Getting Out of the Mud: How Alabama Built Roads that “Started Somewhere and Ended Somewhere”

- Olliff, Marty
Spurred by Governor Joseph F. Johnston’s failures to involve the State of Alabama in building decent roads, men and women of Alabama’s emerging urban middle class organized the good roads movement. At first, they propagandized for counties to improve market roads, then advocated for roads that linked towns in a highway network. In 1907 the Alabama Good Roads Association secured a constitutional amendment to use state funds for road improvement, and in 1911 the Alabama Highway Commission began managing a small program of grants to counties. Good Roads advocates secured federal funds through Senator John H. Bankhead’s Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, and after 1921 the state and federal governments worked closely to improve the state highway network and the federal interstate highway system. This presentation discusses the maneuvers, publicity stunts, agitation, and political decisions that culminated in the roads we enjoy – and curse – today.