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Broke Counties Turn Failing Roads To Gravel 717

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-civilization-collapse-initiative dept.
To save money, more than 20 Michigan counties have decided to turn deteriorating paved roads back to gravel. Montcalm County estimates that repaving a road costs more than $100,000 a mile. Grinding the same mile of road up and turning it into gravel costs $10,000. At least 50 miles of road have been reverted to gravel in Michigan the past three years. I can't wait until we revert back to whale oil lighting and can finally be rid of this electricity fad.

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Broke Counties Turn Failing Roads To Gravel

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  • Michigan is fucked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:39PM (#28338311) Journal

    Real shame about that. Nice people and beautiful country.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:39PM (#28338321)

    I grew up in a rural area with a lot of gravel and dirt roads. Gravel roads aren't so bad. They're cheap to build, but they require a lot more maintenance that people think. They get rutting and nasty potholes pretty quickly if they're not consistently maintained (and they deteriorate a LOT faster than asphalt). So I think some of these areas may be jumping the gun on thinking this is a catch-all solution for their cash-strapped transportation departments, counties, and cities. They'll save a lot of money in the short term, but you've got to have a real solid maintenance plan in place or you'll pretty quickly end up with impassable roads. It's not expensive to maintain them (gravel isn't expensive)--but it is labor-intensive.

    A well-maintained gravel road isn't so bad physically. Rain doesn't wash them out as bad as dirt roads and they stay passable in about any kind of weather. The main downside is that you just can't drive as fast on them as asphalt. But, then again, you can't drive very fast on poorly maintained asphalt either (because of the potholes). So it's probably a wash on most of these roads (particularly since a colder state like Michigan probably goes trough asphalt roads a lot faster than warmer areas). But, if they don't have a plan to maintain them any better than they maintained them when they were asphalt, this solution is going to be a wash-out (literally) pretty quickly.

    • by nomorecwrd (1193329) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:45PM (#28338411)
      Other big downside: the stones that get caught between truck dual tires. They tend to get loose in perfect timing to crash your windshield.
      • by fullmetal55 (698310) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:02PM (#28338697)
        that happens on paved roads here anyway... due to the gravel we use to grit the roads in winter
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:46PM (#28338435)

      I imagine the biggest factor in reverting a road is the amount of traffic it sees. Having visited family in rural MI thirty years ago and recently a few years back there are a LOT more paved roads. A lot of these paved roads are lucky to see 10 cars a day.

    • by eln (21727) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:47PM (#28338441) Homepage
      In a relatively small state like Michigan with nasty freeze-thaw cycles that probably cause massive damage to roads anyway, this probably is not a bad idea. The distances are such that the lower speed limit required isn't going to mean it takes days to get across the state (like it would in, say, Montana). Plus, the freeze-thaw cycle means they'd be dealing with massive potholes every season regardless, and potholes are cheaper and easier to fix on gravel.

      I certainly wouldn't want to try this tactic anywhere out west though, where vast distances make driving on gravel roads much more of a chore.
    • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:48PM (#28338451) Homepage Journal

      A well-maintained gravel road isn't so bad physically. Rain doesn't wash them out as bad as dirt roads and they stay passable in about any kind of weather. The main downside is that you just can't drive as fast on them as asphalt. But, then again, you can't drive very fast on poorly maintained asphalt either (because of the potholes). So it's probably a wash on most of these roads (particularly since a colder state like Michigan probably goes trough asphalt roads a lot faster than warmer areas).

      The worst thing the county did with the roads around my grandmother's place (in Texas) was to pave them. Before the roads were paved, it was a bit dusty in the summer, but the road was always good. After paving, the road got potholes almost immediately, and required constant patching.

      Winter was particularly tough on the road -- since we have a lot more 100+ days than 32- days, I don't think they're built like the ones up north. We only have a few days when the water in the cracks can freeze, but when it does, the potholes start all over again.

      Paving rural roads without a plan to keep them fully maintained is like giving a school a bunch of unpatched Windows boxes. It's not long until you're spending more time working around the new problems than you would if you'd just stuck to the old way of doing things.

      • by eudaemon (320983) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:19PM (#28339029)

        This is why we need to go back to Eisenhower-era concrete road beds meant for B-52's to land on. I'm talking foot deep steel reinforced concrete baby. Grew up with those bad boys in my little rural town in Texas. Of course we didn't have the freeze/thaw cycles people do farther north so I could be talking out of my backside, but these things appeared well-nigh indestructible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          We've got some serious heavy duty concrete roads here in florida too. Just giant slabs of the stuff seperated by flexible spacers every so often. They're amazingly smooth rides, almost never seem to get potholes, and whenever FDOT decides to play musical chairs with the roads they can just pick them up and slap them back down again.

