I recently drove from Maryland to Maine crossing through Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally into Maine. What I noticed was how different the roads were from state to state. You could clearly tell whos road tax money was put back into the roads and who was using it for other projects. 

Without breaking down who had the best roads and who didn’t it got me thinking about roads in general. Paved roads cost a lot of money to build, a lot of money to maintain, and as many cities are finding they trap a ton of heat that gets trapped creating additional issues for large metropolitan areas.

Convert to Dirt Roads

One crazy idea is to convert some roads back to dirt or gravel. This won’t work in NY City or Baltimore but it sure would work on 2 lane roads all over the states that aren’t major arteries for travel. Conservative estimates put costs at $100,000 per mile to lay asphalt, and around $5000 per mile to convert asphalt to gravel. (Some of that cost is saved by grinding the asphalt and mixing it with the new gravel.)

“As infrastructure budgets have been hit hard by dwindling gasoline tax revenue that typically funds transportation projects, some cities and counties have abandoned plans to repave crumbling roads surfaced at a time when asphalt and labor were cheaper.

Instead, the thoroughfares are getting churned up, and their remains are combined with gravel and other products to create what essentially become dirt roads. Less often, public works departments are allowing the roads to deteriorate to an unpaved surface.

Both types of deconstructed roads can require more routine maintenance than asphalt or concrete, like regular grading and treatments to minimize dust and runoff. But they are generally much cheaper than paved roads to install and maintain.” (From the Associated Press)

“There have been about 70 such conversions, stretching along 550 miles of road in at least 27 states, according to a 2015 review of the projects produced by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.” (Source: National Academies)

Consumer Savings

For this to really work we need to see a savings passed back to the taxpayer and the maintenance on these roads has to be done properly.

If those two things are done well enough there is another benefit that comes in the form of reduced tire wear and parts longevity. Driving on dirt and gravel is easier on vehicles when the roads are smooth. The dirt and gravel give unlike asphalt so tires wear less quickly and your vehicle doesn’t have to absorb such harsh bumps. Again this only works if the roads are maintained but I can tell you there is nothing better than a well-maintained dirt road for a smooth comfortable ride.


What do you think? Am I crazy? Would you like to see more gravel and dirt roads? I think it would also cut down on distracted drivers but that may be a pipe dream at this point.

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William Connor

As the Editor, William is responsible for all the good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent that happens at 4WAAM. William brings a wide range of experience to this role. He also wields a freely shared...

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