Road surfacing works, Żory-Rybnik-Dębicz, 1933.

After regaining independence, more than 4,000 km of macadam roads, that is, nearly 10% of the entire system that became Poland’s
legacy taken over from the invaders, had to be reconstructed. Approximately 40% of the system, that is, more than 18,000 km of roads were surfaced with fine-grained road metal. So, they definitely needed a general overhaul.

A significant achievement of Polish engineering thought was the construction of the world’s first welded road bridge. The construction process was preceded by theoretical studies and tests. Based on the results of studies and the intuition of Prof. Bryła (the man behind the concept) in 1928 the bridge across the Słudwia river, near Łowicz, could be erected. The structure consists of two main trusses with a straight beam at the base and a parabolic one on top. The span is 27 m, and the height 4.30 m. Between truss axes the bridge is 6.76 m wide, and the truss clearance is 6.20 m. Sidewalks measuring 1.50 m in width are located on both sides of the bridge. The main bearing trusses are joined by transverse and horizontal stays at the bottom, with no stiffening elements on top. Elements of the truss are  rigidly attached to the main beam and traverses and the connections are additionally reinforced with trapezoid sheet.

In the period between the two World Wars, Professor Melchior Władysław Nestorowicz played a leading role in Polish road engineering. He was born in 1880 in Siedlce.

Road paving, ca. 1930.
Kerb laying, Żory-Rybnik-Dębicz road, 1933.
Road surfacing works, Żory-Rybnik-Dębicz, 1933.

In 1904 he graduated from Emperor Nicolas II University of Technology in Warsaw with a first-degree diploma in civil engineering. From 1905 he worked for the road engineering services of the Kingdom of Poland, first as a county engineer in Konin and then as a governorate engineer in Kalisz. After World War I he began his service in Polish administration, initially as a unit head and subsequently as head of the Department of Roads at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. From 1921, he headed the Department of Roads
at the Ministry of Public Works. Upon his retirement in 1934, he continued to be an active member of the Engineering Council at the Ministry of Transport and the National Communications Council. He died in Krynica on the day World War II broke out.

Professor Nestorowicz was the author of three parliamentary acts that were fundamental to Polish road engineering: the 1920 Act on the Construction and Maintenance of Public Roads, the 1921 Act on Public Roads Regulations and the 1932 Act on the National Roads Fund. Thanks to his long-standing work, the structure of road authorities in the Second Polish Republic was unified, while the different road systems in territories formerly under Russian, Austrian and Prussian rule were integrated to form a unified transport network. Nestorowicz also organised and founded the Association of Polish Road Congress Members and was its chairman for many years. Besides his public service, he devoted himself to academic work. In 1925, he defended his post-doctoral dissertation The Problem of Roads in Poland at the Warsaw University of Technology where he subsequently took a chair at the Faculty of Civil Engineering. He headed Poland’s first Road Research Institute involved in road surface technology and research on road construction materials.

Compacting the surface with a pile hammer, Kornica 1929.
Construction of the road bridge on the Skawa river in Maków Podhalański, 1935.

As early as 1913, Nestorowicz published an article entitled The Condition of Roads in the Kingdom of Poland in the Polish magazine
Przegląd Techniczny (Technical Review), attempting to take stock of road infrastructure in Polish territories then under Russian rule. The author collated and analysed in detail nearly all national and governorate roads within the province. He determined the length of roads according to surface type (paved roads, cobbled roads, and dirt roads), road-metal parameters and general quality assessments. Obviously, wartime operations rendered those data considerably out-of-date; nonetheless, they constituted a first-rate source of information for a country under reconstruction. Melchior Nestorowicz concluded his article on a less than optimistic note: ”These figures plainly show the poor development of the paved roads network in the Kingdom of Poland as well as the urgent and pressing need for improving the existing network and expanding it to match national demands”.

A few years after penning those observations, the author himself had an opportunity to put these ideas into practice. One can hardly imagine a better person at the helm of a ministry responsible for road engineering.

The aforementioned Act on the Construction and Maintenance of Public Roads in the Republic of Poland, passed on 10 December 1920, was the fundamental legislative act on road engineering (it actually  remained in force for the next forty-two years, until 1962!). When organising road administration, which was the first goal to achieve, serious difficulties arose due to the shortage of professionals because the authorities during the Partitions, except the Austrians, did not allow or hardly allowed Poles to road administration. A few years later, however, the situation in that respect returned to normal, whereas spending on road building and maintenance rose steadily.

The Ministry of Public Works organised the mass production of materials for the construction of road surfaces. Quarries and paving brick production plants were expanded. During the interwar period, the state-owned works produced more than 4 million tonnes of stone and 100 million paving bricks. The works offered employment to more than 5,000 people. In 1934-1935, the Ministry of Communications and Transport commenced the ”construction of model housing estates for workers and clerical staff(…). Community centres were built where cinemas and theatres, social organisations’ clubs, kitchens and dining rooms for workers were located”.