          Problem is they're also apparently expensive as fuck to put down to begin with.

          • I live in NW Washington State. When I drive down to Seattle, I dread the parts of the freeway that are concrete. Thump, thump, thump, thump, and the surface itself is loud so you get general roar behind the periodic thumping. Worse still, when you get to the north side of Seattle it gets really loud. I've been stuck in traffic there a few times, and the road bed that gets ground by tires has worn away to reveal the "gravel" -- the stones they used in the concrete are as big as a full size computer mouse. With the cement worn away, it's like driving on cobblestones. No wonder the freeway is so loud. The grooves in other areas really suck with a motorcycle. And then in other places, there are other types of grindings, 3 parallell strips about 3" wide and 12" long spaced in each tire well of the lane, each set about 12-18" from the other longitudinally. So here you get zipzipzipzipzipTHUMPzipzipzipzipzipTHUM.

            I love blacktop.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by BrokenHalo (565198)
          Of course we didn't have the freeze/thaw cycles people do farther north...

          You don't even need it to freeze. Here in Western Australia, the surface of a road can get to as much as 70 deg. C on a summer day, but cool to 15 degrees overnight. Even in winter the temperatures can vary from 3 to 30 degrees C. I suspect it might be a tall order to expect a concrete road to put up with that kind of stress unless you put in a lot of expansion joints.
        • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:10PM (#28339845)

          we need to go back to Eisenhower-era concrete road beds

          And just how much extra tax are you willing to pay to land B52s in Mitchigan?

          It's all very well saying "build better roads" but are you willing to pay for them?

        • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:41PM (#28340369)

          I'm talking foot deep steel reinforced concrete baby....Of course we didn't have the freeze/thaw cycles people do farther north so I could be talking out of my backside, but these things appeared well-nigh indestructible.

          In my experience, there is a problem with concrete roads and freeze/thaw cycles. Concrete doesn't "flow" with temperature changes the way asphalt does, so it needs expansion joints cut into it at intervals. Water gets into these, freezes, and starts cracking the concrete. The result is, after a decade or so, a rhythmic kathunk-kathunk-kathunk sound as you drive over the joints.

          Notice that I said "after a decade or so." I'm pretty sure they still last at least as long as asphalt, if not longer, before becoming rough.

        • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday June 15, 2009 @05:46PM (#28341179)
          I'm (almost) a civil engineer and so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

          Concrete roads aren't indestructible. In fact, roads with rigid and semi-rigid pavements (concert layer without and with a gravel layer between the road bed) have only a slightly longer life expectancy (40 years) than regular flexible pavements (asphalt and bitumen-based rolling layer) (30 years). Just because concrete is seen as an artificial stone it doesn't mean it is eternal. Far from it. It does degrade and it degrades even faster when structures are designed to last just a few decades or so.

          To make matters worse, rigid and semi-rigid pavements are much more expensive and labour-consuming than their flexible counterpart not only when building but also maintaining. They are also more prone to erosion due to water circulation in the road bed and all those regular problems related to concrete structures (carbonation, steel corrosion, those pesky freeze/thaw cycles, other nasty buggers).

          So you may believe that concrete, just because it is concrete, ends up being an excellent solution but hey, there is a reason that it's only applied in very specific roads such as airport runways and parking lots (they withstand the forces from the landing impacts and don't degrade when in contact with fuel). It's a solution that is far too expensive and suffers from far too many problems than regular flexible pavement solutions, which means it is only used when it is absolutely necessary.

          On the other hand, macadame roads are a time-tested technology. Although they don't make it possible to run around in high speeds they are one of the best road technologies developed up to this day. They are extremely easy to build, they are low-maintenance, they are cheap and sometimes they can even be built from the materials mined exactly from the construction site. In fact, flexible pavements are basically nothing more than macadame roads with an extra layer made out of some fancy material such as asphalt, bitumen, concrete or some other "glue" such as plaster. They may look "old school" but don't believe for a moment that them old time folk weren't smart or couldn't develop great stuff.
          • I'm laughing so hard at the "40 year life expectancy" that I'm about to fall out of my chair.

            PLEASE show me two contiguous miles of pavement in the U.S. that's 40 years old. Heck, show me one that's 20!

