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Thousands of miles of toll roads, surfaced with wooden planks, were built in the United States in the late 1840s. Plank roads were superior in every way to the dirt roads they replaced for access to canal and rail shipping points. The new roads provided more reliable, all-weather service, allowed faster transport and heavier loads, and caused fewer mechanical breakdowns than dirt roads caused. Demand was so great that the explosion of new road construction was called “plank road fever.” The economic premise for plank roads was that the roads would last for about eight years before they had to be resurfaced, according to civil engineers of that time. When it became clear that the planking wore out after only three or four years, plank road fever ended as quickly as it had begun and became a part of transportation history by the mid-1850s.

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