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.
In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.
Growing up, my mother would take us to see her parents in central Arkansas. After her father retired from the railroad (yes, leftists, he was a union man) they moved out to a house on a lake. When we first started going there, once we left the main highway (which ran towards Hot Springs, where Bill Clinton grew up) we were on gravel roads until we got to the house. The progress we saw was the progressive extension of the paved road until it reached their house.
Now we see the reverse taking place. It’s hard on the windscreen and paint, but perhaps a new generation will get the experience of bouncing down a gravel road, going slowly to avoid kicking up the rocks. (My mother used to navigate it in her 1958 Cadillac, but the experience just wasn’t the same…) Don’t forget to roll the windows down for the entire experience: it saves on fuel and CO2 emissions, too.