The Good Roads Association

In Washington State, where dense forest growth makes highway transportation more difficult than other parts of the country, roads have always been important. The Cowlitz Convention in 1853 wanted to divide the Oregon Territory, which at the time included Washington, and stressed the need for improved travel. In an article for the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Oscar Winther quotes a Cowlitz Convention attendee as saying "That there is now about three thousand souls North of the Columbia[yet] it is impossible for them to prosper in commerce or advance one step in the improvement of roads and highways." Not surprisingly, the new Washington Territorial government first enacted ten new road measures in 1854.

A renewal of interest in road building again originated in Washington State, the most troublesome of areas. Samuel Hill, who made his wealth working with the Great Northern Railroad, came to Washington from Minnesota in 1898 and founded the Washington State Good Roads Association, dedicated to the construction of well-built roads for greater public accessibility. Of the 100 people Hill was able to coax into agreeing to attend the first convention in Spokane only a handful actually did. Among those 14 original members at the first meeting two were representatives of Bellingham, R.L. Cline and prominent lumber mill owner J.J. Donovan.

The Good Roads Association grew after the first meeting's success. The group continued to meet annually and worked on drafting a bill to introduce a statewide system of roads. Their theory of a good road, as explained by Donovan, was that it would connect one county seat with all others, and join together the already existing principal trade centers along the most feasible route.

Samuel Hill, the association’s founder, was also involved in construction of another form in the early Twentieth century. Hill constructed the Peace Arch, a public monument to the friendly relations between the United States and Canada located at the Blaine border crossing north of Bellingham.

In 1913, the group was finally able to vote in favor of introducing their Good Roads bill into Washington State government. Washington soon implemented the act, instituting a hierarchical system of state highways: primary, secondary and county. Primary State Highway 1, or Highway 99, was one of the roads initiated by the bill. Three years later, in 1916, Washington’s highway system received a Federal boost with the passage of the Federal Aid Road Act to construct rural roads for better post delivery and other purposes.

J.J. Donovan continued to represent the interests of Bellingham throughout his involvement with the Good Roads Association, and was even the organization's president in 1920. At the groups convention in 1927 Donovan gave a lecture discussing the Association's progress and specifically confirming their selection of using concrete as the roadbed. Donovan confirmed the groups aim that, "Every State road is in the broad sense a farm to market road." On behalf of Whatcom County Donovan stated "Whatcom County connected every village by paved roads at its expense and waits for the State to pave the second half of Pacific Highway 1 (Highway 99) within its boundaries."

By 1928 the state of Washington had spent the past 18 months paving Pacific Highway 1/Highway 99, completing the 69 miles needing work between Blaine and Ferndale and Everett and Seattle. By 1928 Highway 99 would be the most continuous and quick route through the state. Used by most north-south travelers west of the Cascade Mountains.

Building a Military Road| The Start of The Good Roads Association | Highway 99

The Route of Highway 99 Through Bellingham | Samish Way | East Maple and Ellis Street

Holly Street | Prospect and Dupont | Elm Street and Northwest Avenue

West Maplewood | References and Attribution



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