Saturday, April 3, 2010

How long will the roads last?

Out here in the North Country, roads have a hard time. Right now there are little "frost heave" signs all over the back country. Most of the roads around my place never had a proper base laid down. The thin coating of asphalt often needs repair.

Last fall the town did a good job keeping the drainage ditches and culverts clear. I'm glad they did. During spring snow melt or heavy rain, a plugged culvert causes flooding. Hundreds of feet of road can be washed away. One year of no maintenance, and the roads around here would be in pretty rough shape. Several years of neglect would turn large sections of road into muddy footpaths.

When the price of oil spiked, asphalt also went up in price -if you could get it. My town actually depaved two good sized roads in town. It's cheaper to maintain a gravel road than asphalt. Other parts of the country also depaved roads.

There are plenty of roads around here that were never paved. In the spring, most of them are closed for a number of weeks. That's to prevent them from getting deeply rutted. I wonder if the road outside my place will one day be closed for the spring thaw. Maybe we'll have to choose between waiting it out in town or being stranded at the house. When I was growing up, we had a hunting camp up nine miles of dirt road. I've walked up there a time or two during the spring road closure. It was always an adventure.

The petroleum age winds down. Things get simpler. Resources get allocated where they'll do the most good. The outlying areas receive less money and attention.

Maybe one day they'll be no money, equipment, fuel or manpower to keep the ditches open and drains clear. Should that happen, I'll really be living in the woods.



  1. The Romans never drilled for oil, and some of their roads have lasted a few millennia.

    All you need is someone willing to do the work, or a government willing to put in the effort. Asphalt is cheap and easy, but it's not the only game in town.

  2. They were built right in the first place. Deep base, good drainage, attention to detail. Much unlike the roads around here.

    Gangs of men with shovels and picks could do the job, but I doubt if the will is there. Maybe where there's enough population density for it to matter.

    I can show you places around here where whole towns have been abandoned. Not much left to show that they ever existed.

  3. Infrastructure is a big investment. That's why it's one of the things that a string central government is actually good for, and that's coming from a fairly libertarian guy. Individuals and small communities might not have the manpower or resources, that's true.

    Areas experience boom and bust times. Any place with easy access, a good harbor, good growing weather, etc, will stay populated. Remote areas may be abandoned.

    So, yeah, it's not an unrealistic concern, but people are resourceful. If enough people want something done, it can be done.

  4. I'm kinda hoping for this to one of the abandoned areas . . .

  5. That's great until you need the ambulance.

  6. Opps! Maybe I'll get lucky and one of my paramedic friends will be over to visit.