Good roads are more than my hobby; they are my religion.
– Sam Hill
119th Annual Conference
Marcus Whitman Hotel
Walla Walla, WA
Sam Hill Mansion
Maryhill Loops road, c. 1930.
In the late 1800s very few roads in Washington were more than dirt trails graded by farmers. There were no paved roads and no planned road or highway system. In 1898, a successful railroad executive arrived in Washington, having recently quit his job to pursue ventures that would be for the good of humankind. That man was Sam Hill and his message was clear. An organized system of quality roads was necessary for farmers and the overall economy. But many were skeptical of Mr. Hills motives and his campaign was slow to start. In 1899, he invited about 100 men that were in agreement with his cause to meet in Spokane to form a state organization promoting good roads building. Only 14 attended, but the Good Roads Association was founded.
After continually lobbying the legislature for several years, under suspicion of many prominent farmers and businessmen who believed the group's cause was a charade, the associations hard work began to pay off in 1905. The legislature created a highway department, and by 1907 the Good Roads Association had succeeded in getting the state to pay for a dozen state highways and half of the approved county road. In 1911, one of the founding principles of the association was voted in, declaring their support of a highway system to be built, maintained, and managed by the state, rather than the counties.
While we have come a long way since the late 1800s, we cannot stop the campaign for good roads. The Washington State Good Roads & Transportation Association continues to promote good roads and transportation in our state. The viability of our transportation system is important to every Washingtonian regardless of their occupation or political affiliation. Our membership is diverse and includes individual concerned citizens, cities and counties, contractors, engineering firms, labor organizations, transit, transportation organizations, WSDOT, and more. Each brings their view of the needs, successes, and failures within our state's transportation system. These views are shared, discussed, and a common message is delivered from WSGRTA to the key players involved in funding, constructing, and maintaining this system. Join the WSGRTA today to help make a difference!