            I've been all over the U.S. and if the roads have one thing in common it's that they're utter crap. They're being repaired / replaced every ten years or less everywhere in the country that I've seen.

            I'm sure your textbooks give you that four decade number but I've never seen it out here in the real world.

      • by internerdj (1319281) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:25PM (#28339143)
        My state was introduced to a miracle material called asphalt several years ago. Recently they realized that they were repairing the roads constantly compared to the previous concrete; the worst case being a road that had to be repaved before it was open to the public. The normal crew of paving companies is up in arms because the state is bidding out new concrete-only bids to reduce maintenance costs and the work is going out of state because no one in the state uses concrete anymore for roadwork. The problem being that the state thinks that one type of material can build every type of road imaginable, and the officials can ride the resulting fame to godhood.
        • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday June 15, 2009 @06:02PM (#28341331)
          I'm (almost) a civil engineer so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

          If your asphalt roads need to be repaved less than a couple of decades after they were built then the problem doesn't lie on the technology (flexible pavement roads, asphalt) but instead due to being poorly built by incompetent construction crews. A flexible pavement road needs to have a impermeable rolling layer, a thick, tightly compacted gravel layer that must be at least a couple of feet deep and an impermeable bedding. The people building the road also need to make sure that everything drains perfectly, which means that the entire road and sometimes it's surrounding must be a drainage system.

          So having that in mind, flexible roads only present problems if the road bed suffers from draining problems, if the macadame layer isn't thick enough or properly compacted and/or if the top layer isn't thick enough nor impermeable. If it's built with those problems in mind then it can easily be problem-free for around 30 years. On the other hand, if it's experiencing problems a few years after it's inauguration then you must take a good hard look at both the people building the road and the folks verifying that it's up to code, because they obviously didn't do their job properly.
          • by jcdenhartog (840940) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:34PM (#28342267)
            I am a licensed civil engineer, and I think your statement (and the one prior) bears qualifying. The choice between an asphalt road and a concrete one should always be analyzed by a life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA), which takes into account the up-front cost of the road plus the maintenance costs. In Southern California, concrete will most often come out ahead in said analysis, especially given our traffic volumes and the traffic delay costs associated with the more frequent maintenance activities required by asphalt. We have concrete pavements here that are 50+ years old. In areas of high freeze-thaw cycles, an LCCA may produce different results. However, it should also be noted that the thump-thump of many concrete pavements today is due to a load-transfer failure between the slabs, something that in new pavements has been addressed with the inclusion of steel dowel bars between slabs.
            • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday June 15, 2009 @08:42PM (#28342843)

              I am a licensed civil engineer, and I think your statement (and the one prior) bears qualifying. The choice between an asphalt road and a concrete one should always be analyzed by a life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA), which takes into account the up-front cost of the road plus the maintenance costs.

              Yes, as any civil engineering project.

              In Southern California, concrete will most often come out ahead in said analysis, especially given our traffic volumes and the traffic delay costs associated with the more frequent maintenance activities required by asphalt. We have concrete pavements here that are 50+ years old.

              The thing is, that's not quite right. Flexible pavements, such as those with asphalt or bitumen-based rolling pavement, don't require any more maintenance than rigid and semi-rigid pavement roads. The only reason that may lead to premature repairs is if they suffer from draining problems or if the foundation suffers from excessive settlement, which is caused by poorly designed and/or built roads.

              Moreover, there are also quite a few flexible pavement roads out there that are 50+ years old. In fact, there are flexible pavement roads built by the romans that are still being used up to this day. That doesn't mean all flexible pavement roads last for millennia but is a nice way to show that properly built roads do last a very, very long time.

              In areas of high freeze-thaw cycles, an LCCA may produce different results. However, it should also be noted that the thump-thump of many concrete pavements today is due to a load-transfer failure between the slabs, something that in new pavements has been addressed with the inclusion of steel dowel bars between slabs.

              Well, as you may know that "thump-thump" phenomenon is caused by the erosion of the road's foundation/base layer, which is caused by drainage problems. That is a sign that that road's drainage system was either poorly thought out/built or wasn't even implemented, which is seen by some people responsible for building them as irrelevant as they believe that the rigid concrete top-layer is more than capable of withstanding any action that may be thrown at it. The fact that the prescribed solution for a drainage/erosion problem, something that is fixed if you add a gravel bedding to the road, is more steel bars, which are comparably very expensive, leads to believe the people behind that solution are a bit out of touch with that problem, as they are trying to throw money at the symptom instead of simply fixing the problem to begin with.

