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Broke Counties Turn Failing Roads To Gravel

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the let-civilization-collapse-initiative dept.

Transportation 717

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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Michigan is fucked (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338311)

Real shame about that. Nice people and beautiful country.

Re:Michigan is fucked (1, Insightful)

mrgrey (319015) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338609)

Grandmole will be gone soon enough - hopefully things will start to turn around....

Re:Michigan is fucked (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338895)

I don't think you can blame the problems of an industrial center in a deindustrializing society on one governor.

Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenance (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Informative)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (3, Informative)

fullmetal55 (698310) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338697)

that happens on paved roads here anyway... due to the gravel we use to grit the roads in winter

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338441)

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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (5, Funny)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338571)

You mean like in the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nevada, etc where the majority of roads in rural areas and some of the state highways have been gravel?

I'm old, I remember when big stretches of Highway 63 in South Dakota were still gravel, as was Highway 73 south of Faith

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (5, Insightful)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338451)

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.

In Santa Fe NM you pay extra for a gravel road (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:In Santa Fe NM you pay extra for a gravel road (2, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338759)

Those hideous fences come at a premium too. (You know, the small branches strung together with wire.) They cost a heckuva lot more than an actual proper fence. Santa Feans have unique tastes - Everything should look old, weathered, and primitive (unless you go to those neighborhoods where everything waxes arty.) But to each their own.

Re:In Santa Fe NM you pay extra for a gravel road (4, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#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").

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Informative)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (1)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338527)

You forgot the first tenant of politics. Save soon and leave the problem to explode on the next government.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (1, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338585)

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)

Simple: we'll just pave them over with asphalt! Next problem?

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.

Another easy solution: raise the speed limit! And I do believe I already said we'd just pave the gravel roads. Geez, aren't you listening?

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (5, Insightful)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338949)

Oh, how I wish I had mod points.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (4, Interesting)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Try keeping your distance (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (3, Informative)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338685)

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".

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (3, Interesting)

Kaitiff (167826) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338745)

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....

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338829)

I live in Michigan, what they call "Gravel Roads" are actually dirt roads, at least in my area.

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338861)

We motorcyclists just love gravel. What with the dust, the bad traction, it's just wonderful!

Re:Gravel roads are cheap but need more maintenanc (5, Insightful)

aaandre (526056) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Not the only cost... (2, Interesting)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338329)

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.

Re:Not the only cost... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338419)

well then the cost for driving on that road are passed on to the people who drive on that road instead of shared among people who do not drive on that road. Sounds fair to me.

Re:Not the only cost... (2, Insightful)

kramerd (1227006) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338841)

Not really.

Public roads are paid for by people who drive cars, through registration, tickets and fines, and local taxes. If you don't use roads, you aren't paying for them.

If people are noticing that some roads are worse for their cars than others, what you will get is congestion on other roads. Those roads will deteriorate faster due to extra travel. The net cost will increase the cost of roads for everyone, not just those that now have to drive on inferior gravel ones.

At the end of the day, the users of roads are the ones who pay for them, regardless of whether its by buying tires or replacing asphalt.

While I believe that public roads are a necessity for today's world (at least in the US), it is better to buy asphalt and have people pay a little more upfront, than to leave potholes and have more accidents, damaged vehicles, and traffic.

Re:Not the only cost... (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338919)

By that logic, why bother maintaining roads at all? They are talking about primary roads here, which are generally roads which connect one populated area to another populated area, and are thus vital to the commerce of the entire area. Even if you never take that road, if you live anywhere in the general area, or anywhere that trades with that area, you benefit from that road.

Re:Not the only cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338427)

Yeah but think of the economic stimulus it will provide for tire shops and vehicle repair businesses.

Re:Not the only cost... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338467)

Broken window fallacy.

Re:Not the only cost... (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338651)

Broken window fallacy.

No, its not the broken window fallacy. In the case of the broken window fallacy, you are deliberately destroying property in an effort to spur spending. In this case, you are not performing a service that is uneconomic. To be fair, the poster to whom you replied should have more properly said that the drivers who had an interest in the roads should pay for its upkeep.

