Explosive Road Construction

By June 14, 2018 No Comments

The explosive industry came about during the genesis of the country. Modern explosives, such as Dynamite, have been used in the removal of rock for construction since the 1860’s. The ability to blast through rock allowed for the construction of America’s network of roads.

Relatively small quantities of Dynamite can remove the edifice of a mountain. Boom! The dust clears, rock is removed and construction crews begin work on a highway pass through a mountain. Without Dynamite’s muscle, President Eisenhower wouldn’t have been able to sign the Federal Highway Act that connected the nation. Mountains act as a natural barricade between the West and East coast, it took Dynamite, Eisenhower’s pen and dedicated road construction crews to bridge the nation.

Explosives were the impetus for the Industrial Revolution. According to, A Swede, named Alfred Nobel, created Dynamite and the mechanism required to ignite it. Alfred Nobel is eponymous with the Nobel Prize. His invention was patented in the US; this began the Industrial Revolution. Like most revolutions, it began with a bang. Nobel’s invention is responsible for tunnels commonly encountered along America’s highways and the Seismograph.

Prior to Nobel and his Dynamite, Black Powder was used in rock blasting for road construction. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the oldest explosive is Black Powder. Black Powder has been used as gunpowder since the 1600’s. Later, it was used in blasting rock for road construction. However, Black Powder lost favor to Nitroglycerin, Dynamite.

Rock removal, for highway construction, is usually achieved via Pre-Split Blasting. According to, Pre-Split Blasting involves drilling holes, in the surface of rock at even intervals, and filling the holes with Black Powder, Small-Cartridge Emulsion or Dynamite. Pre-splitting is done with little consideration for geologic structure, Dynamite is capable of devouring the strongest of Granite and Limestone.

Recently, Dynamite has lost favor for TNT, in road construction projects. Dynamite packs more punch than TNT, but TNT is more stable, according to Mental Floss. A German named Joseph Wilbrand discovered TNT, a yellowish crystal with the chemical composition CH3C6H2(NO2)3. Many erroneously believe that Dynamite and TNT are one and the same, however, Dynamite is composed of Nitroglycerine, C3H5(ONO2)3. Popular culture has perpetuated this belief through cartoons and music.

Explosives such as Dynamite and TNT made interstate travel a possibility. Without these technologies and dedicated road construction crews, our highways wouldn’t have breached the mountains of the West.

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