              That way of thinking starts to be the source of real trouble when you rely on the same people to build a semi-flexible or flexible pavement road. When that happens then you have entire design and construction crews not caring about stuff such as draining, subsidence, settlement, water movement or even making sure the rolling layer is water-proof, with the added inconvenience of, this time, not being able to fix it by throwing more expensive steel to make up for their poorly thought out design. That leads to all sorts of problems including, such as this case, blaming the technology in itself when the blame is solely in the incompetence of those being paid to do the job. After all, it's the technology that must be wrong instead of the people spending the money and failing at their job, right?

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:49PM (#28338469)

      In parts of santa fe, dirt (or gravel) roads increase you home value. Sort of perverse but Santa Fe is all about style and aesthetics over function. (and if you've seen it, you can see they have a point. It's very serene.) So home owners fight the city when they try to pave their roads.

      • by swb (14022) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:13PM (#28338915)

        This is true pretty much anywhere you have a section of property with a "rural" feel that really isn't rural. It's almost like a theme neighborhood whose uniqueness is its own value.

        There's been a bit of conflict over rebuilding a road in Eden Prairie, MN that the neighbors love for its rural feel but that the city bureaucrats insist needs to be torn up and rebuilt per "modern" building standards (gutters, drainage, signage, curbing, etc). The suburb is pretty much totally built out and full of shopping centers and the usual ugliness of suburbia, so its not like some country town "resisting" urbanization.

        I'm kind of torn. On one hand, I hate the idea of project-oriented city bureaucrats who feel the urge to standardize every last square inch with unnecessary building projects. On the other hand, I hate "we're special" local interest groups that think their little stretch is immune from the same rules everyone else has to follow (which often amounts to "we don't want the taxes" and "it makes my property more valuable").

    • by ChefInnocent (667809) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:49PM (#28338477)
      In Idaho and maybe other states, other issues also come into play. A gravel road does not get sampled which is good for the county because it means it won't be considered deficient. However, a gravel road also does not get state & federal monies (some exceptions apply). So, although they will be saving money, they won't be getting any for that road either.
    • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:57PM (#28338603)
      This is precisely why it's such a genius plan. Save money up front and provide jobs for increased maintenance and auto repair. It continues a trend that in going from a production economy to a service economy the US has gone from an economy that grows by increasing efficiency and producing more goods to an economy that grows by decreasing efficiency to keep people employed. Good thing other countries depend on this fake economic growth for their own fake economic growth! If somebody ever figured out how to get people doing real jobs again we'd all be fucked.
    • by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:59PM (#28338633)

      Long ago - as someone who worked in a glass shop (in accounting) - no gravel roads aren't all that great unless you like replacing glass a lot or supporting your local glass shops.

      Sure - there are people who will reply they've lived down gravel roads all their life and never had glass problems, but seriously - I created ran reports and found that well over 80% of our auto-glass business came from rural residents who lived down - gravel roads - I can still remember the most replaced parts too DW-1099 (Ford F series windshield) and DW-1117 (might be wrong on this part - its been ages, but its supposed to be a Chevrolet C series pickup truck windshield) - we had literally hundreds of these parts in stock at any one time and we made sure delivery trucks always brought more and more.

      Anyhow from what I could tell many of these windshields were damaged by flying debris, and stress on the vehicles themselves.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:13PM (#28338917)

        In the UK we had a series of ads on keeping your distance and the tag line was "Only a fool breaks the three second rule".

        3 seconds.

        If a stone is thrown hard enough, how high would it have to go to be at windscreen height 3 seconds later? About 12m.

        Unlikely.

        So if you're 3 seconds or more behind the car in front, you won't be hit by gravel.

    • Actually, the very points you bring out about gravel (cheap to build but requires more maintenance) also applies to asphalt as compared to concrete. That is why they're in this mess to begin with: a properly constructed concrete road costs more up front, but lasts for decades. The part the politicians hear is, "costs more up front".
      • by willy_me (212994) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:48PM (#28339503)
        Concrete would never survive the frost. Where I live, one routinely gets frost heaves up to 1'. For concrete to survive, one would have to prevent water from building up under the road. This is an almost impossible feat of engineering. The only reason bridges can use concrete is that they don't have to worry about frost heaves.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Concrete would never survive the frost.

          Why not? Concrete buildings survive in the Great White North [wikipedia.org]. Significant parts of the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway [wikipedia.org] are concrete, and some of the planned upgrades will also be concrete.

