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The same year the State Engineer was given authority to prescribe regulations to govern the use of improved highways by street railways.
In the original act twenty-five per cent of monthly estimates was retained from the contractor until completion of work. In 1902 the per cent. was changed to ten, as that was considered fair to the contractor who was under bond for completion of work.
Controversy having arisen in regard to the appropriation by Boards of Supervisors of the share assessed on the counties, in 1904 the legislature provided that no highway should be placed on the list of roads to be constructed in the order of their number, unless the final resolution of the Board of Supervisors appropriated and made immediately available the share of the county for construction.
Provision by amendment was also made that no final resolution of approval by Boards of Supervisors could be rescinded, and that in the case of county line roads the final resolution of the Board of Supervisors last received should determine the place of the road on list for construction.
Under the provisions of the Higbie-Armstrong act of 1898, no roads were constructed that year. Beginning construction in 1899 with an appropriation of fifty thousand dollars, when five miles were built, the work has had a remarkable growth until this year (1905) two hundred and forty-eight miles is counted on as the year's work. The following table shows the growth for 1898-1904 inclusive:
Adding the two hundred and forty-eight miles being constructed this year increases the total to seven hundred and four miles, and the amount of additional roads provided for in appropriations by the counties and awaiting appropriation by the state legislature is nine hundred and seventy miles. This remarkable demand from the counties, outrunning the ability of the state to meet the same by ordinary appropriation, it became necessary to provide other means for meeting the desires of the people.
During the legislature of 1903, a concurrent resolution was passed by the Senate and Assembly, proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to provide for a bonding issue of fifty million dollars, the proceeds thereof to be used for the improvement of public highways.
This resolution was considered by the legislature of 1905, and agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each House and will be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be held in November, 1905.
If this amendment is ratified by the people it will become a part of the Constitution on and after January ist, 1906.
The following is a copy of the resolution:
“SECTION 1. Resolved, (if the assembly concur) that the seventh article of the constitution be amended by adding thereto the following section:
§ 12. Improvement of Highways. — A debt or debts of the state may be authorized by law for the improvement of highways. Such highways shall be determined under general laws, which shall also provide for the equitable apportionment thereof among the counties. The aggregate of the debts authorized by this section shall not at any one time exceed the sum of fifty millions of dollars. The payment of the annual interest on such debt and the creation of a sinking fund of at least two per centum per annum to discharge the principal at maturity shall be provided by general laws whose force and effect shall not be diminished during the existence of any debt created thereunder. The legislature may by general law require the county or town or both to pay to the sinking fund the proportionate part of the cost of any such highway within the boundaries of such county or town and the proportionate part of the interest thereon, but no county shall at any time for any highway be required to pay more than thirty-five hundredths of the cost of such highway, and no town more than fifteen-hundredths. None of the provisions of the fourth section of this article shall apply to the debts for the improvement of highways hereby authorized.
SEC. 2. Resolved, (if the assembly concur) that the foregoing amendment be referred to the legislature, to be chosen at the next general election of senators, and in conformity of section i, article fourteen of the constitution, be published for three months previous to the time of such election."
If, in the face of the prejudice, always manifesting itself when the question of bonding a state for internal improvement is presented, this bond issue should be adopted in November, it will be one of the most remarkable manifestations of popular approval of a new movement in the history of our country.
Many who approve the appropriation of money for such a purpose as constructing roads are conservative when it comes to placing an indebtedness on the state. The following from a New York paper expresses the conditions:
"Some positive advocacy of this amendment appears necessary to secure its adoption. There are persons. capable of understanding the danger of excessive growth of cities and the necessity for roads usable at all seasons, if country life is to be made attractive enough to set up a counter tide of population from the cities to the country. People who desire quiet homes, or even a small garden spot, are often told that they should reside in the country, and yet it is a very rare thing that the person giving the advice can be induced to favor road improvement. Clergymen, politicians, professors and railroad men are all alike in failing to realize that the daily newspaper, rural free delivery, ability to secure sufficient schools and attendance at church, as well as something more than mere grubbing in the ground, all depends upon roads more usable than most of our country roads. Even good roads advocates fail to understand the necessity of connected systems of good roads.
He, therefore, that opposses state improvement of the roads is so merely selfish as to be unwilling to understand that the city is benefited by well-populated and prosperous farming, as well as rural districts.”
Formerly the old fashioned labor system was the one followed in New York in the maintenance of public roads. The change was made to the money system by what is called the Fuller-Plank act. Elections were provided for upon petition of twenty-five taxpayers of any town, to. changing to The Money System of Taxation. Upon the adoption of the new system the state was pledged by the act to pay through the County Treasurer fifty per cent. of the amount levied by the town, subject, however, to certain restrictions as to aggregate amounts. The money available from both sources, town and state, was to be paid to the supervisor of the town, who was made the custodian and disburser of the funds for road maintenance.
In 1904 an amendment to the Fuller-Plank act was passed, that provided that the local commissioners shall be under the direction and supervision of the State Engineer, and authorized the latter to withhold any funds, due from the state, from towns that did not expend funds previously appropriated in such manner as was to the approval of the State Engineer.
