Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Road Ahead

On a recent vacation to Costa Rica earlier this summer, I spent more hours than I had wanted experiencing the driving conditions first hand. For many of the main roads, driving is pretty similar to my Colorado experience. But when you get into the secondary roads, the ones that take you to many of the wonders of the country, the driving becomes a very different experience. The combination of changing road widths, potholes, washboard and the ever present passing cars and trucks made driving a real challenge. I remember turning to my wife and saying, welcome to our future. We are going to see a lot more of this in the U.S.  Now a month later I see this article in the WSJ.

"The Road to Ruin"
January 17, 2010

Outside this speck of a town, pop. 78, a 10-mile stretch of road had deteriorated to the point that residents reported seeing ducks floating in potholes, Mr. Zimmerman said. As the road wore out, the cost of repaving became too great. Last year, the county spent $400,000 on an RM300 Caterpillar rotary mixer to grind the road up, making it look more like the old homesteader trail it once was.

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.
But this change is not all bad. It will increase the trend toward localization, but it slows us down, and will ultimately create a number of very local jobs to keep the roads in usable condition.