          For concrete to survive, one would have to prevent water from building up under the road. This is an almost impossible feat of engineering.

          To prevent frost heaving, the roadbed must extend down into the ground significantly below the frost line. This is not impossible. It is just expensive. The Roman empire build roads through cold climates. Roads that are in use 2000 years later without significant changes to the roadbed. Of course, the Romans had slaves, which cu

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kaitiff (167826)

      You obviously don't mind chipped paint and increased erosion of your undercarriage etc. It's also painfully obvious you don't ride a motorcycle....

    • by aaandre (526056) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:14PM (#28338935)

      They'll save a lot of money in the short term

      You got me at "Save a lot of money," sailor!

      I don't think they care about much more than that. Long term = somebody else's problem.

      A part of the reason things are getting so f**ked so fast.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:41PM (#28339407) Journal
      That's the most optimistic post I've ever read. Seriously, by the end of it, I was thinking, "yeah, maybe gravel isn't that bad."

      But not quite. Gravel is a lot slower, if you're going faster than 15MPH on a gravel road, then you are moving fast. On a paved road you can usually get at least 25mph, even if it's bad. That's a huge difference.

      And that's not even beginning to mention the car damage and the fact that you'll never have a non-dusty car. As one other guy in this thread mentioned, a lot of cars get damaged windshields from gravel roads. In my experience driving on a gravel road is about the same misery level as sitting in a traffic jam. There better be something interesting on the other side.

      On the other hand, if the population really is dropping fast in Michigan, no reason to keep them maintained.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fataugie (89032)

        Gravel is a lot slower, if you're going faster than 15MPH on a gravel road, then you are moving fast.

        Obviously, you've never seen The Dukes of Hazard.

        As a former dirt road resident....25 was easily attainable even in poor weather. You've never lived until you've driven a '76 Caprice Classic (4300 lb rear wheel drive car) at 50 mph+ on a freshly raked dirt road.

        That was the first time I had any idea how great a Rally driver must feel driving in Finland.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jurily (900488)

      (particularly since a colder state like Michigan probably goes trough asphalt roads a lot faster than warmer areas)

      Only if the asphalt was not built with the local climate in mind. This happens in Hungary a lot, due to corruption and incompetence. We know we've arrived in Austria not because of the border, but because the car stops shaking.

    • by Creepy (93888) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:59PM (#28339669) Journal

      They also are oiled in front of properties to control dust (often something like Dustlock [dustlock.com] [soybean oil soapstock], since crude oil spraying is banned in many states). From what I remember this is done a couple of times a year (I lived on a gravel road from age 6 to 7, and then they paved it), but sometimes they will do an extra coat if extra traffic is expected (say, a county fair) or if some sort of festival uses the roads (e.g. something like Woodstock).

      Alternatives blacktop requires yearly maintenance like seal-coating and has a lifespan of only about 25-30 years and concrete is expensive (especially in northern climates where it is prone to cracking and can deteriorate due to salt exposure.

  • Not the only cost... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kelnos (564113) <bjt23 AT cornell DOT edu> on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:40PM (#28338329) Homepage
    Sure, that might save the state 90% of the cost of repaving, but how about the cost to drivers who use these roads frequently and will have to replace their tires more frequently? It might still be an overall savings, but it might not.
    • by avandesande (143899) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:13PM (#28338907) Journal

      This has nothing to do with planning or investment- these municipalities are just plain out of money and cannot afford to repave.

    • by fermion (181285) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:14PM (#28338947) Homepage Journal
      The number of drivers may be the issue. I used to drive about quite a bit in rural roads. It seemed to happen quite sequentially. The land went from 100+ acre farms to 5-20 acre lots. The dirt roads became gravel. The land went from 5-20 acre lots to suburban cookie cutter. The gravel roads were laid with asphalt. If the trend continued the roads would be paved. I used to drive down down a road that paved to the town, then asphalt to the main cut off, then gravel, until the last mile, which was dirt.

      There does seem to some method in the madness. If the number of drivers decrease significantly, then maybe all that is needed is gravel? If the taxes from the people driving the road don't account for a significant portion of the construction and maintenance, then the road should go away. I have even heard of cities reforming themselves around healthy cores and tearing down the excess. Painful, but if no wants to live there, what else can be done.

      What is really screwed up in when a city build tens of miles of 6-10 lane highway that no body uses, in the middle of nowhere, just to connect sprawlingly developments that are no under foreclosure pressure.

