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BANISH THE ANCIENT TOLL BRIDGES
They are denounced as commerce killers and relics of a bygone day
BY MELVIN T. BENDER
Counsel for New York State Automobile Association
The toll bridge like many another institution of the past is doomed to go. Whatever may have been the justification for toll bridges they are now generally condemned as obstructions to business and nuisances to
pedestrians and vehicular traffic alike. Some of these bridges still remain in New York State, and the Legislature has provided a method through a bill, introduced by Assemblyman John G. Malone of Albany, by which they may be abolished. Mr. Bender, as counsel for the Mr. Bender, as counsel for the New York State Automobile Association, is well qualified to speak on the subject.- EDITOR.
Savages made paths like our old American Indian trails and except for these old trails the country was one vast howling wilderness.
Melvin T. Bender
With the advent of the horse the old foot trail was slowly widened to accommodate the horse, and this continued until the twowheeled cart came into use, when, of course, the trail at last took on the semblance of a road.
The road from that time has been steadily improved and widened until to-day it carries huge auto trucks with trailers which look more like railroad trains than like the old two-wheeled vehicle that first ran over the roads.
Now, a road is not built for a selected few, the rich people for example, but is intended for use by everyone, rich and poor alike. Roads have generally been laid out as a result of some action by the State. The old king's highways bear witness to this.
While in theory this road making was a State function, as a practical matter the government in "ye olden time" was so poverty stricken that it could not raise the funds required to lay out the necessary highways and bridges, hence private companies were encouraged to take up the work.
This condition continued down to a comparatively recent period and many of our great transcontinental railways even were built after the method of some of the old toll bridges. The government resorted to various and sundry financial schemes to provide railways, although in reality railways are simply a special type of highways for rapid travel.
The lack of wealth compelled the government to fall back on private enterprise in the effort to construct highways. The only way private enterprise could be made to help was to make it profitable for individuals to interest themselves in bridge building.
Road companies and bridge companies were organized and chartered by the State and these organizations were granted the right to build roads and bridges and to collect toll, so that those who financed these enterprises would find it profitable.
Because of the uncertainty as to the return on these investments it was necessary to give these companies very considerate treatment and more liberal charters than would be granted now.
As soon as the toll roads and bridges were constructed in any considerable number many people got it into their heads that they ought not to have to pay toll and that
they therefore would not pay toll. The inevitable result of this new theory was the very rapid construction of side roads or highways which started from some place on a toll road on one side of a toll gate and ended at another place on the other side of the same toll gate. These side roads, or cut-offs, were built to cheat the toll road companies from tolls and were very popular. These side roads were sometimes called "Shun pikes."
Shun pikes were not the only trouble the toll road concerns had to deal with. The public authorities themselves soon began to build roads which ran parallel to the old toll roads, and, of course, every tightwad in the locality used these parallel roads regardless of their condition, and wherever such roads were in anything like even fair condition the vast majority of highway travelers used them.
The toll companies suffered such a pronounced loss of revenue from new competitors that they were constrained to take the whole question into court. After a good deal of hard-fought litigation, the courts finally decided that the government had the right to build such parallel roads provided it could be shown that the public need required such construction. But if the purpose of building such parallel roads was to avoid the payment of tolls, and if the toll road was in good enough condition for public travel, then the government could not build such parallel roads.
Gradually the old toll gates have been abolished until the only toll gate we can see is one that is in some museum where the old toll gate is looked on as a queer specimen of antiquity. The toll bridge has hung on longer because it is more expensive and difficult to build parallel bridges than it was to build parallel roads.
When the New York State Automobile association and the Albany Automobile club began to grow both in numbers and strength,
one of the first projects taken up seriously was the question of doing away with the collection of tolls, and in particular the elimination of tolls on the East Greenbush bridge at Albany.
In this fight B. R. Lansing of Rensselaer was conspicuous both for his splendid fighting qualities and for his persistence. With his assistance a bill was passed through both houses of the legislature which would have done away with the toll nuisance, but this bill was vetoed by the governor.
