From 1938 on, the Division of Engineering and Construction made a study of what would constitute a construction program that would most adequately meet the needs of any unemployment situation in the state and provide various communities with the most essential construction. For the purpose of study, the various projects were divided into the following nine categories:
- Highways, roads, and streets.
- Public utilities (sewers, water systems, etc.).
- Public buildings.
- Water conservation (low and earth dams, flood control).
- Recreation facilities.
- Airports and airways.
- Community sanitation.
- Agricultural rubber and metal scrap collections.
- Engineering surveys.
Highway, road, and street projects, during the entire life of the WPA, employed by far the greatest percentage of workers on the program. They also employed more diversified skills in addition to common labor than any other category. All classes of roads, streets, and highways were improved, these improvements ranging from the improvement of berms and side ditches to construction of the latest up-to-date heavy traffic highways. Improvements also included the drainage of these highways, the building of culverts and bridges, and, in cities and towns, the construction of curbs and walks.
The outstanding project in the state operating in this category was the state highway Project sponsored by the State Highway Department and set up to operate in any county in the state. The sponsors were willing to have WPA operate units of this project in those counties where the need was the greatest. In addition to the state highway project, it was found necessary to operate a county-wide road project sponsored by the county commissioners in each county of the state. During the time that the unemployment need was greatest, the city street program operated in almost every city and town in the state.
Public utilities projects were found to be extremely useful in that they employed a greater number of skilled workers than road projects and furnished larger sponsors' contributions. Work done on sewers and sewage treatment plants exceeded the work done on water systems. All classes of sewers were built, ranging from small laterals servicing the residents of one block to systems for entire cities and towns. (video clip, 715k) Treatment plants were built ranging from small primary systems to large plants servicing cities of 50,000. These larger plants were almost entirely constructed during that period when WPA had a large number of skilled men on its rolls.
Public building projects were important during the period that unemployment was the greatest in this state. During this time when a great number of men experienced in the building trades were on our rolls, many public buildings were constructed. These projects were not found to be useful in the employment of any large number of unskilled workers, but they were necessary and useful in striking a proper balance in the program as a whole between the skilled and unskilled labor. Sponsors' contributions in this category far exceeded those in any other.
Water conservation and flood control projects, during the time that unemployment in this state was at its maximum, employed a great number of unskilled workers and performed much useful work. As the program developed, however, it was found that, while small earth dams could be built almost entirely with hand labor at a cost not out of proportion to their value to the public, larger earth dams called for mechanized equipment. Dams were constructed to furnish water supply for the larger cities and to provide means of flood control. These projects, generally, since their sponsors' contributions were low, were used only during those times that employment was needed for great numbers and other projects were not available in the particular locality.
Projects for the construction of recreation facilities were found to be excellent for the employment of large numbers of common laborers, as well as a small number of skilled. The most important of these projects were in parks, ranging from small parks in the rural communities to the larger state parks on which thousands of men were employed. Included in such construction were swimming pools, roadways, pathways, rustic bridges, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and various other facilities for public recreation. Much grading, seeding, and planting was done. A number of fish hatcheries were also constructed under the sponsorship of the State Conservation Department.
An outstanding example of a recreation facility created under the auspices of the Indiana WPA is the Evansville Community Center.
Airports and airways projects were important in their use of the unemployed and also from the standpoint of benefit to the general public. With the exception of airports constructed by the Army and Navy, most of the important airports in the state were built or reconstructed by the WPA. (video clip, 630k) Assistance in constructing a number of the service airports was also provided. At no time was WPA in a position to accept all the projects of this type that were presented.
(Source: Final Report of the Indiana Work Projects Administration, John K. Jennings, State Administrator, March, 1943.)
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