  • by taustin (171655) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:43PM (#28338379) Homepage Journal

    50 miles of country road (I'm guessing the pictures have nothing whatsoever to do with the roads actually converted) changed from paved to gravel, out of thousands in the state. Yawn. Gravel is actually better in little used roads, because it doesn't require nearly as much active maintenance, as in, driving over it with snowploughs when it snows, to be able to drive on it at all. These are, almost certainly, roads that didn't need to be paved in the first place.

    This is complete non-news.

  • Extremely Sensible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by popo (107611) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:45PM (#28338407) Homepage

    The reality is that this is just the beginning of cuts that need to be made in Michigan, and elsewhere.

    Gravel roads are cheap to build, cheap to maintain, and represent an extremely sensible kind of cut that does not have a major quality of life impact. Arguably they also have a rustic beauty, and look much nicer than a pot-holed, badly deteriorated paved road.

    The poster makes a silly connection between gravel roads and whale oil, but fails to understand that whale oil and *paved* roads have more in common: Both are unsustainable at this time.

    • by maeka (518272) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:00PM (#28338661) Journal

      Gravel roads have an increased stopping distance over asphalt or concrete ones. They also contribute much more to vehicle wear and tear - not only as far as nicks and dings, but also tires and shocks. (though the later part is just as true of badly potholed roads) They are significantly dirtier than asphalt or concrete roads, both for the vehicle (small concern) but also for the surrounding homes and businesses. When I lived on Middle Bass Island, it was quite common for neighbors to band together to pave their section of road just to cut down on the fine dust which accumulated inside their homes.

  • by Old97 (1341297) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:51PM (#28338499)
    Turning your roads from paved to gravel is like giving up on economic recovery or development. Gravel roads don't support commerce or industry very well. They are a good reason not to locate somewhere. I lived in West Virginia for 2 years before returning to urban life 2 1/2 years ago. Bad roads and gravel roads abound because the state is poor. But the state will remain poor in part because of bad roads and gravel roads. If a state cannot provide a modern infrastructure, it will not be able to compete. Now its not always a bad thing to de-settle an area and let it revert to a more primitive state, but don't count on being able to undo the damage if you later change your mind.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:52PM (#28338513) Journal

    This is why we need flying cars, if we all had flying cars we could save trillions on not having to pave roads and not having to maintain gravel roads. We could let roads go back to nature.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:54PM (#28338543)

    Its been well over a decade, but I recall seeing an episode of NOVA on PBS about road construction in the US and how hopelessly behind the curve we were. Their analysis was that our problems stem from corruption in the industry. That road construction companies are buddies with the various local politicians so that they are able to get contracts that don't require them to modernize. The end result being that our roads deteriorate much faster than they do in places like Europe, requiring much more frequent repair work for higher prices. Maybe things have changed in the intervening decade, but I doubt it.

    • IT's a little more complicated than that, really. Modernization requires huge capital expenditures and you can't do that without a steady supply of contracts with which to repay the loans you took out to buy all the fancy new equipment, and, right now, we have too many uneconomic roads and too unsteady a source of funds to make such contracts guaranteed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by benjfowler (239527)

      I wonder just to what extend conservative politics, the good 'ol boys network, and lack of accountability and transparency feed upon each other. I know that the US is a model for the world in terms of democracy, but wonder if transparency and anti-corruption safeguards have kept up with the rest of the developed world.

      The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and in most states of Australia, there exists a carefully designed system of anti-corruption watchdogs, whose job it is to keep an eye out for publi

      • by tnk1 (899206) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:03PM (#28339735)

        Be careful with throwing around the term "conservative politics" even with a lower case "c". The corruption, such as it is, has compromised everyone from left to right, top to bottom.

        Also, bear in mind that the corruption is not just politicians, its also powerful labor unions, and voters who want more stuff, but want to pay less money for it.

        I would say that the major problem is neither corruption, nor modernization. Those problems exist, of course, but the real problem is that we built a lot of stuff that we can't maintain in the long run. We have programs that don't work well under our system of government.

        Also keep in mind, a lot of these other countries with "superior" systems are a lot smaller in terms of population and infrastructure than the US and are easier to manage. They also have relatively recent investments in things that have been in the US for decades. It's not exactly apples and oranges, but there is a significant difference. That's why I get annoyed when people point at the successes of smaller countries at doing certain things. Small countries, smaller problems, less complexity. Works on a similar scale in the US are massive undertakings, well worth the effort of devising the best and worst methods of taking advantage of them.