Each year more interest was aroused, chambers of commerce and other civic bodies joined in the campaign, until last year the Albany chamber of commerce took a leading part in conjunction with the automobile organizations in the effort to pass a bill permitting the State to acquire the bridge.
This bill in effect provided that where a toll bridge is a connecting link between two State routes, or is a part of a State route, the board of supervisors of a county where the bridge is situated may petition the State commission of highways for the acquisition of such bridge.
When this is done the State commission of highways shall investigate and determine whether the public interest demands the acquisition of such bridge by the State. If the highway commission approves, then the attorney-general must be notified, and if sufficient money has been appropriated by the State then the value of the bridge is appraised.
This bill was passed, and the boards of supervisors of Albany and Rensselaer counties at once passed resolutions asking for the acquisition by the State of the toll bridges crossing the Hudson river at Albany, Troy, Watervliet and Green Island.
The estimates filed with the petitions placed the entire cost of acquiring these four bridges at $1,890,000; and of these four bridges the highest cost was that for
the East Greenbush bridge, connecting Albany and Rensselaer, which was fixed at $750,000.
On Friday, November 16, 1917, a public hearing was held in the Assembly chamber by the State Highway Commissioner on the question before him, which was whether the public interest demands the acquisition of these bridges, or any of them. The crowd of speakers and representatives of various public bodies filled the Assembly chamber to overflowing. The decision of the highway commission will be announced later, and here the matter rests for the present.
Many good citizens have pondered over this subject and, like good old Wouter Von Twiller, have said, “Why hurry." Let the matter rest, it's always been so. These people probably are influenced by the wellknown fact that in matters of highway policy the State of New York has always lived from hand to mouth, and the hand does not always reach the mouth.
As a matter of fact, it is time the State adopted a definite and comprehensive plan for State highway work which shall be adhered to year in and year out — such a policy would, for example, contemplate the elimination each year of one or more toll bridges until every one of these pests are obliterated. It would also involve the elimination each year of a certain number of dangerous grade crossings.
If these subjects and others of a like nature were handled in a logical way so that one settled policy could be adopted and carried out portion by portion, from year to year, a definite point could be fixed upon when all these obstructions to commercial intercourse would be eliminated.
The reasons why the State should purchase these particular toll bridges and do away with the toll nuisance are so numerous that only a few can be given.
In the first place, the State of New York is the only territory in the United States
through which the vast traffic must pass, which monthly and yearly goes from those states west of New York into New England, and from New England to the states west of New York and the only suitable routes for heavy travel are over the four toll bridges which are now the subject of investigation by the State highway commission. This means that hundreds of thousands of people who wish to go from one part of the country to the other must pay toll for the privilege of using the great through routes, and it is equally obvious that if any routes in all this country should be free for any one, those routes are the through routes which carry the heaviest travel.
In the second place, the existence of such toll bridges on the routes carrying the heaviest commerce of this country is against public policy.
In the third place, the existence of the toll bridges is a continual nuisance resented by every one who has to use the bridges, and is a reflection on the State of New York for its lack of public enterprise in permitting these relics of a different age and time to exist to the annoyance and detriment of all the citizens of the country who have to cross our borders into New England.
The Legislature, in working out the present plan of eliminating the toll bridge question, has in fact stamped with its approval this scheme, and has, one might say, almost suggested that this is the way to go about it, and that we should go about it promptly, and they have also in effect said that these particular toll bridges should be eliminated for the reason that when the Legislature passed the bill saying that if there were any toll bridges. that complied with the requisites hereinbefore specified in this article, such bridges might be eliminated in this way, they must have had in mind, of course, that there were some bridges that came under this rule or requirement, else there would have been no sense in passing the bill. If any bridges in
the State come under this requirement, certainly these bridges do. Therefore, this plan of elimination for these toll bridges has in effect had the approval of the Legislature.
