Front Page Titles (by Subject) TURNPIKE, OR ARTIFICIAL ROADS. - Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals
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TURNPIKE, OR ARTIFICIAL ROADS. - Albert Gallatin, Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals 
Report of the Secretary of the Treasury; on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals; made in pursuance of a Resolution of the Senate, of March 2, 1807 (Washington: R.C. Weightman, 1808).
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TURNPIKE, OR ARTIFICIAL ROADS.
A great number of artificial roads have been completed in the eastern and middle states, at an expense varying from less than one thousand to fourteen thousand dollars a mile. The labor bestowed on the least expensive species consists in shortening the distance, diminishing the ascent of hills, removing rocks, levelling, raising and giving a proper shape to the bed of the roads, draining them by ditches, and erecting bridges over the intervening streams. But the natural soil of the road is used, instead of covering it with a stratum of gravel or pounded stones.
It appears by one of the papers marked (D.) under which letter will be found all the information which has been obtained respecting roads, that fifty turnpike companies have been incorporated, since the year 1803, in the state of Connecticut alone; and that the roads undertaken by those companies are all of that description. Thirty nine of those roads extending together 770 miles, are completed. The most expensive is that from New Haven to Hartford, which has cost 79,261 dollars; or the distance being 34 miles and three quarters, at the rate of 2,280 dollars a mile: but about 18,000 dollars of the capital have been expended in the purchase of the land through which the road is carried. The nett income on this road, deducting the annual repairs and expenses from the annual tolls, does not exceed 3000 dollars. Of six of the roads, which together extend 120 miles, no account has been received. The other thirty two extend together 615 miles, and have cost only 340,000 dollars, or on an average at the rate of 550 dollars a mile: and it seems that the aggregate of annual tolls on the whole is 86,000 dollars; from which deducting the annual repairs and expenses, amounting to 48,000 dollars, leaves a nett income of 38,000 dollars, or of about eleven per cent. on the capital expended.
No particular account has been received of the roads in the other eastern states; but it is known that besides some of a similar description with those of the state of Connecticut, several of a more expensive kind have been completed, particularly in Massachusetts. The cost has varied from 3000 to 14,000 dollars a mile; and amongst artificial roads of the first grade may be mentioned those from Boston to Providence, to Salem, and to Newburyport. These are all covered with an artificial stratum of gravel or pounded stones, and finished in the most substantial manner. Great expense has also been incurred in order to shorten the distance without exceeding the angle of ascent, which is fixed at 5 degrees; and it is stated that the road to Newburyport, 32 miles in length, and in which marshes and rocks presented considerable obstacles, has cost 400,000 dollars, or at the rate of 12,500 dollars a mile. Those expensive roads, however useful and permanent, appear to be much less profitable than those of Connecticut. The Salem road is said to yield six per cent. another road has been stated as yielding eight per cent. the income of all the others in the state of Massachusetts, is said not to exceed on an average three per cent. and that of the road from Boston to Newburyport, amounts to no more than two per cent.
A greater capital has been vested on turnpike roads in the state of New York, than in any other. In less than seven years, sixty seven companies have been incorporated, with a nominal capital of near five millions of dollars, for the purpose of making more than 3000 miles of artificial roads; and twenty one other companies have also been incorporated with a capital of 400,000 dollars; for the purpose of erecting 21 toll bridges. Although no particular account has been received either of the capital actually expended, of the annual amount of tolls, or of the materials of the roads, it is known that great progress has been made: and it has been stated that nine hundred miles of road were already completed by 28 companies, whose capital amounted to 1,800,000 dollars, and who had 200 miles of road more to finish.
Those roads extend in every direction, but particularly from every town or village on the North river, westwardly and north-westwardly, towards the waters of the Susquehannah, and those of the great lakes. The most expensive is that from Albany to Schenectady, fourteen miles long, and which has cost at the rate of ten thousand dollars a mile. Near 140 miles of roads extending westwardly from Albany and Schenectady, appear to have cost at the rate of 2,500 or 3,000 dollars a mile. The expense of all the others does not seem on an average to exceed 1,250 dollars a mile.
More detailed information has been obtained respecting the roads in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In New Jersey a turnpike road has lately been completed from Trenton to Brunswick. The distance is 25 miles; the greatest angle of ascent 3 degrees, and the road is nearly in a straight line, the only considerable obstruction being the “Sand Hills,” through which it was necessary to dig at the depth of thirty feet, in order not to exceed the angle of ascent. The road is 36 feet wide, fifteen feet of which are covered with about 6 inches of gravel. A few wooden bridges with stone abutments and piers have been erected across the intervening streams. The whole expense is stated at 2,500 dollars a mile. From Brunswick the road will be extended to Elizabeth town, and the work is now progressing. Another road has been undertaken in the same state from Brunswick to Easton, on the river Delaware. The distance is 43 miles, of which eleven have been completed at an expense of 40,000 dollars. This road will be more expensive than the preceding, both on account of the ground, the bridges being more numerous, and the Blue Ridge, (Musconekong mountain) intervening: and because a more substantial facing or greater thickness of gravel is requisite. The funds of the company are exhausted.
