By 1908, the need for better roads had reached the point that the legislature made its first appropriation for construction purposes under the new state program—$25,000 annually, beginning March 1, 1909, “out of any money in the state treasury not otherwise appropriated.” It was intended mainly for use in counties where convict labor was not available and was to be matched equally by the counties paying for road improvements.
“This law does more than provide a very considerable additional fund for road improvement, as its requirement that a county shall raise an amount equal to its share of the fund before it can be obtained arouses the people to the importance of making extra efforts to provide money for improving the roads,” Wilson said.
During this period, state law directed the counties to levy a road tax of up to 40 cents for each $100 in value on real estate and personal property, with the revenue to cover the counties’ share of improvements and to buy road equipment. In addition, the counties were authorized to issue bonds “for the purpose of macadamizing or otherwise permanently improving the public roads… or building bridges… ”
By 1910, Virginians owned 2,705 motor vehicles, and the General Assembly decided the time had come to regulate their use. That year, the state’s first registration and licensing of motor vehicles was required, with registration fees of $5 for autos of 20 horsepower or less, $10 for those with 20 to 45 horsepower, and $20 for vehicles with more than 45 horsepower. A $2 registration fee was set for motorcycles and 235 were registered in 1910. The fees were to be paid into the state treasury as a special fund to be spent for improving main roads. Total revenue from the first year’s collections amounted to $21,656.
In 1910, the General Assembly also enacted the first controls on motor vehicle speeds in Virginia. Twenty miles an hour was the established limit in open country, while eight miles an hour was established in towns, around curves, and at key intersections.
Three years later, with more than 10,000 motor vehicles in the state and the road program continuing to grow, Commissioner Wilson left Virginia to become chief engineer for the U.S. Office of Public Roads and Rural Engineering in Washington, an agency that had followed the Office of Road Inquiry. Wilson was succeeded by George P. Coleman, who had been his assistant since 1906.
Even as the changeover in administration was occurring, Wilson again cited the nagging problem of inadequate road maintenance:
“The expenditure of considerable amounts of money derived from long-term bonds by the various counties in the state for the construction of roads, and the evident lack of care of these roads after they have been constructed, demonstrates that unless some more adequate means for the maintenance of these roads is provided than has yet been provided by the several counties in which they have been constructed, there will come a time when the counties have little left but the debt which they have incurred,” Wilson said.
Wilson also stressed that unless stringent maintenance requirements were imposed, “the expenditures made and the work of this department during the past seven years will have been as naught.”
By that time, the counties had issued approximately $7 million in bonds. George Coleman agreed with his predecessor that this investment wasn’t being protected. Increasing use of roads made the problem even more urgent. By 1916, more than 37,000 motor vehicles were registered in the state. It would be a pivotal year for the road program in Virginia and nationally.
In Richmond, the General Assembly passed an automobile maintenance law providing that income from vehicle license fees be placed in a special maintenance fund to be administered by the commission, in cooperation with county authorities and with expenditures to be matched equally by the counties.
The legislature also began curing the headache of the state’s disjointed roads, some of which were smooth and hard-surfaced in one county and rutted dirt in the next. A study committee — consisting of three members of the state Senate, four from the House of Delegates, and the highway commissioner — was appointed to develop a plan for a state highway system to include the main roads between population centers.
In Washington, meanwhile, increasing attention was being focused on the problems of improving roads that connected various states. Coleman had been a chief organizer of the American Association of State Highway Officials (later became AASHTO) in 1914. The group was formed by highway administrators in the states to provide a forum for discussion of technical, legislative, and economic matters and to strengthen the state-federal relationship on roads.
One of the association’s first moves was to designate a committee to prepare proposed legislation for the Congress authorizing federal participation in construction of highways and encouraging better state-to-state coordination. Coleman was chairman of that legislation drafting committee.
The committee’s proposals were submitted to Congress in 1916 and were approved that year largely as presented. The new law provided for construction of rural public roads and defined them as “any public road over which the United States mails now are or may hereafter be transported.” Federal funds were not to exceed 50 percent of the cost of constructing improvements, and the states were to have the responsibility for maintaining the completed facilities.
