University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Smart, John W. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Vol. 27, No. 3 (December 1922)

Isabella, N. M.
Patrol maintenance in Wisconsin,   p. 43

Page 43

The WISCONSIN ENGINEER                                                  
                    By N. M. ISABELLA, c '14
Assistant Maintenance Engineer, Wisconsin Highway Commission
  Previous to 19i8 little was done in the line of high-
way maintenance in this state. In fact, most of the
states had done little maintenance work on a system-
atic basis. In 19I7 the Wisconsin legislature passed a
law known as the State Trunk Highway Law, wherein
it provided for the laying out of a 5,000 mile state
trunk highway system and for the maintenance of this
system. This system was to connect all the county
seats in the state, and all other cities of 5,000 popula-
tion or over. While there had been some maintenance
done on very short stretches of highways in various
sections of the state, there had been nothing done in a
systematic way whereby through routes were main-
tained during the travel season.  The State Trunk
Highway Law provided that the system of 5,000 miles
was to be maintained adequately during about seyen or
eight months in the year.
  The Wisconsin Highway Commission adopted what
is now commonly known as the patrol system of main-
tenance. Rather than to operate with the state as a
unit, they decided to carry on this maintenance work
through each of the 71 counties. The system was di-
vided into sections varying from six to ten miles in
length. During the first year there were 56i sections
on the 5,000 mile system . Each of these sections was
placed under the supervision of a patrolman. This man
was responsible for the condition of his section for the
entire season.  The patrolman in each case was ob-
liged to sign a contract for the season and furnish* a
bond of $500 to insure proper care of equipment turned
over to him by the county. Each patrolman furnished
his own team and wagon. The grader, planer, and
other tools were furnished by the county.  Counties
having a large number of patrolmen placed a man in
charge of the patrolmen and it was his duty to see that
the maintenance work was properly carried on in the
county. The work of the county was checked by the
division office of the Highway Commission. In each di-
vision office a man in charge of maintenance made reg-
ular inspections of all patrol sections in the division and
reported the condition to the main office. These re-
ports in turn were tabulated and a record was kept
of the condition of each and every patrol section dur-
ing the maintenance season.
    in order to provide adequate funds for the main-
 tenance of this system, the legislature provided that
 approximately 75 per cent of the total automobile li-
 cense fees be turned into a fund called the State Trunk
 Highway Fund, and that this amount be set aside for
 the maintenance of the State Trunk Highway System.
 The funds were allotted to the various counties in pro-
 portion as the mileage contained in each county was to
    * This is the second of a series of three articles dealing
  with the problem of financing highway work in Wisconsin.
the total mileage in the state. In i918 this averaged
$I75 a mile. To this amount many of the counties
added special appropriations for more extensive work
than could be done under the amounts allotted from the
State Trunk Highway Fund.    Shortly after the be-
ginning of the i9i8 state trunk highway maintenance
operations, many of the counties adopted county trunk
systems which were to be maintained under the same
plan as the state trunk highways. The sentiment for
maintained roads grew to such an extent during the
first year that a little over 2,000 miles were taken over
by the counties for patrol maintenance.
  The state trunk highway act also provided for the
marking and signing of the 5,000 mile system. This
was done early in i9i8. The routes were numbered
consecutively, beginning with io. The beginning of the
routes was either in the eastern or southern section of
the state, and they extended northerly and westerly.
Markers designating the routes were placed on tele-
phone poles and culvert end walls; also at each mile
there was erected a standard mile post bearing the
standard marker and mile number. The marking sys-
tem has probably given Wisconsin more publicity as a
good roads state than has any other thing and many
states have adopted similar systems.  Through this
marking system and patrol maintenance, Wisconsin has
attracted people from practically every state in the
Union during the summer months.
   At the beginning of the maintenance work in i918
 most of the highways were narrow and had very little
 improvements on them, other than the state aid con-
 struction work done since 1912. These parcels of con-
 struction work were distributed scatteringly over the
 state and did not help the situation much from the
 standpoint of through travel. At the end of the i9i8
 maintenance season a great mileage of the state and
 county highways, which in previous years were merely
 trails, had been widened and, through patrol and gang
 maintenance, made fairly safe for travel.  The first
 year of maintenance made a strong impression upon the
 people of this state as well as upon the people of other
    In I919 the legislature added 2500 miles to the State
 Trunk Highway System. By this addition practically
 every town of any size was connected with other towns
 by a state trunk highway, and, because of the well
 maintained highways, it was possible to travel from
 one town to another with a fair degree of comfort.
 The county systems also were increased by the various
 county boards throughout the state. During the year
 i919 about 3,500 miles were added to the maintained
 county systems, making a total of about 5,000 miles of
 county trunks. The roads taken over by the various
                   (Continued on page 45)

Go up to Top of Page