Past, Present, and Future of the Dixie Highway
[From The Dixie Highway 1917, vol. 3, pp. 1-7, orig. page numbers indicated in text below. This article discusses the early advances of the Dixie Highway and argues that highway development is necessary to the war effort and national development.]
Three years ago a movement was inaugurated at a conference of Governors of several states held in Chattanooga looking to the construction of a great highway from Michigan to Florida. As the tourist travel from the Northern states to the heart of the Southland during the winter months was one of the objectives of this great artery of travel, the originators of the great project hit upon the name "Dixie Highway." The counties and states responded to the call to build a highway to Dixie which would bring the North and the South closer together. As expressed by Ex-Mayor Charles Bookwalter of Indianapolis, when completed it would enable the residents of the North and South to feel that they all lived on the same street, and whenever they chose they could jump into their cars and run down to see their neighbors at the other end of the street.
All of this was before the war. What was begun by The Dixie Highway Association which took over the active work begun by the Governors of eight states was actuated largely for the pleasure and convenience of the residents of the various states who had the cars and money for motor traveling. They realized, of course, that the building of a great North and South highway would bring about the improvement of a series of roads for the farmer. They felt also that the construction of a through highway in a county would stimulate the construction of connecting roads which would also be of benefit to the farmer.
However, with the advent of the Nation into the war, the work of building the Dixie Highway between North and South has taken on a patriotic nature. Completed, it represents a means of aiding the railroads in supplying the thirty-five or more military cantonments and forts in the South. It means the opening up of the highways between important cities from northern hauls. It means relief to the southern automobile dealer and manufacturer in all lines. It means a safeguard to the Southland from the possible paralyzing of the three railroad lines which serve the South and Southeast from the central and northern states.
When the Dixie Highway Association was first organized there was no road worthy of the name between Richmond, kentucky, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the eastern division of the highway. On the western division the old Louisville and Nashville Pike, used before the war with its splendid Teleford foundation, had been allowed to go back, until no motorist, who respected his car, would try to travel the rough cobblestones. The road between Nashville and Chattanooga was almost entirely a rough impassable mountain trail, fraught with many dangers to motorists who were daring enough to attempt its travel. From Chattanooga south, here and there, stretches of road which might be classed as fair in dry weather were encountered, but the bast majority of the roadways were veritable mudholes after a few hours of rain.
While neither the eastern nor the western division of the highway is to be recommended to the tourist who is looking for a surfaced road all the way, this winter, on account of the slow and difficult work of construction the highway through the poor mountain countries, the improvement brought about may be briefly summed up by the statement that the tourist will encounter a surfaced road in travelling as far South as Nashville, Tennessee, with the exception of nine miles between Cave City and Bowling Green, Kentucky, on the Eastern division. From Chattanooga South, the tourist will find a generally good road to Tallahassee, Florida, Brunswick, and Waycross, Georgia. The crossing into Jacksonville from Waycross or Brunswick is receiving much local attention this winter.
On the gap on the eastern division between Berea, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee, fully eighty-five per cent of the difficult grading of the 126 miles through the mountains has been completed. Stretches of many miles of surfaced road are to be found. All of the work now completed was done by the counties without Federal aid. The remainder of the work has been provided for and is now under way, with the exception of seventeen miles of surfacing and five miles of
new construction. Two counties, Laurel and Rockcastle, were unable to provide the funds necessary to complete this link, wherefore the Dixie Highway Association secured from the State Highway Department of Kentucky an agreement to allot to this stretch of road $50,000 of Federal aid, providing a like amount was raised by the Association. This amount has now been raised by private subscription; and if material and labor can be secured there is nothing to stand in the way of the completion of a well surfaced road with easy grades and curves, through the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee. An excellent road is now provided between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
On the western division of the Dixie Highway between Nashville and Chattanooga fully seventy-five per cent of the construction has been completed. The road over the Cumberland Mountain which was the chief barrier to through travel, not only between these two cities, but between the North and South, has been graded on both sides of the mountain to within five hundred feet of the top. The highway over Walden's Ridge, between Chattanooga and Whitwell, a distance of twenty-one miles has all been graded at an expense of $200,000 and part of the surfacing has been finished. All of the grading has been completed and part of the surfacing from the end of the pike at Shelbyville through Tullahoma and Winchester to Cowan, the foot of the Cumberland Mountain. The roadway from the foot of the mountain on the east to the Valley Pike leading to Whitwell has been graded and partly surfaced. While the mountain construction is in such shape that the old mountain detour must still be used, the entire road could be completed within three months if funds were available and labor could be procured. $300,000 should be sufficient to put through this unfinished gap. The Dixie Highway Association has succeeded in having the entire road designated for Federal Aid, and the projects necessary to secure this aid have been filed.
