Highway History By Rickie Longfellow The oldest constructed roads discovered to date are in former Mesopotamia, now known as Iraq. These stone paved streets date back to about 4000 B.C. in the Mesopotamia cities of Ur and Babylon. The location in the land of the Sumerian people offered fertile soil and, with irrigation, crops and livestock were raised successfully.
- The Sumerians used meticulous brick-making skills, forming identical mud bricks for building.
- After drying they would take them to the site of a temple and set them in place with bitumen.
- Bitumen is the natural sticky black substance in asphalt.
- Centuries would pass before asphalt was used in Europe and America.
Glastonbury, the Ancient Isle of Avalon in Somerset, England, was the site of an interesting discovery when timber roads were discovered in a swampy area. Glastonbury, known for King Arthur’s legends and believed to be the actual site of Camelot, has had a pilgrimage since ancient times as it is home to Glastonbury Abbey.
|Country roads in “Small Town America” now paved.|
Strangely, a Scottish man named John Metcalfe, born in 1717 and blinded at age six, built many miles of roads and bridges in Yorkshire, England. The roads were built in three layers: large stones, a mixture of road material, and a layer of gravel. Two other Scottish engineers, Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam are credited with the first modern roads.
They also designed the system of raising the foundation of the road in the center for easy water drainage. Telford improved road building further by analyzing stone thickness, road traffic, road alignment and gradient slopes. Sound familiar? This method became the norm. Telford is well known for many engineering successes involving bridges, canals, roads, harbors and docks.
The Menai Suspension Bridge in North Wales, completed in 1826-is considered one of the greatest examples of iron works ever built. McAdam, born in 1756, designed roads with harder surface using broken stones placed in symmetrical, tight patterns and covered with smaller stones.
His design was called “Macadam” after his name, and was a huge achievement in road construction in the 1800s. This design led to the bitumen-based binding called Tarmacadam. One of the first “tar” roads was laid in Paris. The famous Champs-Elysees of the 1600s was covered with asphalt in 1824 signifying it as the first modern road in Europe.
By the late 1800s, America would be paving roads. One of the first was Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.
|Were you born before the electronic crosswalk signs? On February 5, 1952, the first “Don’t Walk” automatic signs were installed in New York City.|
Today in America, most of our roadways and streets are paved with asphalt concrete. Asphalt concrete is a simple product in appearance produced primarily by adding asphalt cement to sand and rock. According to Bob McQuiston, FHWA Pavement and Materials Engineer for the FHWA Ohio Division, however, that simple appearance can be very deceiving.
In highway applications today, especially on the heavily trafficked, heavily loaded Interstate System, special care must be taken to ensure adequate performance of the pavement. For example, asphalt cements today are often modified with various products, such as polymers, to provide added stability to the mixture and avoid both displacement under traffic and fatigue-related distress.
At the same time, the “binder” selected must remain soft enough during cold winter periods to minimize thermal cracking. Special criteria often apply to the sand or “fine aggregate” component and the rock or “coarse aggregate” in the mixture. High quality and very durable fine and coarse aggregates are crushed to an angular shape and properly sized prior to incorporation in the final product to provide additional stability to support heavy truck loading.
|Paved roads allow for quicker travel and a smooth ride.|
Whether constructing a new pavement or preserving an existing one, asphalt meets many of today’s needs in maintaining our extensive highway network in the United States. : Highway History
What is the history of road construction?
In ancient times, river transport was much faster and easier than road transport. The Romans were one of the first to build stone paved roads in North Africa and Europe to support their military operations. Later the Arabs built roads that were covered with tar.
- The roads were constructed by preparing earthworks and lifting the road foundation at the center for water drainage.
- Road construction techniques gradually improved by the study of road traffic, stone thickness, road alignment, and slope gradients.
- Initial road construction materials were stones that were laid in a regular, compact design, and covered with smaller stones to produce a solid layer.
The building techniques were simple but effective as they reduced the travel time considerably and connected one place to another by land. The Appian Way in Rome still exists although it was constructed 2300 years ago. If Roman roads are considered the beginning of road construction, Telford Pavements are known as the second step of this process, followed by the Macadam Pavements that ultimately lead to the Bitumen Roads.
Who invented the highway system?
Metcalf – John Metcalf, also known as Blind Jack of Knaresborough. Drawn by J R Smith in The Life of John Metcalf published 1801. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, new methods of highway construction had been pioneered by the work of two British engineers, Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam, and by the French road engineer Pierre-Marie-Jérôme Trésaguet,
The first professional road builder to emerge during the Industrial Revolution was John Metcalf, who constructed about 180 miles (290 km) of turnpike road, mainly in the north of England, from 1765, when Parliament passed an act authorising the creation of turnpike trusts to build new toll funded roads in the Knaresborough area.
Metcalf won a contract to build a three-mile (5 km) section of road between Minskip and Ferrensby on a new road from Harrogate to Boroughbridge, He explored the section of the countryside alone and worked out the most practical route. He believed a good road should have good foundations, be well-drained, and have a smooth convex surface to allow rainwater to drain quickly into ditches at the side.
He understood the importance of good drainage, knowing it was rain that caused most problems on the roads. He worked out a way to build a road across a bog using a series of rafts made from ling (a type of heather) and furze (gorse) tied in bundles as foundations. This established his reputation as a road builder since other engineers had believed it could not be done.
He acquired a mastery of his trade with his own method of calculating costs and materials, which he could never successfully explain to others.
Who built the first road in the UK?
Late 1800s Road Builders – The road builders of the late 1800s depended solely on stone, gravel, and sand for construction. Water would be used as a binder to give some unity to the road surface. John Metcalfe, a Scot born in 1717, built about 180 miles of roads in Yorkshire, England (even though he was blind).
His well-drained roads were built with three layers: large stones; excavated road material; and a layer of gravel. Modern tarred roads were the result of the work of two Scottish engineers, Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam, Telford designed the system of raising the foundation of the road in the center to act as a drain for water.
Thomas Telford (born 1757) improved the method of building roads with broken stones by analyzing stone thickness, road traffic, road alignment, and gradient slopes. Eventually, his design became the norm for all roads everywhere. John Loudon McAdam (born 1756) designed roads using broken stones laid in symmetrical, tight patterns and covered with small stones to create a hard surface.
Who is the father of road construction?
Telford Construction ~ Thomas Telford (1751 – 1834 AD), the founder of the institution of civil engineers in London began road construction in the early 19th century.