Tight Times Put Gravel on the Road
By Liisa Rajala, USA TODAY
The struggle with the EPA referred to in the article but not explained is that the EPA has strict regulations against rock dust as a pollutant.  Which is quite normally formed behind vehicles that drive said dirt and gravel roads.  The EPA also has strict regulations regarding water run off along roads, so that ditches are unacceptable and they want sewers along all roads. So that this step back to save money is putting states and locals between the crosshairs of the EPA for non-compliance, which means that eventually there will be large fines and expansive lawsuits.


The situation we find ourselves now in is the summation of Federal and State regulations that have artificially driven up the costs of almost everything that one can name.  For example “Black Top” that is laid down on roads that is now declared unaffordable. Black Top is essentially pebbles (Rock) mixed with sand, oil, and tar.  Heated and mixed so that the elements are well mixed and then loaded on dump trucks and you know the rest.


Black Top should be almost as cheap as dirt, however with federal and state regulations fees and taxes with the manufacture, the cost of labor wages, transportation vehicles, black top laying and finishing equipment, as well as environmental studies and lawsuits we can see how the price of something that should be 250.00 dollars a ton, becomes $30,000 - $40,000 a mile which is outrageous when one considers the tens of thousands of miles of roads in States and locals that need to be redone or patched every few years.


When I ws young they were still making roads out of concrete,  many of these roads are still in service 40-60 years later.  The only problem was  road  salt

Which eats away at concrete.  When they began laying black top they used to use a real course gravel black top as the road base probably 6 inches thick and then a smother and finer black tops maybe another 4 inches thick on top of that to give the road surface some substance.  That seemed to last for a decade or so before the top needed to be replaced.  The more modern stuff is porous that is water now penetrates the black top, and they only lay the top layer on dirt,  so that this now is prone to cracks potholes and breakage and so must be constantly serviced.


For decades now the Federal Government shells out billions in highway and road funds as the states and locals have not been able to keep up with the repair and maintenance of this newer EPA approved black top.   And only now that State Governments and the Federal Government are broke has this cheap (As in poorly made) road surfacing and patching material become untenable to care for,   So here we are back now to dirt and gravel roads in what was once the wealthies country in the world.


Gravel roads, once a symbol of quaint times, are emerging as a sign of financial struggle in a growing number of rural towns.

High costs and tight budgets have prompted communities in Maine, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Vermont to convert or consider converting their cracked asphalt roads back to gravel to cut maintenance costs, officials in those states say.

New technology allows asphalt to be recycled into a durable gravel-like surface that is cheaper to maintain and adequately prevents potholes and mud, said David Creamer, a field operations specialist at the Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

FEELING THE PINCH: States struggle with EPA rules

Thirty-eight counties in Michigan replaced a total of 100 miles of asphalt roads with gravel because of decreasing funds in 2008-09, said Monica Ware, a spokeswoman for the County Road Association of Michigan.

In Montcalm County, Mich., 10 miles were converted to cut patching costs in 2009, said Randy Stearns, managing director of the county's road commission. He cited one road that cost a combined $39,244 in 2008 and early 2009 for patching, but only $7,300 to crush into gravel. More roads may be converted this summer, he said.

A 2006 study by the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies found gravel is cost-effective when daily traffic averages 200 vehicles or less.

Even so, some have concerns.

"None of these decisions should be made overnight," said Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations at AAA. "I think that gravel brings some conditions that they may not be used to. The drivers are going to have to exert a little more caution."


Hancock County, Ind. County engineer and superintendent Joe Copeland said budget cuts required 11 miles to be converted last year. "They are holding up well," he said. Copeland said about three more miles may be converted this year.

• Cranberry Isles, Maine. Town Selectman Richard Beal said high asphalt and transportation costs led him to support gravel. The town will decide March 8 whether to replace its three major roads, he said.

Resident Gaile Colby, who lives on one of the roads being considered, called it a terrible idea. "Have you ever lived on a gravel road? In the summer it's like clouds of (dirt) coming through your house," Colby said.

Tuscarora State Forest, Pa. The Department of Forestry converted 3 miles to gravel in 2008 and 2009, Forest Program Manager Matthew Beaver said, and more could be converted this year.