Chesterton Tribune

Cash short Indiana counties go back to gravel roads

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NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Some Indiana counties facing tight road budgets are replacing asphalt-paved roads with rough, dusty stretches of gravel to save on maintenance costs.

The Herald-Times reports that southern Indiana’s Brown County is shifting some roads to gravel because they’re cheaper to maintain.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Smokey Presseau said his budget this year contains just $200,000 for road maintenance and repairs — not much to purchase the thick oil and crushed stone used to fill potholes in asphalt roads.

“We can maintain the roads with what we have, but that’s about all,” Presseau said. “We have absolutely no money to pave.”

This week, county crews chopped up an asphalt portion of a road near the town of Story and returned its surface to gravel. Presseau said that road was pothole-ridden and needed constant repairs.

He said only about 10 cars pass that way each day and area motorists are familiar with rough gravel roads.

Brown County has about 175 miles of asphalt county roads and about 200 miles of gravel roads.

Presseau estimated that over the next five years, many asphalt roads in the county will start to crack and break, and there won’t be money to fix them.

“We will never be able to keep up with filling potholes,” he said.

Owen County has also switched some roads to gravel, with plans to do more. Highway superintendent Joe Pettijohn said the changes have led to grumbling from citizens whose vehicles bear the brunt of rough surfaces.

“The complaints are nonstop,” he said. “It’s worse than being the mayor — hated no matter what.”

Pettijohn said his $290,000 budget this year is far short of what’s needed to make roads smooth and drivable. He had his crews hand-patch potholes “all year long,” as it costs about $40,000 to pave a one-mile stretch of two-lane county road.

“To do it right,” Pettijohn said, it costs twice that.

He said three years ago his overall budget was cut by $2 million, going down to $1.2 million.

Owen County has 650 miles of county roads. One-third of those are gravel and the rest are solid asphalt or chip and seal, which is gravel embedded in a thick road oil.

“If it was up to me, I would pave every day. The roads are so pretty and smooth when you are done,” he said. “I hate gravel roads.”


Posted 3/1/2012