Why Gravel Roads Might Be Your Best Option

In Dust Control, EnviroKleen®, Gravel Roads by Frank Elswick

At one time, replacing an asphalt road with gravel would seem to be a step backwards, but, with modern dust-reduction technology, a gravel road is the best economic option when budgets are tight.

Asphalt roads enjoy a number of physical advantages over gravel roads, including smoothness, strength, and lack of dust. However, a number of local communities and governments in the US are opting for gravel roads at an increasing rate because of the significant cost-advantage that they offer.

With the right situation, planning and dust management, gravel roads can definitely excel at meeting the transport needs of many communities.

Gravel Roads in the News

In 2012, ABC57 News covered a story which revealed that in Elkhart County, Indiana, local government could not afford to pave a particular stretch of road anymore, so the town decided to convert it into a gravel road. Local residents were upset because the local commission had not informed them of this plan.

It is not right to leave local residents in the dark. However, in this situation, a gravel road represents a significant cost-saving alternative to an asphalt road. With fewer than 35 cars per day–well below the permissible lower limit of 120–the switch proved to be completely acceptable.

The Manchester Enterprise reports that the local people of Manchester, Michigan are seeking new ways to fund road maintenance. Their available funds, which currently amount to $100,000 with the addition of a road commission, would enable them to renovate their 46.2 miles of road in 23 years.

This might seem like a long wait for the renewal of important local transport links. However, this figure represents how long it would take given Manchester’s gravel road system: the cost to the community and the necessary time would be far higher were the roads asphalt. Another important consideration is that the bulk of this cost is in the dust reduction that gravel roads produce.

The Bottom Line

The main advantage of gravel roads is that they are less expensive to create and maintain. In a report titled ‘Pavement Management Evolution and Recommendations,’ the city of Milton, Georgia, explored the relative costs of maintaining asphalt and gravel roads under a number of different scenarios.

Authorities took into account the costs associated with gravel roads–ruts form, which must be spread out, and dust must be regularly mitigated, amongst other things.

According to the report, accounting for an average cost per year over a 20-year period, the cheapest asphalt solution would cost $296,492/mile/year, while the cheapest gravel solution would cost $226,367/mile/year. As such, Milton could save 24% by opting for the cheapest gravel option over the cheapest asphalt option.

Solutions from Midwest

Clearly, in situations where the traffic volume is insufficient to warrant a fully-paved road, gravel roads are a great cost-saving option. The main concern that residents might have, however, is that gravel roads will throw up dust harmful to human health and farming and that will increase the risk of road accidents by obscuring vision.

Fortunately, Midwest Industrial Supply offers a number of highly sophisticated solutions that can mitigate the dust problem that gravel roads represent.


Midwest’s EnviroKleen was the first dust-reduction product of its kind: a synthetic organic polymeric binder that traps dust, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. EnviroKleen will also trap the PM10 and PM2.5 forms of fine material that are particularly harmful to human health.

This product is also environmentally friendly and totally biodegradable, while forming a surface as strong as a pavement when applied to a gravel road. As such, it would be perfect for a community that wanted to benefit from the reduced cost of a gravel road, but prevent the dust problems which could otherwise arise.

Midwest and Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

As you can see in the video below, Midwest experienced great success when contracted by Hagerman to address the dust problem associated with their stretches of gravel roads. EnviroKleen enabled the refuge to reduce dust emissions by 80% after a full application, and they are still 65% down after a full year of wear, tear, and weather.



So, what if a community wanted the strength of asphalt in a gravel road? Midwest’s Road-Bldr can provide this, using a special polymer resin formula and as much of the existing soil and rock as is possible.

Road-Bldr is made up of two layers. Eco-Pave Base™ is the foundation, made by applying Midwest’s special polymer resin formulation to the existing surface to create a hard base. This is also far more sustainable than a regular road, bypassing a need for non-renewable quarried hardcore.

Atop this foundation goes Eco-Pave Chip™, a powerful binding material combined with chippings. This provides a hard, smooth surface that can be applied cold and that will not crack or melt in the heat. With all these features, Road-Bldr provides a better product than a paved road, without the expense.

So, if you want to reduce dust from a gravel road, Midwest will work with you to provide the most suitable and cost-effective solution.

In the past, issues with dust precluded gravel roads from truly being able to compete with asphalt. Now, there are enough dust-control solutions that, in the right situation, communities can rest assured that dust will be properly mitigated, so that they can benefit from the reduced costs without every needing to worry about health and safety.

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