Towns Across The Country Let Their Paved Roads Return To Nature

"When counties had lots of money, they paved a lot of the roads and tried to make life easier for the people who lived out here," said Stutsman County Highway Superintendent Mike Zimmerman, "Now, it's catching up to them."
July 31, 2010, 5am PDT | George Haugh
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Amid budget shortfalls, state money for local roads has been cut and so paved roads across the nation are being torn up and replaced with gravel.

"Rebuilding an asphalt road today is particularly expensive because the price of asphalt cement, a petroleum-based material mixed with rocks to make asphalt, has more than doubled over the past 10 years. Gravel becomes a cheaper option once an asphalt road has been neglected for so long that major rehabilitation is necessary."

"The moves have angered some residents because of the choking dust and windshield-cracking stones that gravel roads can kick up." But as long as higher taxes to pay for paved road maintenance remain unpopular, many municipalities have little choice.

"A lot of these roads have just deteriorated to the point that they have no other choice than to turn them back to gravel," says Larry Galehouse, director of the National Center for Pavement Preservation at Michigan State University. Still, "we're leaving an awful legacy for future generations."

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Published on Saturday, July 17, 2010 in Wall Street Journal
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