Maintaining our transportation infrastructure would involve living outside of our means (to the tune of $88B,) and unless something changes soon, we might have to nickel and dime our way to close the infrastructure funding gap. One way to help this process along would be to unpave roads that, likely, should never have been paved in the first place. This is a touchy subject, as the idea of converting roads to gravel is generally viewed as more of a threat than a solution.

“Some counties say they’re at the point where they can no longer repave their roads, they’re thinking about scraping up the broken asphalt and putting their roads back to gravel because they just don’t have the money to pave their roads.”
Alabama Representative Mac McCutcheon

27 states have already depaved roads, but it should be noted that road conversion projects are generally only done to rural, low-volume roads that have an average daily commute of between 21-100 vehicles. It is likely that these roads were originally paved, not out of necessity, but because construction costs were low. Costs have risen, causing roads that are now nearing the end of their lifecycle to be much too expensive to maintain.

“The U.S. has 4.1 million miles of roads (1.9 million paved, 2.2 million gravel). About 3 million miles of roads have less than 2,000 vehicles a day, less than 15% of all traffic. The paved portion of these low-volume roads ought to be evaluated for their potential to be unpaved.”

This journal article by energyskeptic provides data-driven information on a topic that has a lot of negative associations.


Matt McCutcheon quote source: http://www.drivealabama.org/news/rep-mac-mccutcheon/
road data quote source: http://energyskeptic.com/2016/unpave-low-volume-roads-to-save-energy/
photo source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3807006