Editor’s Note:  Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and it’s for that reason we present this interesting bit of history, which we believe is as logical now as it was 96 years ago. An article in the July 1921 issue of “ARIZONA HIGHWAYS” magazine quoted federal official Thomas H. MacDonald, on his strong views about competition.  Mr. MacDonald served for 34 years as the Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads, forerunner of today’s Federal Highway Administration.  The article is presented in its entirety.

“In a statement just issued [by] Thomas H. MacDonald Chief of the United States Bureau of Public Roads  deplores the tendency that has been developing in some States to pass legislation governing conditions of bond issues and specifying one type of material to be used in highway construction.

“Mr. MacDonald urges open competition and more careful consideration of cost and local conditions affecting construction before the type of pavement is determined upon.

Thomas H. McDonald, BPR Chief, from 1919 to 1953. (Photo: Federal Highway Administration.)

“‘Granting that the preparation of the roadbed has been properly done,’ says Mr. MacDonald, “Many kinds of road surfaces will give excellent service.  The element of time is important.  There are so many miles of roads to be constructed and their cost will be so enormous that the most careful and detailed study of each road project must be made to provide, at the lowest possible cost, roads which will give satisfactory service and which can be maintained without undue depreciation under the traffic which is to use them.  Many times the question has been asked the bureau: What type of road is best.  The answer is always the same: There is not one best kind of type of road surface.'”