Re:Not the only cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338497)

but the sale of the additional tires means more sales tax for the state.
more labor for local workers.
and more local shops (perhaps national companies) that pay the state more local business taxes.

its a win, win right?

Re:Not the only cost... (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338771)

A friend lives less than a mile from a paved road. In spring, their dirt/gravel road become nearly impassible due to 'permafrost' below trapping the melt and the top layer turns to baby-poop. So, he has been forced to own 4-wheel drive vehicles to get out of that. Then, he drives 30+ to work. Times 2 when his wife started working. Over a decade or so, it would have been cheaper to pay to have the road paved.

Re:Not the only cost... (1)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338777)

but how about the cost to drivers who use these roads frequently and will have to replace their tires more frequently?

It is easy to offset this cost by making the road a toll road. Oh wait...

Re:Not the only cost... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338793)

Also, how come it costs so much to re-surface a road? Why is the county getting ripped off so badly?

Here in the UK we know all about this sort of thing. Local councils get annual budgets, so they do everything on the cheap instead of planning for the long term and using longer lasting materials. They also seem to get ripped off by all the contractors, who overcharge* them and then take months to resurface a short stretch of road. It's not uncommon to see signs saying "works for 16 weeks" or more, when in other countries they do it overnight or in just a few days.

* A friend works at a builders merchant, and he says they typically double or sometimes triple their quotes for local government, as does everyone.

Re:Not the only cost... (3, Informative)

avandesande (143899) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338907)

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

Re:Not the only cost... (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338947)

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.

financially sound (1)

YayaY (837729) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338337)

This is a sound politic. Gravel road cost less $ a year because they are much easier to repair! And they do not have many inconvenient unless there is heavy traffic on the road.

Re:financially sound (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338429)

Unless they are very lightly traveled properly maintained gravel roads are more expensive in the long run than the same roads paved.

Re:financially sound (1, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338635)

> Unless they are very lightly traveled....

I think that is kinda the point. Michigan has been depopulating for decades. They are also talking about solving the vast wastelands of depoplulated cities by simply removing most of them and leaving small clusters of communities and returning most of the former cities to wilderness with a few parks sprinkled around.

It's what happens when Democrats rule an area for too long, everyone leaves. California will be dealing with these problems in just a couple more years at the current rate the productive population is fleeing.

Re:financially sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338901)

Actually that might not be true in Michigan. Our weather involves a lot of thawing and freezing each winter/spring, as such our roads tend to get torn to pieces long before other states roads.

Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338371)

How does that relate to the article? Is gravel that bad?

At least gravel is better for the environment, isn't it?

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338505)

TRWTF - how does this article relate to slashdot? I'd understand if this were an Idle article but Technology? Come on guys are we really going to try and claim that the status of the road surface in Michigan is useful information for nerds? The few people here that *do* live in Michigan never leave their mom's basement anyway so what difference does it make? Now if this were about Michigan reverting all high-speed Internet connectivity back to dial-up...

Relevant video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9ws2PpDw3o [youtube.com]

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338613)

It relates to /. because CmdrTaco is from Michigan, he went to Hope College in Holland.

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1)

Freetardo Jones (1574733) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338683)

I'd understand if this were an Idle article but Technology?

sampenzus knows that most people articles posted to the idle section so he's started posting his idle stories to other sections in order to still get people to read and post in them thus polluting otherwise perfectly fine sections of the site with his idle garbage.

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1)

kelnos (564113) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338517)

[insert obligatory "you didn't get the joke" placeholder here]

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338579)

I grew up on a gravel road. It sucks! Your vehicle is always seems to be dirty and needs maintenance much more frequently than those who don't drive on gravel.

Also, the counties where I grew up rarely serviced the gravel roads leaving them to become riddled with potholes and washboards. Try driving over 30mph on a poorly maintained gravel road and your vehicle will feel like it is falling apart. Also, the faster you go, the less control over the vehicle you have.

Re:Electricity and whale oil lighting? (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338713)

whale oil lighting

Stupid comment. There are no whales in Michigan !

Yeah, it's the end of the world (4, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338379)

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.

