United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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turnpike to that place the ground has been surveyed, and it is ascer-
tained that the road may be continued \\'ith an angle of ascent not
exceeding four degrees. The ascent of the road laid out by the United
States from Cumberland to Brownsville, on the jMonongahela, does not
exceed five degrees, and the distance is seventy-two miles, making the
whole distance of a turnpike road from Baltimore to the navigable
waters of the Oliio two hundred and seven 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 Poti)mac few artificial roads have been undertaken.
From Alexandria one is now ])rogressing, in a northwestwardly direc-
tion, towards Middleburg. Aiiother 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 twelve miles from
Manchester, opposite to Richmond, in a westwardly direction, to the
coal mines of Falling Creek. This road, thirty-six feet wide, is
gravelled and has cost $50,000; but the last four mUes did not cost
more than at the rate of $3,000 a mile. Yet it is sufficiently sub-
stantial, the route being very level, to admit wagons carrying four tons.

The greater progress made in the improvement of roads in the north-
ern 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 wdth stone piers and abutments and a wooden
superstructure are common over wide rivers. Of these the most ex-
pensive, and which may be considered as the first in the United States,
is the permanent Schuylkill bridge near Pliiladelphia, erected by a
company at an expense of $300,000. Its length, including the abut-
ments, 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 three
miles above the city of Washington, and which without any inter-
A^ening piers is wholly suspended to iron chains extending from bank
to bank, deserA^es notice on accoimt of the boldness of its construc-
tion 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 reduc-
tion of hills by diminishing the angle of ascent, which ought not to
exceed, whenever practicable, three and a half degrees, and, under no
circumstances, five degrees; 2dly, 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; 3dly, an arti-
ficial bed of pounded stones or gravel, sufficiently substantial to sup-
port the weight of the carriages in general use on the road, either for
the conveyance of persons or for the transportation of merchandise.

On the last point, it appears, from the facts already stated or scat-
tered in the communications received on that subject, 1st, that the
stones ought to be similar in quality and reduced to the same size,
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 hmestone, white limestone; 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 ])rin-
cipally 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 per 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 improve-
ments or where the materials of an artificial statum 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 railroads 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 three
thousand dollars a mile, may be used wherever the frost does not
materially affect them and in every climate where they are intended
principally for the conveyance of persons, and not for the transporta-
tion of heavy loads.

3. The artificial roads of the best construction, sucli as have been
already described. These, when not exceeding twenty-two feet in
breadth, and except in the vicmity of large cities, will cost at the rate
of seven thousand 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 neces-
sity for using the roads in the spring; and they are also better pro-
tected 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 sub-
stantial are rec[uired; and it also happens that the great land com-
munications 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 ado]:)ted
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

31673— S. Doc. 325, 60-1 37


Those which appear most necessary for the communications
between the Athmtic and western rivers have ah-eady been mentioned
under that head; and the improvement of the water communication
between the North River and the Great Lakes ought to take the pre-
cedence 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 seacoast and main post road, passing
through all the principal seaports. 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 one thousand six hundred
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 three thousand 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 turnpike. The whole expense may, therefore, be estimated
at $4,800,000. A secondary object, but of more importance to Gov-
ernment 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 man and the prompt
transmission of information of a public nature. The points contem-
plated 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 Tus-
carora branch, of the Muskingum to Detroit; from Cincimiati, by
Vincennes, to St. Louis; and from Nashville in Tennessee or Athens
in Georgia to Natchez. The expense necessary to enable the mail
and even stages to proceed at the rate of eighty miles a day may,
at the rate of about two hundred dollars a mile, includin

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 66 of 83)