MBTA celebrates 70:The whys of transportation
The first Maine Transportation Conference in 1950 asked all the big questions
In 1950, the Maine Good Roads Association was still a young organization (it had been founded just 11 years before) and many of the events on its annual calendar were just getting started. On December 15, 1950, the first Maine Highway Conference was held on the campus of the University of Maine.
At the first Maine Transportation Conference, there was a keynote address by University of Maine Professor H. W. Leavitt titled “Why Highways?” That kicked off a two-day program of presentations that, in turn, made the case for rail and marine transport, as well. That first conference also featured a “technical track” – during which 60 students, transportation professionals and advocates heard about the latest trends in highway and bridge construction and materials testing.
The conference was sponsored by the Maine State Highway Commission, the University of Maine and the freshly formed Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Maine Good Roads was a major supporter of the event, with many of its members attending. In fact, the December issue of The Maine Trail published the full list of attendees. Included were Max Wilder and Lucius Barrows, two early Maine Good Roads members who continue to have a lasting legacy on transportation in Maine.
Every year, the MBTA presents the Max L. Wilder Award to the individual voted best Maine Transportation Conference speaker – the award is named for Wilder, the state’s bridge engineer from 1929 until 1962. Wilder was well known in his day for his dynamic speeches and thoughtful writing on the subject of bridges and transportation.
Lucius Barrows was the Maine State Highway Commission’s chief engineer from 1928 to 1955. Today, the MBTA annually awards a scholarship in his name to engineering students who have expressed an interest in pursuing a career in transportation.
Other interesting transportation facts from 1950:
The Maine Transportation Conference fell on rough times during the early 1990s when MaineDOT budgets, hard hit by the last recession, had to cancel the conference. Soon afterward, then-MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner Alden Small asked the MBTA to become co-sponsor the event and help with staffing and financial support. MBTA has co-sponsored the conference with MaineDOT and the Maine Section ASCE ever since.
The Maine State Highway Commission had jurisdiction over 9,300 miles of roads, the majority of them gravel.
Between 1913 and 1950, only 800 miles of Maine’s gravel roads had been built to modern standards called for by the State Highway Commission.
In 1950s dollars, The Maine Trail estimated it would take a whopping $8 million annually to properly treat those roads (far more than the annual State Highway Commission maintenance budget).
The service life of a properly treated gravel road was “about 15 years before maintenance and expenditures became excessive.”
In 1950, 1.9 million vehicles traveled on the Maine Turnpike, an increase of 15 percent over 1949. (Today more than 61 million vehicles travel the turnpike every year.)