In 1904 four hundred and sixteen towns which had adopted the new form of expenditure, collected nine hundred and seventeen thousand eight hundred and seventy-three dollars by local taxation, and received ihree hundred and ninety-three thousand four hundred and ninety-three dollars from the state.
l'pward of one-half of the road mileage of the state was in 1904 uin ler the new method. The mileage of public roads in the state being seventy-four thousand.
As to the sentiment prevailing over the state, it is pertinent to remark that there is an annual Good Roads Convention of the Boards of Supervisors of New York. At the last convention in Albany, January, 1905, this association addressed Governor Higgins as below, and let it be remembered that this is the expression of a large and represenative gathering of supervisors of roads throughout the state who have no personal interest in the matter further than any other class of citizens, and who have full knowledge of the needs of the state and of the effect of the work of state aid during seven years. Their opinion is unbiased, because the money is not to be expended under their direction, but under that of the State Engineer and Surveyor, whose tenure of office is secure without any movement for or against construction of good roads. “Governor Higgins:
"We have under consideration one of the most important subjects now before the people of this great commonwealth; a subject which is agitating the minds and calling for the best thought and experience of the most progressive men of the nation. Our vast resources and unprecedented industry and prosperity have made the question of transportation one of paramount importance.
Millions of dollars are wasted every year because of the inadequate facilities of transportation, and this is accompanied by all the attendant inconveniences arising from poorly constructed and improperly repaired roads.
In 1898 the first statute was enacted by which this state gave assistance to the construction of improved highways, and during that short period of time such a mighty response has been made by the people in answer to the generous offer of assistance as to almost challenge belief. The appropriation for the first year on the part of the state was only fifty thousand dollars, and that on the part of the counties sixty-four thousand dollars. At the present time the several counties of the state have appropriated upwards of twenty millions of dollars for road construction and an equal sum will have to be appropriated by the state before the construction of these highways can be accomplished. It becomes apparent at once that the movement has far outgrown the resources of the state in the way of appropriations from the usual and ordinary annual revenues.
Anticipating this wonderful interest and activity in road building, and in order to effectually provide for the extraordinary demands upon the resources of the state, the friends of the good roads movement applied to the state legislature for relief in the form of an issue of bonds to the extent of fifty millions of dollars, providing for a sinking fund of two per cent. and an annual interest rate of three per cent. With this legislation you are entirely familiar. Once the aid contemplated by this measure becomes available for road building in this state, the future excellence of its system of highways is assured.
Your views upon the subject of good roads, as expressed in your message to the legislature, encourages us to earnestly petition your cooperation in advancing the measure providing for the bond issue in aid of road construction. If favorable action is taken by the present legislature, it seems to be demonstrated without a reasonable doubt, from the petitions for improved highways which have been passed by the several boards of supervisors of the state, that an emphatically large majority vote at the elections of the coming fall will finally make the measure operative.
The last Federal censuis, taken in 1900, shows that there has been an increase in the farm values of the United States amounting to twentyseven per cent., and that only four states of the Union show a depreciation in the farm values. Our sister commonwealth of Massachusetts shows the largest percentage of increase in farm values, and this increase has developed since she undertook her road improvements. Prior to this time farm values in that state were also depreciating:
It is an undisputed fact that the poor transportation facilities afforded the agricultural sections of this great Empire State are directly responsible for its depreciation in farm values. With the contemplated improvement, under state aid, of the principal market roads, constituting ten per cent. of the total mileage, the state of New York will increase the value of her iarm lands on an average of at least ten dollars per acre, making a total increase of over three hundred and twenty million dollars.
We are well aware of the demands that are made upon the state treasury to meet the current expenses of the government, and the difficulties that confront those who are in charge of the affairs of the state in meeting demands that are pressing and urgent; nevertheless, we believe that it is only just and equitable that the interests of the agricultural communities be provided for, and that the present legislature make the proper appropriation, either from the ordinary and usual revenues, or through some special provision, so that this sum of five million dollars shall become available without delay.
A resolution has been introduced in our convention, requesting the legislature to authorize the counties which have roads ready for construction, to provide for the necessary expenditure by an issue of bonds, or by direct taxation, one-half the sum thus expended to be repaid by such counties out of the amounts hereafter appropriated by the state for highway improvement. If this shall meet with favorable consideration at the hands of the present legislature, we believe that it will provide means to carry on the work until the matter of the issue of fifty million dollars in bonds can be passed upon by the people at the fall election.
We have not come before you to suggest the manner in which the provision shall be made for the construction of the highways now awaiting funds, but we do earnestly urge that favorable action be had to the end that this work, which means so much to the agricultural interests of the state, may not be retarded in any degree, but may go forward until we have completed the system of hihways in this state which was contemplated when this movement was first started."
WM. BULLOCK CLARK,
WALTER W. CROSBY,
The General Assembly of the State of Maryland, at its session in 1898, passed an act, which was signed by the Governor and became a law April 9th of that year, providing for the investigation of the question of roacl construction in that state.