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The Road Ahead: Let’s Keep It Smooth

Trimming expenses in tough times seems smart, like trimming your speed when an oncoming car flashes its headlights.

Centralia mine fire.But now The Wall Street Journal is reporting that counties in North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are deliberately grinding up their paved roads as a way to save money.

Embarrassing? The idea of returning to the Stone Age of highway construction would make certain chest-thumping shrines awkwardly obsolete. But destroying America’s roads is far worse; it’s like digging our own pothole. Without the creamy smooth surfaces of cement or coal tar distillates, the frictionlessness necessary for gravity hills will be impossible (they went unreported in the horse-and-buggy era). Singing roads will go the way of singing telegrams. Novelties such as a big rock in a road will instead become dreary and commonplace. Important events that happened right in a highway will be impossible to mark on a street of dirt and stones.

And what about all of the two-wheelers who travel America just to take photos of their motorcycles next to attractions? They’ll have to buy wider-angle lenses so that they can fit in the bike, its trailer, and their hauling SUV, because without those new accessories they won’t be able to get from Point A to Point B without sliding into a ditch.

Pigeon Forge monster truck.Perhaps the monster truck —  exemplar of fuel efficiency and bulging tire aesthetic — will rule the rubbleway.

No, the losses created by this False Economy would be far greater than the savings. Let our faith in mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations crumble into rubble if they must. But not our wonderful roads.

Sections: Rants 1 Comment »

One Response to “The Road Ahead: Let’s Keep It Smooth”

  1. Ben the Engineer Says:
    July 26th, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Regarding Pennsylvania country roads.
    A lot of small blacktop roads date from the 1930th, from Governor Pinchot “get the farmers out of the mud”.
    Gravel with a tar spray, they are called pancake roads. No base, no drainage, lots og frost heave potholes.
    Also no substancial traffic.
    In short, cost exceeds usage. Unless you are on this state subsidized miles long driveway.
    There is no legal obligation to keep all roads paved. Right of way dates from 1930th, is permanent. paving is not.

    Its cheaper to run the grader on gravel than to “shoot and chip”, that is to spray liquid tar and spread gravel.

    And Pa has lots and lots of miles of roads, some , but not all have reverted to rural townships. Who, incidentally are often also broke.

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