In Pennsylvania artificial roads of the most substantial kind, have been completed, or are progressing, from Philadelphia, in sundry directions.
The principal are to Bristol and Trenton, 12 miles of which are completed; to Germantown and Perkiomen, with two branches to Willow Grove, and to Chesnut Hill; and to Lancaster and Columbia, with a branch to Harrisburgh.
The distance from Philadelphia to Perkiomen is 25 miles and a quarter; the two branches extend, one 10 miles and the other 7 miles and a half; making together, near 43 miles. The angle of ascent is 4 degrees; the breadth of the road fifty feet, of which 28 feet, having a convexity of 15 inches, are covered with a stratum either of gravel 18 inches thick or of pounded stones 12 inches thick. One half of the stones forming the lower part of the stratum, are broken into pieces not more than five inches in diameter: the other half or upper part of the stratum consists of stones broken into pieces not more than two inches and a half in diameter: and this difference in the size of the stones is represented as a considerable defect. Side or summer roads extend on each side of the gravel or stone road. The five miles next to Philadelphia have cost at the rate of 14,517 dollars a mile. The other 20 miles and a half at the rate of 10,490 dollars a mile. Yet there were no natural impediments, and only small bridges or culverts were necessary. The capital expended on these 25 miles and a half is 285,000 dolls.: the tolls amount to 19,000 dollars: the annual repairs and expenses to 10,000 dollars: the nett income to about 9,000 dollars, or little more than 3 per cent. on the capital expended.
The distance from the Schuylkill, at Philadelphia, to Lancaster, is 62 miles and a quarter. Exclusively of the side or summer roads, twenty four feet of the bed of the road are covered with a stratum of pounded stones 18 inches thick in the middle of the road, and decreasing each way to 12 inches. The Valley hills are the most elevated and steep on the road; but the angle of ascent no where exceeds 4 degrees. Stone bridges have been erected across all the intervening streams. That across the river Conestogo consisting of nine arches, is private property; and the most expensive built by the company, is that across the Brandywine, consisting of three arches of solid masonry, and which cost 12,000 dollars. The capital of the company amounted to 360,000 dollars; but this being insufficient, it became necessary to apply a considerable portion of the tolls to the completion of the work. The whole expense amounts to 465,000 dollars, or at the rate of about 7,500 dollars a mile. The annual tolls have not yet exceeded 25,000 dollars; and the annnual repairs and expenses are estimated at 13,000, leaving a nett income of about 12,000 dollars. The prospect of an increased profit, derived from the proposed extension of the road, has however raised the price of that stock nearly to par.
The Lancaster road, the first extensive turnpike that was completed in the United States, is the first link of the great western communication from Philadelphia. It has been extended ten miles westwardly to Columbia on the Susquehannah, and another branch is now progressing northwestwardly to Harrisburgh, also on the Susquehannah, and 36 miles from Lancaster. The state of Pennsylvania has also incorporated two companies in order to extend the road by two different routes as far as Pittsburgh on the Ohio, and near 300 miles from Philadelphia. The southern route, following the main post road, passes by Bedford and Somerset. The northern route passes by Huntingdon and Frankstown, the highest point to which the Juniata branch of the Susquehannah is navigable. To this route the state has authorised a subscription of one hundred thousand dollars.
Other roads in a north-west direction from Philadelphia, towards the Genessee and Presqu’isle on lake Erie, are also progressing, and have been encouraged by the subscriptions or donations of the legislature. They are generally on a much less expensive plan than those in the direction of Pittsburgh. A section of 30 miles from Lausanne on the Lehigh, to Nescopeck on the Susquehannah, has been completed at the expense of 36,000 dollars, by a company; and it is intended to extend it 70 miles further to Newton, on the Tioga branch of the Susquehannah.
In Maryland, roads extending from Baltimore in various directions, have lately been undertaken by several companies and are rapidly progressing. On the falls turnpike, which extends in a northerly direction, about four miles of a road 22 feet wide, covered with a stratum of pounded stones 10 inches thick, and having an ascent not exceeding 4 degrees, have been completed at the rate of 7,500 dollars a mile.
