Five Ways to Ruin Your Roads

December 1st, 2017

Every small town has the same heartache: roads.

Roads don’t have a local user fee to pay for themselves like water and wastewater infrastructure can. Roads need constant maintenance. Roads are a visible asset and influence the perception of a town. The compounding problem for rural governments is they sometimes maintain just as many square feet of pavement as suburban cities, but with a fraction of the taxpayers. Moreover, in central Utah, replete with scenic beauty, we have millions of tourists using our roads each year. For example, Rockville, population 273, sees more than a million trips made in a year on Main Street.

If you’re a small town or rural county, and you want to ruin your roads and spend extra money, we’ve put together these five suggestions to help you.

Don’t maintain your roads.
Clearly it’s easier to say “next year” to the roads department, and of course you have a budget tighter than those old wranglers, but delaying critical maintenance like chip seals, will shorten the life of your blacktop.

Pave everything.
Spread your budget too thin and pave everything. If a new development comes to the undeveloped part of your county where lots will soon be bought-up by retirees from the Wasatch Front, you can pave the 7 mile road out to the development and offer to continue maintenance on it in perpetuity. This will mean that seasonally-used roads will be paid for by the local taxpayers in the county. Cache County identified a road that was remote and was consistently being washed out by heavy rain and had low daily trip averages. The County decided on a strategic retreat, milled the asphalt, and converted it to an unpaved road. This will allow the county to spend that money previously used on reconstruction on other, more trafficked, roads.

Don’t raise taxes.
While the cost of construction materials and labor increases with inflation and the sprawling lanes of blacktop- taxes don’t have to. You can do less and less maintenance each year with the dwindling roads budget your stationery tax rate provides. Raising taxes to meet 21st century needs isn’t a popular thing to do and would mean an improvement to infrastructure- best to avoid it.

Over-invest in recreation.
Every town with less than 10,000 people needs one of the following: splash pad, golf course, or rodeo arena. And when I say need, I don’t mean want. These are necessities. Thankfully these amenities provide the opportunity to reallocate money from the roads budget in order to subsidize an underutilized, depreciating asset. Look forward to lots of operations and maintenance, and not paying back the CIB until your grandchild is in office.

Drive and park on the shoulders.
ATVs driving on the shoulder of asphalt without a finished curb and gutter are like taking a weedwacker to your christmas tree. And parking a semi truck and trailer where the asphalt and dirt meet will do the same thing. Local ordinances and enforcement can prevent this kind of damage. Avoid long term solutions and preventative action.

Maintaining a community’s road system is one of the biggest responsibilities it has. If you are looking for ways to ruin your roads, give us a call. If you want to find ways to manage them better, you should call us for that too.