings, intersecting roads or lanes and wherever it appears some special features of the terrain should be recorded.

From the surveys and such other information as has been assembled relative to the project, a plan is prepared which embodies a design presumed to provide for an improvement in accordance with the best highway practice.


It will be convenient to consider separately the components of a road design, although in the actual design the consideration of these cannot be separated because all parts of the plan must fit together.

Alignment.—The alignment of the road is determined to a considerable extent by the existing right-of-way, which may follow section lines, regardless of topography, as is the case with many roads in the prairie states, or it may follow the valleys, ridges, or other favorable location in hilly country. In many places the roads of necessity wind around among the hills in order to avoid excessive grades. In designing an improvement, it is generally desirable to follow the existing right-of-way so far as possible. But the element of safety must not be lost sight of, and curves should not preclude a view ahead for sufficient distance to insure safety to vehicles. The necessary length of clear view ahead is usually assumed to be 250 feet, but probably 200 feet is a satisfactory compromise distance when a greater distance cannot be obtained at reasonable cost. To secure suitable sight distance, the curves must be of long radii, and where possible the right-of-way on the inside of the curve should be cleared of trees or brush that will obstruct the view. Where the topography will not permit a long radius curve and the view is obstructed by an embankment or by growing crops or other growth, it is desirable to separate the tracks around the curve to eliminate the possibility of accidents on the curve. This is readily accomplished if the road is surfaced, but if it is not surfaced, the same end is accomplished by making the earth road of ample width at the curve.

Relocations should be resorted to whenever they shorten distances or reduce grades sufficiently to compensate for the cost.

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