Roads That Start Somewhere and End Somewhere: How Alabama and the Nation Got its First Highways
March 25, 2017
In the 20th century, Americans used the combined power of state and national governments to erect a network of roads and highways that made our current transportation system possible. Before the "rules of the roads" were decided, competing schemes battled for dominance. At the federal level, two schemes emerged as mechanisms by which to fund interconnecting highways across state lines. One, championed by the National Highways Association, supported a Federal Highway Commission to build and manage a grid of roads throughout the U.S. The other, eventually secured by Alabama Senator John H. Bankhead, called for federal grants to states to link their highways into a nation-wide network. Even after passage of Bankhead's Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, the two sides fought fiercely. Only when the Federal Highway Act of 1921 crushed the National Highways scheme was the way cleared for the political fight over roads to ease into state-level administration of the interstate network. This presentation uses maps from the Rucker Agee Collection of the Birmingham Public Library, and others, to discuss this small but important part of the national Good Roads Movement of the early 1900s. Workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department at 205-226-3665 or email@example.com.