President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act on July 11, 1916. It was the federal government’s first comprehensive law aimed at establishing a nationwide highway system. When it was passed, America had 2,578,078 miles of public roads, 294,569 miles or 11.4 percent of which were surfaced.
For the 1916-17 fiscal year, Virginia received approximately $100,000 in federal funds. The road between Hansonville and the Washington-Russell County line at Moccasin Gap, now U.S. Route 19, was the first road in the state to be improved with federal aid.
Next up: State system approved; WWI interrupts progress
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Road reflex quiz
Are you an experienced driver? Here are a few questions to put your know-how to the test.
1. When driving, what should you do if you pass a vehicle on a dimly lit road at night?
A. Turn on your high beams
B. Turn on your low beams
C. Turn on your headlights
2. How can you prevent your car from skidding when driving over icy patches of the road?
A. Brake firmly
B. Pump the brakes
C. Gradually release the gas pedal
3. What should you do if your passengers are arguing or distracting you?
A. Honk the horn to get their attention
B. Turn up the radio so you can’t hear them
C. Pull over to the side of the road
when it’s safe to do so
4. When can you drive in the left lane on a highway?
A. At any time
B. When passing another vehicle
C. Only if you’re alone on the road
5. What should you never do when another vehicle passes you?
A. Slow down
B. Maintain your speed
6. What should you do if your passenger laughs at you for driving slowly?
A. Laugh it off and maintain your speed
B. Call them a fool
C. Drive faster, so they stop laughing
7. How can you avoid being blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle at night?
A. Look at the curb on the right side of the road
B. Close your eyes momentarily
C. Quickly blink several times
1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-B, 5-C, 6-A, 7-A
Four tips for safely driving through a tunnel
If you need to drive through a tunnel, it’s best to exercise caution. To make sure you arrive at your destination safely, follow these tips.
1. Use the correct lane
You’re not allowed to change lanes while driving in a tunnel. Therefore, make sure you’re in the correct one before entering.
2. Turn on your low beams
Your headlights will help you see inside the dark tunnel and ensure you’re visible to other motorists.
3. Reduce your speed
It can take a second for your eyes to adjust to the low light when entering the tunnel and the glaring sun when exiting. Make sure you take it slow and always respect the speed limit.
4. Know the dimensions of your vehicle
Tunnels have different levels of clearance. Consequently, you should know the height of your vehicle, especially if you’re driving a motorhome or moving truck. Don’t forget to include the height of ac¬cessories like roof boxes and bike racks.
Finally, remember never to stop inside a tunnel unless there’s an emergency.
7 winter car care tips
On top of investing in a pre-winter vehicle inspection, it’s important to make time for cold-season car care. To prolong your vehicle’s lifespan and ensure safe driving, make sure you perform the following tasks.
1. Wash your vehicle regularly
To remove calcium, prevent corrosion and avoid premature wear and tear, clean your car often.
2. Use the defrost function
If you remove ice from windshield wiper blades with an ice scraper, it can damage the rubber. Also, you should never pour hot water on your wipers because it may crack your windshield. Instead, use your car defrost function to melt ice gradually.
3. Allow the engine to warm up
Warm up the oil and other lubricants before driving to prevent wear and tear on your engine’s moving parts in winter.
4. Check the tire pressure
Cold temperatures can cause tire pressure to drop, and driving on underinflated tires is a safety hazard. To prevent accidents, keep your tires inflated.
5. Top up your fuel tank
To prevent condensation from forming on the inside of your gas tank when it’s cold out, you should keep it relatively full. If moisture makes its way into the fuel lines, you may have trouble starting your car.
6. Check the washer fluid
Using your windshield wipers without washer fluid can wear out the rubber or scratch your windshield. Always keep washer fluid levels high, and keep a spare jug of it in your trunk.
