Road maintenance tips and dos and don'ts from the experts.
- Do keep your neighbors in mind when making road decisions. Will runoff from your road affect their property?
- Do think about the impact of your road on the environment. Are your decisions contributing to water or air pollution, or soil erosion?
- Do consider vegetation as a cheap problem-solver; seeding a roadside cutbank could prevent its erosion into your road.
- Do invest in quality road materials. Even if they look good, cheap solutions can sometimes end up costing more in the long run.
- Do reshape a road after the last snowmelt, returning gravel that has been plowed aside to its rightful place and making sure to restore the crown.
- Don’t grade a dry road. It raises dust, separating fines from aggregate. Grade after a light rain, when the surface is soft but not muddy.
- Don’t remove vegetation from ditches unless it blocks the water flow. Vegetation helps filter the water and decreases soil erosion.
- Don’t cut down trees at the roadside if you can avoid it. Shade helps protect the road from drying out in times of low precipitation; roots stabilize the roadbed.
- Don’t fix the road if it ain’t broke. Resist the temptation to regrade unless it’s really needed; you want the gravel to stay packed down tightly.
- Don’t drive fast. Make sure your shock absorbers are properly functioning. Fast vehicles and bad shocks cause washboarding and dust.
Road Maintenance Tips: Dirt Don’t Hurt
Russ Lanoie, of Conway, New Hampshire, has written a book full of practical advice on dirt and gravel road construction and maintenance, A Ditch in Time, downloadable free at his website, www.RuralHomeTech.com. Lanoie, inventor of a front-operated landscape rake attachment for tractors, called the Front Runner, also will answer questions by e-mail: russ @ RuralHomeTech.com.
The Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies at Pennsylvania State University maintains an information-packed website, www.dirtandgravelroads.org.
To find local offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov, and click on “States and Regions.” Information and services are free. You can also check the federal government listings of your telephone book.
For additional information, you can download the resources shown here for free. The Private Roads Maintenance Guide can be downloaded at The Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District website, www.sccrcd.org. The Gravel Roads Maintenance and Design Manual and the Low-Volume Roads Engineering Guide, can both be found at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/roadshwys.html.
To find local offices of state-run conservation districts, which vary in name, go to www.nacdnet.org, the National Association of Conservation Districts. You can also check state government telephone listings under “natural resources,” “soil and water conservation,” etc.
Don’t overlook area environmental groups as sources of information and assistance. Efforts by the conservation group Trout Unlimited helped get recurring state financing for the Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies, which offers free road workshops throughout Pennsylvania, in addition to doing research.