The “Reister town” turnpike, in a northwestwardly direction, extends 16 miles to that village; whence two branches extending one 19 and the other 29 miles farther, will enter Pennsylvania at two different places. The road 24 feet wide, is covered with a stratum 12 inches thick, of pounded stones not more than 3 inches in diameter. The angle of ascent does not exceed 3 degrees and a half. Ten miles have been completed at the expense of 10,000 dollars a mile, and the work is progressing. The capital of the company amounts to 420,000 dollars.
The capital of the “Frederick town” turnpike company amounts to 500,000 dollars; and the company is authorised to open the great western road, as far as Boonsborough, beyond the Blue Ridge, and 62 miles from Baltimore. The angle of ascent will not exceed 4 degrees; the road has a convexity of 9 inches, and on a breadth of 22 feet is covered with a stratum 10 inches thick of pounded stones, not exceeding 3 inches in diameter, over which are spread two inches of gravel or coarse sand. The first 20 miles next to Baltimore have cost at the rate of 9,000 dollars, and the next 17 miles are contracted for at the rate of 7,000 dollars a mile.
The distance from Boonsborough to Cumberland, at the foot of the Allegheny mountain, following the present road is 73 miles; and although the company is not yet authorised to extend the turnpike to that place, the ground has been surveyed, and it is ascertained that the road may be continued with an angle of ascent not exceeding 4 degrees. The ascent of the road laid out by the United States from Cumberland to Brownsville, on the Monongahela, does not exceed 5 degrees, and the distance is 72 miles: making the whole distance of a turnpike road from Baltimore to the navigable waters of the Ohio, 207 miles. The distance from the City of Washington to the same spot on the Monongahela is some miles shorter, being as has already been stated, the shortest communication between tide water and the navigable western waters.
South of the Potomac few artificial roads have been undertaken. From Alexandria one is now progressing in a northwestwardly direction towards Middleburgh. Another has lately been commenced from Richmond to Ross’s coal mine. But the only one which, so far as any accounts have been received, is completed, extends 12 miles from Manchester, opposite to Richmond, in a westwardly direction to the coal mines of Falling creek. This road, 36 feet wide is gravelled and has cost 50,000 dollars: but the last 4 miles did not cost more than at the rate of 3000 dollars a mile. Yet it is sufficiently substantial, the foute being very level, to admit waggons carrying four tons.
The greater progress made in the improvement of roads in the northern parts of the union, must be principally ascribed to a more compact population, which renders those improvements more necessary, and at the same time supplies with greater facility the means of effecting them. The same difference is perceptible in the number of bridges erected in the several states.
In the eastern states, and particularly Massachusetts, wooden bridges uniting boldness to elegance, and having no defect but want of durability, have been erected over the broadest and deepest rivers. In the lower counties of Pennsylvania stone bridges are generally found across all the small streams. Both in that state, and at some distance eastwardly, bridges with stone piers and abutments, and a wooden superstructure are common over wide rivers. Of these the most expensive, and which may be considered as the first in the United States, is the permanent Schuylkill bridge near Philadelphia, erected by a company at an expense of 300,000 dollars. Its length including the abutments does not exceed 750 feet, and it is supported only by two piers and the abutments. But those piers, 195 feet apart, are of the most solid workmanship, and one of them was sunk at a depth of more than 24 feet below low water. The bridge is 42 feet wide, and the wooden superstructure is enclosed and covered with a shingle roof.
The want of bridges south of Pennsylvania, even on the main post road, is sensibly felt. One lately thrown across the Potomac 3 miles above the city of Washington, and which without any intervening piers is wholly suspended to iron chains extending from bank to bank, deserves notice on account of the boldness of its construction, and of its comparative cheapness. The principle of this new plan, derived from the tenacity of iron, seems applicable to all rapid streams of a moderate breadth.
The general principles of improved roads seem to be: 1st, the reduction of hills by diminishing the angle of ascent, which ought not to exceed, whenever practicable, 3 degrees and a half, and under no circumstances five degrees: 2d, a sufficient convexity in the bed of the road, together with ditches and drains, all which are intended to prevent the injury caused by standing water or freshets: 3d, an artificial bed of pounded stones or gravel sufficiently substantial to support the weight of the carriages in general use on the road, either for the conveyance of persons, or for the transportation of merchandize.