From Waycross, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Fla., on the central Georgia division, steps are being taken to substitute a surfaced road, with the possibility of paving in the near future, for the difficult sand stretch not being used. Ware County is working enthusiastically on her section of the
highway, and the citizens of Miami, Florida, have offered to help Charlton and Pieree counties in surfacing their portions. In Nassau County, Florida, the only remaining county included in this bad sand stretch, the Dixie Highway Association has been successful in getting $25,000 of Federal aid, which will be augmented with a like amount from the county, a state convict camp, and the automobile tax amounting to $3000 for use on this section.
Between Brunswick and Jacksonville, three miles of the Altamaha Delta has been bridged, making the motor trip much more pleasurable, and cutting out some of the delay. Also, a steam engine has been substituted for the gasoline one formerly used, and this has been placed at the service of motorists. The Satills River has been bridged, thereby, eliminating another of the drawbacks to comfortable travel. Altogether, this route should be in good travelable condition this winter.
An important link of the Florida division of the Dixie Highway is the Tallahassee to Gainesville route. This is receiving attention in Taylor County, where forty miles will be in first class condition by spring 1918. Leon and Jefferson Counties are already in good condition and Lafayette County will soon let contracts work through her confines. This will make good road from Tallahassee to all points along the western coast of Florida.
The states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are providing for their new sections of the highway in a very satisfactory manner; and tourists find no cause for complaint in this part of the trip. However, the rule that applies to every road in the United States is applicable to many territories in these northern and middle western states. The excessive travel which is to be turned over to the highways will call for immediate action in permanently paving main thoroughfares, and for adequate maintenance being provided. The Detroit to Toledo road is undergoing a complete rebuilding just now--concrete is being used, and the road is being put in military shape. This is a forerunner of what must be done all along the line if the highway would be brought to a maximum of usefulness.
The difficulties encountered in the construction of the Dixie Highway can hardly be realized. Counties
financially unable to do their part of the work have had to be dealt with; aid secured for them where possible, and constant effort used in building up public sentiment for this very necessary part of our National life. In the farming districts this sentiment is not so hard to arouse. Farmers know that they must have adequate transportation facilities in order that they may reap the full benefits of their strenuous farm labor. But in the mountainous counties, where one travels for miles without seeing a habitation of any kind and where road construction is difficult almost to the point of impossibility, this sentiment must needs be nurtured and tended like a hot-house plant.
Every day the freight congestion problem has become more serious. The Government, thinking to relieve matters, issued an order forbidding the use of open-top cars for the transportation of many materials and articles. Among these materials they included those needed for the construction and maintenance of public or private highways, roadways, streets or sidewalks. This order, while it was evidently meant in good faith, and for the purpose of hurrying through the shipments of perishables and food stuffs, has been retroactive in its effect upon the only plausible permanent relief for the congestion in the freight yards. Countless highway sections have had to discontinue work much sooner than winter would have made necessary; and without maintenance of city-to-city motor truck roads will deteriorate rapidly. The only solution is for an increase in the use of motor trucks for the hauling of the necessary materials. Railroads are not to be counted on for an indefinite
period, and during this interim motor trucks will have to be used. The importance of the Dixie Highway in this light cannot be over-estimated.
It is a well known fact that our greatest drawback to sending more men to the front is lack of shipping facilities. The Government is working heroically toward relief of this situation; and when the ships are provided, the country--the interior country--must not be found lacking in her part of the task. Adequate shipments of all food stuffs, all necessary army equipment, must be made, and made quickly to the seaports, for foreign transportation. This is going to mean even greater taxing of the overloaded railroads than the present situation has caused. And railroads are practically at a standstill so far as improvement of conditions is concerned. With a possible--nay, a very positive--source of relief for this crisis practically within our grasp, are we going to sit back and let a few mountain miles of roadway block us in our efforts to do our duty? Are we going to cease our highway-building efforts? Or are we going to pull hard, and pull together for the completion of every main highway in the country which will bring relief to this very pertinent National problem? The need for action, and immediate action, has never been greater.