Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990 Page: 17
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one uses the road, the more one should pay
for its construction and maintenance. This
is accomplished through the gasoline tax,
which the state of Oregon first introduced
following the national "roads out of the
mud campaign" of 1919.
The Texas Highway Department
(THD) was created in 1916 following the
U.S. Congress' Road Aid Act and later, the
1921 Federal Highway Act that required
states receiving federal reimbursements to
develop a mechanism for receiving, expending,
and accounting for such contributions.
The highway department's 1988 budget
of two billion dollars that supports a work
force of 15,500 people comes from federal
reimbursements, a state tax levy, a vehicle
registration tax, and other miscellaneous
taxes such as sales tax on motor oil and
Following the highway department's
acceptance of total jurisdiction over Texas'
roads in 1925, it entered one of its greatest
building phases between 1927 and 1937.
This is not surprising since the U.S. car
population rose from 2.3 million in 1915 to
29.6 million by 1941. In 1981 some 12.42
million motor vehicles were registered in
Although roadside verges now bristle
with power and communication lines and
route and advertising messages, they
remain essentially free of human interference.
As we rarely trespass on this roadside
ecosystem it has become a wildlife and
As one of the world's largest gardeners,
the highway deparment's remarkable
landscape division overseers a million
acres of right-of-way, enforced by the
Highway Beautification Act of 1965. The
arboretum value of this fenced acreage
cannot be underestimated. Without the
space between the road and the barbed
wire fence, fences that were themselves to
change the face of Texas, some of the
50,000 plant species recorded on this land
would have disappeared.
"The Road is the physical sign, or
symbol by which you will best understand
any age or people," writes Stilgoe. Few
measures have had so dramatic an impact
on metropolitan patterns of land
development in the U.S. as the interstate
We realized, like the Romans, that a coordinated
system of linking roads was essential
for commerce and military purposes.
Superhighways are not foreign to Texas.
Top: Pushing through a laguna, Matagorda County, around 1930.
Above: Car stuck in the road, site unknown, gives evidence of quagmire conditions.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990, periodical, Autumn 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45429/m1/17/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.