        That's why I'm a big proponent of doing our best to avoid unwarranted wealth transfers to areas that do not generate wealth. You're removing money and motivation from the very people who actually make the money in order to satisfy people who get a vote simply for breathing air and not getting caught committing a felony. No issue is simple, but the best way to apply global taxes is to apply that money to programs that fix problems that everyone has. If you have to create a few programs to aid cities or the countryside because one benefits the other, that's okay to a point. But when your politics is what is sending the money, and not necessity, then that money needs to stay out of the hands of the government.

        The problem is mostly politics, and that's why, in the long run socialized programs will fail. It will eventually erode the discipline and effectiveness of the people trying to run it. Corruption is only one extreme facet of that problem. Until we realize that we can't just throw around money at every little problem plaguing us since the beginning of time, we will be converting roads to gravel at an increasing rate.

        • by jwhitener (198343) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:14PM (#28342087)

          "That's why I'm a big proponent of doing our best to avoid unwarranted wealth transfers to areas that do not generate wealth......The problem is mostly politics, and that's why, in the long run socialized programs will fail."

          And the problem with arguments like this, is that they almost universally fail to account for the cost to society of not having that 'socialized' program, especially when you add in moral obligations that society has deemed necessary to be considered a civilized nation.

          For instance, tax payer money funding programs built from research here: http://www.nectac.org/topics/quality/effective.asp#longterm [nectac.org] in an inner city where parents would not be able to afford pre-school by themselves.

          How many children will grow up to become productive with the program or without?
          How many children will avoid joining gangs saving prison money/lives?

          There are tons of studies showing that in some cases, preventative social programs, preventative healthcare, etc.. saves society tax money in the long term.

          But usually people are so short sighted, that they say things like "wealth transfer", not realizing that they are saving money in the long term. I know the exact news sources and philosophies that you subscribe to because you used the term 'wealth transfer' (My father is firmly in your right wing viewpoint). It is a loaded term that seeks to distort the reality that social programs can and do save society money, and raise our overall prosperity.

          And saying "why I'm a big proponent of doing our best to avoid unwarranted wealth transfers to areas that do not generate wealth" completely ignores any moral obligations.

          The hospital that I worked for had to, by law, care for any seriously sick or injured person regardless of their ability to pay. That "wealth transfer" from the hospital into a service for someone with no money, was deemed morally correct, enough so that it became law.

          That hospital, and my job, disappeared due to the large amounts of illegal aliens and/or poor folks that knew that going to an emergency room, having waited until they were very sick = free healthcare.

          If instead, we had provided preventative healthcare for free to those illegal aliens/and or poor people, and offered other free healthcares, the overall cost to provide service to those people would be LOWER.

          That means I would still have my job, and the hospital supporting 4,000 employees would have still been in business.

          That is a micro example of course, but extend that to the entire healthcare system as a whole, and you can see the impact it can have on America.

          We've been slipping in terms of education compared with other European countries for quite a while now. Would you consider tax payer money used to provide teachers a "wealth transfer" to those that cannot afford private tutors? Most likely not. We know that having an uneducated population is bad for everyone. Why can you not see other, proven, socialized programs in the same light?

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:07PM (#28339803) Journal

        I wonder just to what extend conservative politics,

        Yeah right, as if conservative had anything to do with it. In theory, it sounds good, but in practice the constituents of the democrats get their share too when the time comes. Think of the unions and the card check. No, businesses and organizations are smart enough to pay politicians on both sides of the aisle.

        BUT - it is getting better. Think of Warren Harding, the Teapot Dome scandal, Tammany Hall, or any kind of politics in the early 1900s. Ugly compared to what we have today.

        Compare it to WWII when you could get a military contract by buying the right guys hookers. Even Chicago of today is way better than Chicago in the 70s.

        Is there corruption still? Yes, unfortunately, but it is getting better. We need to keep pushing for more transparency and openness. When people can see what their government is doing, then it is hard for them to be corrupt.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kaplong! (688851)
      Yep - you could see that when they redid I-88 near Chicago: they only put maybe a foot of gravel instead of the three needed to get drainage below frost level - this guarantees frost damage and the next rebuilding contract.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OzPeter (195038)
      I remember seeing a doco about the autobahns in Germany and how little maintenance they needed. The doco suggested that the US interstate system copied the Autobahn plan but skimped on the construction. IIRC the US only applied half the depth of foundation that the Germans did, resulting in a system that needed maintenance twice as often.
  • by ViennaSt (1138481) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:56PM (#28338577)

    I was reading the thread under the article and wanted to quote a couple opinions.

    obamautopia wrote:
    "Fact: Gravel roads are more dangerous because they are more slippery due to loose gravel and potholes. If gravel roads were superior for transportation safety - then why isn't the interstate and the autobahn merely gravel roads? Why not city streets?

