Return to Gravel Decried as Trend

Wall Street Journal article portrays budget woes causing conversion of paved roads to gravel.

July 22, 2010
CDR Staff

A feature story in the Wall Street Journal offers several examples of government agencies electing to convert paved roads back to gravel to help rein in their highway maintenance budgets.

In the July 17, 2010, feature article written by Lauren Etter, a county highway superintendent in North Dakota is quoted as saying, “When [counties] had lots of money, they paved a lot of the roads and tried to make life easier for the people who lived out here; now, it’s catching up to them.”

The county in North Dakota subsequently purchased a Caterpillar rotary mixer to grind up several of its asphalt roads and convert them to gravel trails.

According to the article, in 2009 South Dakota converted more than 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel surfaces, while in Michigan 38 of the Wolverine State’s 83 counties have converted some paved roads to gravel.

Etter also writes, “Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as ‘poor man's pavement’ [and] some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.”

The article notes that while residents have complained about the practice, “higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular.” Also cited as a culprit in the trend is the high cost of asphalt and petroleum—one of its main ingredients.

The full article is available on the Wall Street Journal website at