Re:Yeah, it's the end of the world (1)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338507)

When it snows a small amount, sure, you don't have to plow, but when there are more than a couple of inches you have to plow the road anyway. The problem then is that the plows also take layers off the roads when they plow them, meaning that through the winter, the roads become less safe as the gravel disappears and the dirt below is left. This is especially bad considering that gravel roads are less safe at high speeds to begin with, and believe me, stupid people drive at high speeds regardless of road type or conditions.

Re:Yeah, it's the end of the world (1)

Sophacles (24240) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338815)

So in most rural places, there are plenty of roads which never get plowed no matter what. These roads just aren't used in the winter because they only exist to begin with for the purpose of having heavy farm machinery move around between farm and fields. Other uses, such as farmer bob taking the backroad shortcut to town, just aren't considered important. Those roads shouldn't be paved at my (taxpayer) expense to begin with.

My g/f grew up on a farm, they have 2 approaches across the fields. One is paved, one is not. When the county was paving roads the family was given a choice about which to pave. (20something years ago) and that is proably the way it will remain for at least the next decade. When I asked if they wanted the other road paved, and why the county didn't pave more of the gravel I got the usual "stupid city boy" treatment. From that I gathered that for such rural roads, no one who will ever need to use them actually cares much.

Easy to see coming (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338383)

That's what happens when you continual elect democrats to office.

Roads go to shit but I'm sure there's no cuts in programs for illegal aliens.

Re:Easy to see coming (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338569)

True, no cuts in programs for illegal aliens. Mainly because THERE ARE NO PROGRAMS FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS There are also no cuts for programs designed to help 16 year olds boys have sex, programs designed to kill 80 old woman, or programs designed to provide tin foil helmets for nut jobs.

Re:Easy to see coming (4, Insightful)

OhPlz (168413) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338703)

That's not entirely accurate. There are probably very few programs exclusively for illegal aliens, but illegals do qualify for many other types of programs. Remember Obama's illegal immigrant aunt? She's living in a housing project in Boston, which is a service funded by the taxpayers. The housing authority is not allowed to ask about immigration status. This is a very common practice with handouts in MA.

It wouldn't shock me if there were services exclusively for illegals in either MA or CA. MA did hold meetings with illegals to learn how their status affects them. To me, that's a bit outrageous. ICE should have been invited.

Re:Easy to see coming (2, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338583)

That's what happens when you continual elect democrats to office.

Roads go to shit but I'm sure there's no cuts in programs for illegal aliens.

Quite. Tax revenue is insufficient to pay for essential services - let's blame the Democrats who want to tax everyone to death.

Hang on...

Re:Easy to see coming (4, Insightful)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338729)

The reason you have sky high taxes and are STILL broke lies in your definition of "essential" services.

Re:Easy to see coming (1)

Ghostworks (991012) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338749)

Unfortunately, taxes are part of the problem in Michigan. Businesses just can't afford to operate under the tax burden there, so they were fleeing the state even before the recession. States have to compete for cash just like everyone else. Just like a vendor can cut prices and make it up in volume, so too can a state lower taxes and make it up in an increase in business. That such drastic cuts are necessary is not just a sign of the times, but also a sign of a state that just refuses to compete.

Extremely Sensible (4, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338407)

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.

Re:Extremely Sensible (0)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338565)

<quote>does not have a major quality of life impact</quote>

Obviously you don't own a Mercedes Benz. Plenty of luxury car owners wont drive on gravel roads.

Re:Extremely Sensible (1)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338803)

> "Obviously you don't own a Mercedes Benz"

Obviously, you're missing the point.

Re:Extremely Sensible (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338873)

You think the entirety of Michigan is poor?

Re:Extremely Sensible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338619)

Perhaps the post should move to State of Michigan, pay local taxes there so he can have paved roads.

Re:Extremely Sensible (5, Informative)

maeka (518272) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338661)

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.

Re:Extremely Sensible (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338835)

But if Michigan invested in developing hovercars then no one would care what the roads looked like!

Solving the funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338461)

Not to start a flamewar here, but I'm interested in hearing how our libertarian-leaning friends here on Slashdot would handle this situation. Socialists would probably increase taxes to raise more money for public projects as this, but what would you do?

Re:Solving the funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338643)

Take 1% from the defense budget. You'll even have some extra to build sidewalks!