7. Keep your wipers down
Lifting your wiper blades off your windshield when your car is parked has more drawbacks than benefits. Over time, it can damage the springs in the wiper arms and make them less effective.
If you’re concerned about the condition of your vehicle, make an appointment with your local mechanic.
Apps reward drivers for low miles, safe driving
Looking to save money on car insurance? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are now several apps that you can use to reduce car insurance premiums, including ones that track your mileage and driving habits. Using these apps, you can lock in discounts. The apps can be a pain to use, and some may invade your privacy.
If you own a classic car that you occasionally take out for cruises, you’re probably not putting tons of miles on the odometer. Since the vehicle isn’t spending a lot of time on the road, the risk of a car accident and the expensive repair and medical bills it would incur are reduced.
With the right apps and plans, you can get low-mileage insurance plans. Nationwide, for example, offers Pay-Per-Mile SmartMiles insurance. You pay a $60 base rate and then .07 cents per mile driven. If you drive 500 miles or less per month, you could save $30 or more on your monthly premium (compared to an unlimited plan).
Many other insurance companies also offer apps and low-mileage plans. Some use devices installed on your car. Others use a mobile phone app. However, there are some hassles. For example, you might have to take your smartphone out to your car to check the mileage a few times a year.
Some companies also provide discounts for safe drivers, but you may have to install a device that monitors your driving habits. So, your insurance company comes along as a sort of backseat driver.
How to retain your car’s value: 4 things to avoid
A car begins to lose value when it leaves the sales lot. Therefore, you’ll probably want to do everything possible to retain your vehicle’s value. Here are four things to avoid that would otherwise accelerate the devaluation of your car.
1. Poor records. Potential buyers will ask about the car’s history if you ever sell your car. Keep all your receipts, including those from oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups, and significant repairs. Store them all in a single folder so you can easily access everything. It will show buyers that you’re meticulous about car care.
2. A dirty car. The first thing buyers will check when considering your car is its appearance. Remember that you don’t get another chance to make a first impression. A car full of trash, old food, and cigarette butts isn’t very appealing. Vacuum the inside of your vehicle regularly, wash the car mats and wipe the dashboard and console.
3. Aftermarket modifications. You may be tempted to deck out your ride with spoilers, dazzling lights, and rims, but that could limit your potential buyers and decrease the car’s value. Not everyone shares the same tastes as you and may not appreciate your personalized touches.
4. Inadequate maintenance. Cars need care. Failing to change the oil regularly, have the tires rotated, or repair minor issues will shorten your car’s lifespan and decrease its value more quickly.
Get help from an automotive professional to keep your car clean and well-maintained.
What do your dashboard lights mean?
The lights on your dashboard are your car’s way of telling you something’s wrong. Knowing what the lights mean will help you understand what’s at stake.
• Engine. The light that looks like an engine silhouette could indicate a minor problem, like a loose gas cap, but it may indicate a severe issue. If the light comes on and the car drives smoothly, don’t panic. However, it’s best to see a mechanic as soon as possible. Pull over and call a tow truck if the engine light comes on and your vehicle starts operating erratically.
• Battery. Your battery light tells you that your battery may need replacing or recharging. Moreover, it can indicate trouble with the car’s alternator, wiring, or other electronics. Consequently, your car may not start the next time you turn the key.
• Temperature. If you see a thermometer light up, your car is running too hot. You could have low coolant levels, a broken water pump, or a burst coolant hose. Driving an overheated car could cause costly damage. Therefore, visit an auto repair shop as soon as possible.
• Oil. Oil pressure troubles trigger a light that looks like an old-school oil can. The solution could be as simple as adding some oil. However, if that doesn’t work, there could be an issue with the oil pump or a blown piston ring.
• Brakes. A light that looks like an exclamation mark inside a couple of circles means brake trouble. You may have simply left the parking brake on. However, it can also mean your brake pads are worn or have low brake fluid.
No matter what light you see, your local automotive garage can run a diagnostic on your car to determine the problem and offer solutions.