On the last point it appears from the facts already stated, or scattered in the communications received on that subject: 1st, That the stones ought to be similar in quality and reduced to the same size, which should not exceed three inches in diameter: 2d, That the preferable qualities of stone, rank in the following order—hard black stone, granite, flint, or quartz, blue lime stone, white ditto: 3d, That the stratum may be either of pounded stones 12 inches thick, or of pounded stones 10 inches thick, with 2 inches of gravel spread over the stones; or entirely of gravel 18 inches thick: 4th, That when the materials are equally convenient, the expense of those three modes will not materially differ, but that the rate of expense depends principally on the number of hills and bridges, distance of materials, breadth of the road, and price of labor: and 5th, That the general adoption of broad wheels for the transportation of heavy loads, is necessary to the full enjoyment of the advantages expected from the most substantial artificial roads. On the degree of convexity and on the proper shape to be given to the natural bed of the road under the artificial stratum, a diversity of opinions seems to prevail.
The roads heretofore made may be divided into three general classes.
1. Those where the only improvement consists in the reduction of hills, and in the convexity and ditches of the road, whereby the angle of ascent is rendered more easy, and standing water excluded; but where the natural soil is used without any artificial stratum. The expense of these roads may vary according to local circumstances, and the perfection of the work, from five hundred to one thousand dollars a mile. They are most generally in use in the eastern states, and may be introduced with advantage in all those districts of country, where wealth does not admit more expensive improvements, or where the materials of an artificial stratum are altogether wanting. It is only in the last case, that they may be considered as a national object; and no other improvement besides bridges and causeways, is perhaps practicable in the lower country of the southern states. Iron, and even timber rail roads, may however be sometimes substituted in those level parts of the country, where stones and gravel are not to be found.
2. Roads prepared as above, of a reduced breadth, and covered with a thin coat of gravel not more than six or nine inches thick; such as the turnpike lately made between Trenton and Brunswick. These roads, the expense of which may be estimated at about 3000 dollars a mile, may be used wherever the frost does not materially affect them, and in every climate, when they are intended principally for the conveyance of persons, and not for the transportation of heavy loads.
3. The artificial roads of the best contruction, such as have been already described. These when not exceeding 22 feet in breadth, and except in the vicinity of large cities, will cost at the rate of 7000 dollars a mile, exclusively of bridges over large rivers. And they must be resorted to, whenever a commercial road for heavy transportation is intended, particularly in the middle states, or rather in the United States, between 41 and 36 degrees of north latitude. North of the 41st degree, the snow lies generally during the whole winter; and the great bulk of heavy transportation is effected in sleighs during that season. There is therefore less necessity for using the roads in the spring; and they are also better protected against the effects of the frost by the snow. South of the 36th degree, which in the Atlantic states may be considered as the boundary of the great cotton cultivation, the frost does not materially injure the roads. It is between those two extremes that the most substantial are required; and it also happens that the great land communications with the western country, which considerably increase the amount of transportation, are principally within the same limits.
The same principles, which have directed the arrangement adopted in this report in relation to canals, will also point out those roads which seem in the first instance to claim the patronage of the general government.
Those which appear most necessary for the communications between the Atlantic and western rivers have already been mentioned under that head; and the improvement of the water communication between the North river and the great lakes ought to take the precedence of any other in that direction.
That road which therefore seems exclusively to claim public attention, is a great turnpike extending from Maine to Georgia in the general direction of the sea coast and main post road, and passing through all the principal sea ports. The general convenience and importance of such a work are too obvious to require any comments: and the expense seems to be the primary object of consideration.
The distance will be roughly estimated at 1,600 miles; and from what has been stated on the subject of roads generally, it may be inferred that the greater part of the road being intended almost exclusively for travelling, and not for transportation of heavy articles, the expense cannot exceed the rate of 3,000 dollars a mile. For although some detached portions of the route, being commercial roads, must be improved as such, and at a greater expense; an equivalent reduction in other parts will result from those portions which are already improved by private companies, and from the impossibility, for want of materials for an artificial stratum, of going in some places beyond what has been described as the first or cheapest species of turnpikes. The whole expense may therefore be estimated at 4,800,000 dollars.
A secondary object, but of more importance to government than to individuals, would be the improvement, on a much less expensive scale, of certain portions of roads leading to some points on the extremes of the union, intended principally for the purpose of accelerating the progress of the mail, and the prompt transmission of information of a public nature. The points contemplated, are Detroit, St. Louis in Upper Louisiana, and New Orleans. The portions of road which traversing a wilderness cannot be improved without the aid of the United States, are; from the Tuscarora branch of the Muskingum to Detroit; from Cincinnati, by Vincennes, to St. Louis; and from Nashville in Tennessee, or Athens in Georgia; to Natches. The expense necessary to enable the mail and even stages to proceed at the rate of 80 miles a day, may, at the rate of about 200 dollars a mile, including bridges over all the small streams, be estimated for those three roads, at 200,000 dollars.