    Fact: Gravel roads put more dust into atmosphere as anyone who has followed the choking dust of a vehicle moving ahead of you on a gravel / dirt road can tell you.

    Fact: Gravel roads require more frequent oil changes - thus using more oil and dirty oil filters to dispose of. Also more air filter changes. Also more fuel filter changes. Also more car washing. Also more tires. Also more windshield replacement and fabricating glass requires a tremendous amount of energy.

    Fact: Gravel roads are less fuel efficient. In one study in Bogota, Columbia, fuel consumption was reported to be 25% higher for a vehicle moving on a gravel or earth surface than on an asphalt pavement.

    Fact: Gravel roads wear out vehicles faster meaning more consumption to replace the parts, many of them steel parts which take an enormous amount of energy to fabricate and "carbon footprint" for the idiots who think anthropogenic "Global Warming" is anything other than a Leftist Agenda."

    And another guy wrote, goomygoomy writes,
    "I don't understand the problem. Why would you complain about PAVED ROADS, being turned in to GRAVEL ROADS? It's just CHANGE. I thought you all VOTED for CHANGE? Well...You've got it. Michigan, the Great Liberal Basket Case, is leading the way. As goes DETROIT, so goes Obama Nation. Aren't you IDIOTS bulldozing your towns down? This is UNCHECKED LIBERALISM. This is Obama SOCIALISM."

    stoptherhetoric wrote:

    "Nothing like a page full of ignorance from gommygoomy to start the day! People don't even take the time to read, they just spew their garbage! The Story CLEARLY states that Michigan Counties have had to revert to gravel THE PAST 3 YEARS!!!!

    Do I need to remind you the last 3 years, W was President!!"

    If you keep reading, you'll notice it all boils down to a huge administration blame game. Reminds me of other discussion boards I've seen...

    • If you keep reading, you'll notice it all boils down to a huge administration blame game. Reminds me of other discussion boards I've seen.

      I'm a conservative and I have to note that those who say Michigan is being screwed by stupid socialism usually fail to point out that for the last thirty years, Michigan has been paying higher taxes to the federal government than it receives in benefits from it. So perhaps if Michigan's taxpayers were not constantly bailing out Republican farmers, they might actually have some money of their own to pay for roads with.

      Really, there is a lot of willfull disbelief among my Republican colleagues when it comes to their own protectionism and their own socialism. If red states were as "free trade" and "capitalist" as Michigan was, perhaps we wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars bailing out farmers, or locking out foreign food producers... Conversely, if blue states were as "free trade" and "capitalist" as, say, Alabama is, we wouldn't have gutted our entire manufacturing base in the name of free trade.

  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:59PM (#28338647)
    Property on a gravel road is worth less than property on a paved road. So, by their actions, the government has reduced the value of a landowner's property. Usually this triggers a lawsuit - which, if successful, could easily wipe out any savings. Also, since the properties on the road are worth less, they will be able to collect less tax revenue.
  • by benjfowler (239527) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:01PM (#28338671)

    Ripping up asphalt roads into gravel is not unusual when governments are trying to save money. I've seen this happen in Australia.

    Years ago, Victoria elected a conservative government, headed by a gentleman called Jeff Kennett. Admittedly, he inherited a massive mountain of debt racked up by a previous Labour government, but he immediately made himself hugely unpopular by slashing and burning all public spending and picking fights with everybody in sight. Much of his brutal cost-cutting was ripping up the roads throughout country Victoria, which undoubtedly endeared him greatly to his rural supporters...

    From my limited experience, ripping up roads to save money is a sign of extreme desperation. Things must be bad indeed in parts of Michigan.

  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:02PM (#28338707) Homepage

    I just don't understand why more roads weren't (and aren't now) made from concrete, rather than asphalt. There are very busily travelled concrete roadways near where I live, that are over a 100 years old, are subjected to salt, heavy trucking, and all sorts of abuse - yet require almost no maintenance.

    In comparison, the newer asphalt sections of those same roads just seem to fall apart within a few years of being refurbished. For a few dollars more in the beginning, a centuries worth of maintenance $s can be avoided. Seems short sighted to me...

  • Better link (Score:4, Informative)

    by kevink707 (1331815) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:42PM (#28339417)

New crypt. See /usr/news/crypt.

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