This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In the preceding sections of this chapter permanent and occasional subventions to charity and to reformatory institutions, the permanent grants in aid and the occasional subventions to education have been dealt with. The tendency of the period was to make the grants permanent. Those to the institutions for defectives and to the House of Refuge soon became permanent, and in the case of education, the common school subvention and the subvention to academies, seminaries, and colleges, shows the same tendency at work.
With respect to highway maintenance, however, the case was different, and there was, so far as can now be determined, no tendency to substitute a permanent grant for occasional aids. The explanation of this is partly to be found in the nature of the service aided. The greatest expense for roads in a new country, or in an old one that is just awakening to the need of improved highways, comes when the roads and bridges are first constructed. Subsequent maintenance expenses were, in the days of slowly moving horse-drawn vehicles, relatively light. Hence there was no especial need for assistance in keeping the roads in repair. Another reason for the occasional grant rather than the permanent subsidy was that the service was largely of local interest. With the exception of the turnpiked roads, which it was hoped would serve as feeders for the canals and navigable rivers, no one but the people in the immediate neighborhood was interested in the state of the highways in a given township or county. As we have already seen, one of the strongest reasons for the establishment of the permanent suvbentions was the fact that the services aided were of state-wide interest. This was true in the case of the schools for defectives, the House of Refuge, and especially the educational institutions. There was no such common interest in road building at this time. Hence the grants could not command the same support from the common treasury.
The policy of making grants to assist the localities in the construction of highways or bridges in particularly difficult regions, which was begun in the last decade of the eighteenth century, was continued into this period. The type of grant was changed in no important particulars.
The amount given usually ranged from $200 to $600. Control and audit were, as a rule, by the regular county auditors or, in few instances, by the court of quarter sessions. *123
In a few cases the appropriation acts provided that the payment of the state grant should be complete only in case the localities raised, either by local taxation or by subscription, an additional amount for the improvement contemplated. *124 The state also continued, as during the earlier period, to appoint commissioners to lay out new roads and to assess the cost upon the counties in which they were located. *125 The extravagant years of 1836 to 1838 do not seem to have produced the same revival of the grants for roads that was observed with respect to other services. Perhaps this was because the state was becoming fairly well provided with highways and because the incorporated turnpike companies were supposed to look after the main roads. By 1844 practically no payments were made to aid in local road-building and maintenance.
123 See a grant to the commissioners of Berks County, Act 4 April, 1837, P.L. pp. 353-354.
124 See, for example, Act 13 April, 1827, P.L. p. 256.
125 Act 5 April, 1826, P.L. pp. 208-212; Act 14 April, 1827, P.L. p. 400; Act 1 April, 1830, P.L. p. 137.