Re:Solving the funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338679)

We probably wouldn't have paved roads that didn't need it in the first place.

Winter? (1, Informative)

Pingh (1130313) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338473)

I can't imagine these are main roads. What happens in winter when the city has to plow the roads? Usually all gravel roads here are seasonal and closed during the winter.

Plowed (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338751)

In Colorado plenty of gravel roads are plowed all winter, including many up in the mountains. There's no reason you can't plow (and de-ice) a gravel road, though after winter is over you often have to re-grade and possibly add back more gravel to replace what got scraped off.

Re:Winter? (1)

Sophacles (24240) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338849)

In rural areas they dont need to be closed. They aren't even needed in winter, as no one is moving tractors around when there are no crops to plant/harvest/tend.

Re:Winter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338853)

I lived on county gravel roads before moving an urban area. There were some ups and downs with them.

- Rougher after the road graters came through. It takes a few weeks for the larger stones to be driven out of the way, so you do drive slower during this time (50 mph or slower depending on how familiar you are with the area).
- After rains and snow thaws, claw roads are a nightmare to go through. You slide everywhere! Decent tires are a must.
- The need to be careful on hills. Some folks like to drive in the middle of the road since there isn't a dividing line. Coming up on hills, you need to make a conscious effort to move to the side and yet still avoid sliding off the gravel shoulder.
- Rocks and dust. Don't drive too close! You will likely get rock in the windshield, and with the dust kicked up you can't see what is passing the car in front of you. Also don't count on having that car clean look all the time, so get used to wearing mud on the side of the car as a badge of honor instead!

On the plus side!
+ Cheaper to maintain. Sure, the county probably needs to come through more often to keep the road bed up, but it takes less than a day to do 5 miles of gravel road with a single road grater. To do 5 miles of paved road, the time, labor, materials and equipment are far more.
+ Ice? No problem! When an ice storm came up, I never took the highway. I -might- be able to top 20 mph on the highway. On the gravel road, I could still cruise comfortably at 50 mph+ safely.

Re:Winter? (2, Informative)

fran6gagne (1467469) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338905)

I live in north Canada and, actually dirt and gravel roads are at their best in winter. Once the soil get completly frozen it gets as hard as asphalt and it can get plowed like any road. With good winter tires you can drive 100-110 km/h safely. The problem is when everything melt in spring and then the water scrap the road badly. That's why big trucks are mostly forbidden on those road during april and march.

Gravel Roads are great - just ask West Virginia (5, Interesting)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Flying Car Argument (4, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338513)

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.

Re:Flying Car Argument (1)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338551)

Amen.

Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338699)

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:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338743)

Its just a market that dosnt work, to few companies construct and maintains roads, the result is ridiculous pricing.

Re:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (2, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338769)

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 public-sector corruption. And it's needed too, because a major police corruption scandal seems to break every seven years or so. They are definitely needed.

Re:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338923)

I wonder just to what extend conservative politics

Yes, I think you can safely say that Michigan is and has, for many years, been run by corrupt conservatives.

Re:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338779)

Apparently we have about 5.7 million miles of roads in the US (at least from some sites that came up on Google). That turns out to $570 Billion US. I have a hard time believing that's accurate to begin with. Maybe. Just seems a little high to me.

Re:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (3, Informative)

kaplong! (688851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338845)

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:Why is it $100K per mile in the first place? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338851)

No, you're pretty much right on with this.

My local town handles the main road through town and its been going on 20 years without issues where as the road connecting to the town needs to be replaced every 10 years. Oddly enough also we paid less for our road.

Crazy Administration blame game accusations (5, Insightful)

ViennaSt (1138481) | more than 4 years ago | (#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...

Re:Crazy Administration blame game accusations (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338791)

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.

Re:Crazy Administration blame game accusations (2, Interesting)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338941)

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."

Ha, I heard Rush Limbaugh making the same claim as goomygoomy, good to know that his logic was on-par with a forum troll's.

More dangerous (0)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338591)

Gravel roads are more dangerous because you cannot travel at higher speeds on them. Since the majority of people aren't going to slow down, the gravel roads are more dangerous.