Of course, almost everyone now realizes that toll bridges are commerce killers, and as such have no place in this advanced stage of our economic development. Then, too, unless these bridges are acquired under this plan the whole question is almost certain to become a political one, and when that time comes the matter will not be handled in the sensible and scientific manner now possible.
In addition to these reasons of great public interest, there are many others. For example, in the town of Colonie, adjoining the city of Albany, there are some ten thousand people with no market for produce. The result is that the bulk of these people market their products in Troy and Albany and purchase whatever they need in these cities. Yet to do so they are forced to pay toll each day coming and going. The tendency is to strangle all commercial intercourse.
Now that the war is engaging our attention, the government arsenal at Watervliet, between Albany and Troy, is being enlarged, and it is thought there will be 10,000 men employed there eventually. Most of these men will spend their spare time in Troy and Albany.
The great majority of cities have already signified their hearty approval of this plan of acquiring these bridges by the State so that the whole question is one that should be given the most careful and cordial consideration by the proper State authorities.
Let us hope that these national traffic points will soon be relieved of these ancient barriers to commerce. Edwin Duffey, State Edwin Duffey, State commissioner of highways, after a hearing, has recommended that the State acquire the two bridges at Albany and Troy.
MARK TWAIN ON PLAGIARISM
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that "plagiarism" farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul- let us go farther and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances - is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas, there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men - but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify.... In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes's poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dictation, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my "Innocents Abroad" with. Then years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass - no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your "Plagiarism Court"; and so when I said, "I know now where I stole it, but whom did you steal it from?" he said, "I don't remember; I only know I stole it from somebody because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anybody who had."
TIMBER MEN ANNOUNCE A WAR POLICY
Pledge themselves and their property to the government and reiterate
a desire for legislation to prevent loss and waste in State forests
BY PROFESSOR A. B. RECKNAGEL
Forester to the Empire State Forest Products Association
VERY loyal American citizen is subordinating all personal consideration to the service of the government and the conduct of the great war in which we are involved," says President George N. Ostrander in his opening address at the recent convention of the forest products association at Utica, a meeting characterized by a seriousness of purpose befitting the times.
A. B. Recknagel
"Unless the principles of our government are to prevail, the great industries which we are striving to develop and protect may not be worth the effort. The American business man has responded unselfishly and generously, and is conducting his business for the purpose of assisting the government in the conduct of the war, rather than for the normal purpose of profit.'
In a similar vein, speaking of the economic aspects of reforestation, director James W. Toumey of the Yale forest school, says: "The strength of Germany in the present war has to a large measure been due to her vast reserves of forest capital. If France had not had a forest capital adequate to supply the numerous needs of her vast armies, the powers of central Europe would be in Paris today.
"The world has discovered in this war that forests are necessary for national defense as well as necessary for industrial development and progress.
'No country in its progress from barbarism and primitive needs to culture and industrial development, has been able to maintain its forests in a productive condition without organized effort and the execution of extensive plans for reforestation.
Although the immediate future supply of wood in this country is secure without giving special attention to reforestation, it is inevitable that it will be deficient both in quality and amount if we do not, as a nation and as individuals, give more attention now to reforestation and improvement of second growth. One hundred years hence we do not want to say as England is now saying: Our idle lands must no longer be left unproductive. We must secure that area of home woods which present day necessities make necessary, which the utilization of our national resources and thrift in all departments of life demand and which our posterity is likely to sorely need.' We, the United States, do not want to write these words a hundred years hence. We need not if we begin now to work for the orderly development of the second growth, if we have foresight and sense enough now to plan for the kinds and amounts of timber that we are to cut fifty, seventy-five and a hundred years from now.
"The protection and development of the second growth ought to be a prominent question in national, state and communal councils today, while we have abundance of wood. wood. A crop that requires from seventyfive to a hundred and twenty-five years to reach economic maturity, must be planned for long in advance.
"I believe that the future of American forestry depends to a far greater extent than