A Fresh Perspective on the Benefits of Gravel Roads

In Gravel Roads by Frank Elswick

Gravel roads can help communities improve the durability of local infrastructure and save money doing it — so long as they invest in the right road building and stabilization technology.

As any local government knows, paved roads are a costly investment. They require municipalities to prepare roadways for paving, pay for the paving process, and re-pave these surfaces every ten years — and that’s an optimistic projection. While paved roads can be the right choice for certain situations, there’s no avoiding that they are an expensive option for smaller, rural municipalities, especially if budgets are tight.

Thankfully, gravel roads offer an alternative every bit as effective as paved roadways. In fact, unpaved gravel roads can save communities money on installation, cut costs on the maintenance process, and lead to better outcomes for residents and other local stakeholders. With gravel roads, municipalities and businesses don’t have to choose between durable infrastructure and sticking to their budget.

For decision-makers looking to overhaul or improve their critical infrastructure, gravel roads are well-worth their consideration. However, before diving head-first into this decision, it’s important that everyone involved understands all of the benefits of gravel roads, as well as what technology — such as unpaved road stabilization — is necessary to get the job done right.

How Gravel Roads Can Help

To start, gravel roads are significantly more cost-effective than their paved counterparts. While the paving process is expensive — and requires communities to invest in re-paving on a regular basis — gravel roads are easier to build and cheaper to maintain. A large part of this has to do with the material involved in both processes. Paving a road requires work crews to bring in costly outside materials. Conversely, building a gravel road entails the use of natural products such as soils, sediments, and rocks — many of which can be found in or near the worksite.

Additionally, gravel roads fit in better aesthetically with rural communities and ecosystems. Rather than build starkly contrasting paved roads through the bucolic countryside or fragile natural environments, gravel roads allow municipalities to provide residents with sustainable and reliable infrastructure that respects the needs of nearby ecosystems and matches the fabric of their community.

Challenges for Gravel Roads

With that said, building and maintaining a gravel road requires careful thought and attention. In order for this kind of infrastructure to be maximally effective while lowering maintenance costs, stakeholders need to be sure that they are stabilizing and building unpaved roads properly and employing the most up-to-date methods and technology available.

For example, if a gravel road runs too wide — a common symptom of “gravel creep” in which incorrectly stabilized surfaces shed gravel — graders may leave raised edges at the side of the road. This can lead to water running away from the higher center of the road, hitting these edges, and running down the side. Eventually, this will create problematic gullies and ditches.

Technology Makes the Difference

By investing in the right gravel road stabilization and building technologies, communities can avoid these kinds of issues altogether. Properly built and stabilized unpaved roads possess pavement-like durability and surface strength that together ensure they never shed gravel or harm the surrounding ecosystem. This also makes them easier to grade, which leads to lower maintenance costs in both the short- and long-term.

With the help of Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc.’s innovative unpaved road stabilization and building solutions, municipalities and businesses can construct gravel surfaces built to last. Our suite of patented technologies leverage environmentally safe, non-toxic binders to improve the structural integrity of unpaved roads. We even take advantage of natural soils, older graveled roads, or recycled components available onsite to reduce the need for costly outside materials.

If you’re looking to build new gravel roads or hoping to improve the surface strength of preexisting unpaved infrastructure, the team at Midwest can help. And regardless of whether you’re interested in letting our trained professionals handle the application process or applying our products yourself, we can work with you to develop the most effective road building strategy possible for your needs. 

Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction and natural paving markets.