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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 19, 1909

Samuel Hill Criticises Neglect of One While Millions Are Spent on the Other.


Prospective King of Belgians Interested in Roadbuilders' Convention, tobe Held in Brussels.

Special Cable to The New York Times.

LONDON, Dec. 18.—Samuel Hill, son-in-law of James J. Hill and President of the American Roadbuilders' Association, sailed on the Lusitania to-day after concluding arrangements for the second international roadbuilders' convention, to be held in Brussels on July 31, 1910.  While in Brussels on Wednesday Mr. Hill had an hour an a half's talk with Prince Albert, the heir to the throne soon to be King Albert, desspite the fact that King Leopold was then not expected to live.  Prince Albert, Mr. Hill says, is keenly interested in the work of building good roads, which he regards as the greatest possible national asset.

Last year's convention was held in Paris, and 2,151 delegates, representing all countries, were present.  Only twenty of these were from the United States, which Mr. Hill describes as a calamitous state of affairs.  Interest has been so awakened in the matter since then, however, that arrangements are being made for a visit to Brussels in July of two prominent men from each State of the Union, as well as from every province of Canada.

"The most important point in connection with the Brussels convention," said Mr. Hill to The New York Times correspondent, "is that special invitations are being sent out by Prince Albert to every State in the Union, asking them to send delegates.  Prince Albert has also arranged for the English section of the conference.

"Prince Albert is a very remarkable man.  He is a trained engineer, both civil and mechanical, and the inventor of a material for roads which withstands the wear of automobiles."

Mr. Hill thinks the Panama Canal and other waterways in course of construction in America unimportant in comparison with the question of primary highway transportation.  In the matter of roads he says:

"Our own country ranks to-day with Turkey.  It is further behind in this respect than any other civilized country in the world, and yet it is spending fabulous amounts in opening up waterways for the purpose of building up foreign markets, paying no heed to the problem of how the farmers are going to get their produce to the markets.  I am glad to say the farmers are beginning to see the great importance of the matter, and when I tell you that a man like Gov. Hughes is more interested in this subject than any other man in the United States, you will see the indications are that our great country will not rest content under the stigma of being the worst roaded country in the civilized world."

The Federal Government, Mr. Hill admits, is impotent in the matter, not owning a single mile of road.  The onus is on the State Legislatures.  He advocates establishing a chair of roadbuilding in all the important colleges of the country, especially at West Point, where young men can learn practical roadbuilding.  This has already been done in Mr. Hill's own State of Washington, where 200 young men are taking the course this year.  The State Legislatures should also give financial support, as in the case of Washington, which voted one-third of its entire revenue for roadbuilding this year.

"In five years," said Mr. Hill, "Washington will have the best roads in the United States.  This is my one ambition, and we will accomplish it, for we have the support of the farmers."

Mr. Hill as personally inspected all the famous highways of Europe, and was mortified to hear accounts of the condition of American roads brought glaringly before the world by the foreign competitors in the Paris Matin-New York Times automobile race from New York to Paris.

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