Depaving Rural American Roads-Literally

Rather than being part of a car liberation or permeable pavement movement, poorly maintained county roads are having their asphalt ground into gravel as a cost-cutting measure to avoid costly road reconstruction. Lack of funding is the cause.

July 19, 2010, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Imagine a huge Catepillar machine that pulverizes asphalt and spits out gravel in its wake. This and similar 'downgrading' processes has occurred on roads in "at least 38 of the 83 counties in Michigan" and at least 100 road miles in South Dakota.

"Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue.

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."

However, as one pavement expert noted, "we're leaving an awful legacy for future generations."

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

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