The value of a road improvement to a community and the amount of money that may reasonably and profitably be expended in the construction and main tenance of common roads is a subject the discussion of which leads different persons to widely different con clusions, depending upon the point of view and the data assumed. Any improvement, either in position or surface, that has the effect of increasing the loads that may be taken over a road by a given power lessens the number of loads necessary to carry the traffic, and effects a saving in time and labor of men and teams, which may reasonably be considered to have the same money value as the time used in the work. This has been discussed in Art. 5 and is the most direct and obvious financial gain which may result from road improvement.
Saving in cost of transportation is not, however, the most important advantage to be gained by road improvement, and if it were the only one, in many instances, the expenditure of money necessary to secure better roads could not be justified as econom ically profitable.
It is in wet and muddy weather that improved surfaces have their chief advantage over earth roads, and the main object of introducing hard and imperme able surfaces is to eliminate the period when ordinary earth roads are apt to be muddy and practically useless for the purposes of transportation, and to substitute a road that may be used at any season. Systematic drainage has a similar object. To a farm ing community the economic advantage of a road uniformly good at all seasons is greater than might appear at first glance. It may in many instances amount practically to a saving equal to nearly the entire cost of hauling by permitting the work to be done at times when other work is impossible, thus making men and teams available for other duty in good weather. The ability to use a road at any season is also of advantage in the independence of weather that will make it possible to take advantage of the condition of the markets in the disposal of produce or purchase of supplies. These advantages may be of greater or less importance according to the character of the traffic carried by the road. In general,
while they are indeterminate and can not be expressed in money value, they are evidently of more economic importance than the saving effected in costs of trans portation.
The nature of the country roads affects the towns to which the country is tributary as well as the country itself. They directly affect trade in seasons of bad weather, both in regulating the demand for supplies for country consumption and in controlling the supply of produce which is available for market; indirectly also the prosperity of a rural district means that of its trade center. The improvement of country roads is, therefore, of direct economic value to towns into which they may lead, but this, like most of the other advan tages of good roads, is dependent upon data which can not be accurately estimated.
All of .these points must be considered in any at tempt to arrive at any proper conception of the advan tages of a proposed improvement. In any particular case the local interests will determine the relative importance of the various elements, and a careful analysis of the trade that does pass over the road and that would pass over it under different conditions will enable a judgment to be formed as to the value of improvements. The attempt to base an estimate of the economic value of a proposed road improvement upon the prospect of direct financial return is, however, apt to be misleading and to leave out of account the most important benefits of such improvements. The social and educational benefits . mentioned in Art. 4 are of highest importance and have also an economic value in their effect upon the desirability of a locality as a place of residence. The economic importance of good roads is shown in their effect upon land values, which are largely affected by them.
The money spent in road improvement is to be considered as an investment, which will return annual interest to the community in reduced costs of trans portation, greater freedom of traffic and travel, and in the increased comfort and happiness of the people.