Less dangerous (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338817)

Gravel roads are more dangerous because you cannot travel at higher speeds on them. Since the majority of people aren't going to slow down, the gravel roads are more dangerous.

You forget that fewer people are going to travel on them exactly because they are gravel. Because most accidents are caused by two or more cars, gravel roads are safer - especially if you are willing to slow down.

Who cares if the roads are not quite as safe for someone unwilling to slow down? You are ignoring the very real increase in safety an average rational driver will see, and those are who you want to help. Those that drive too fast for gravel are probably doing the same thing on asphalt.

Re:More dangerous (2, Interesting)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338955)

Never mind having to travel at lower speeds their biker unfriendly. If you put even mild acceleration through them your back end goes all over the place and take you out if your not carefull. This happened alot on a 200cc trails bike with off road tyres, I won't go near gravel on my 600cc superbike.

The real issue here is grip, gravel provides very little grip while tarmac/cement provides a reasonable amount. While gravel might be cheaper I bet the social cost from the increase in accidents makes it more expensive over the life of the road.

I say this as a person from Somerset in the UK, Somerset a county where they seem to think running some a variety of silly social schemes which benifit dozens of people are more important than resurfacing major roads through towns (benifiting thousands). Yeovils main roads have been dug up and poorly filled in so many times they are nothing but potholes. Given the choice between that mess and gravel I'd still prefer the potholed, bumpy tarmac.

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338637)

Most of the people these roads service think the government should "stay out of their business" and complain constantly about taxes. Just think how happy they'll be now that the road is cheaper!

Oh wait, they'll complain about that too...

Will car companies offer stronger paint again? (1)

Viewsonic (584922) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338645)

Just curious, because otherwise this will pretty much cost a heck of a lot more in car depreciation, repainting costs, and the environmental impact that comes with it.

Unintended consequences (3, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Road-ploughing in Victoria, Australia (2, Informative)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Michitucky? (1)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338705)

Gravel Roads might be cheaper from an infrastructure POV, but they have serious downsides.

* You can't plow them for snow removal. Michigan gets some big snow, so this means isolating people until a thaw.
* They beat the crap out of cars.
* They get dusty during dry spells. Visibility is reduced when following another driver, leading to safety concerns.
* Traction is reduced. Stopping times during an emergency are much different because a moving car will slide on a layer of loose rock without direct traction. You can easily slide into a disabled vehicle(s) or off the road.
* Even the Amish will laugh at Michigan if they do this.

Why aren't more roads concrete? (2, Insightful)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338707)

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...

Fine for four wheels (1)

DarkNinja75 (990459) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338755)

Gravel roads are fine if you have 4 wheels, but if you're on two wheels (specifically a sport bike or sport tourer), they can be extremely hazardous.

One more example of how bad our infrastructure is (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338875)

This is just one more example of how totally neglected our infrastructure is in this country. Net infrastructure spending today (that is accounting for depreciation) is about half of what it was during the 70's and 80's. But it goes beyond that. Our infrastructure doesn't just need to be maintained, it needs a complete overhaul. The US highway system has proven to be totally inadequate as a means of transportation for urban areas. Traffic and congestion gobble up billions of dollars worth of lost productivity, automobiles carrying single people to work spew tons of CO2 into the air, and traffic deaths claims tens of thousands of lives in the US every year.

And that's just our ground trasportation infrastructure. Consider also the situation with the Cable/Telco duopoly control of home Internet access, rail lines that have survived only on federal subsidies for years, Wireless carriers who actively interfere with advancements in cellular handset technology, and the pitiful state of air travel.

Dust and the EPA (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28338943)

I wish Phoenix, AZ (Maricopa County) would follow this example. Mainly to reduce the "heat island" effect that we are currently creating.

But I know this isn't going to happen because the EPA has already stated that Phoenix (and surrounding cities) have to pave all the gravel roads to reduce the particulate matter in the air, or else we loose our federal road subsidies.

So just wait a bit for the EPA to step in for those counties and force them back to paving their roads.

What the hell? (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#28338961)

News for nerds? Nope.
Stuff that matters? Hardly.

samzenpus needs to lose his editor status.
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