Lowndes County Officials Stuck in Gravel Road Debate

Lowndes County Officials Stuck in Gravel Road Debate

In Dust Control, Gravel Roads, Surface Management by Frank Elswick

Gravel roads are often perceived as inferior to paved roads, but this is only true of those that are poorly constructed and maintained. Officials in Lowndes County have learned all about this in recent weeks and are weighing their road maintenance options accordingly.

To Pave or Not to Pave

The decision to pave a road should take into account the overall costs and benefits to the communities that use it. In the case of Lowndes County’s unpaved roads, according to the Valdosta Daily Times, the benefits of paving include the elimination of dust produced by road traffic, a more reliable and safer driving surface, and fewer cleaning and maintenance requirements for vehicles.

On the other hand, the expense of this proposal is a serious deterrent. The county’s in-house paving crew will be able to complete the renovations at $300,000 per mile.

Maintenance of the existing paved roadways in the county is an ongoing concern, as the construction of just three roads has already cost Lowndes over $1 million over the last two years.

But there’s a solution that offers Lowndes County the best of both worlds: proper surface maintenance with a product proven to reduce dust and maintenance costs. By enhancing the road’s stability without paving it, vehicles in Lowndes County would experience pavement-like road strength, while virtually eliminating airborne dust at a fraction of the cost.

The Hazards

Dust created by improperly maintained dirt roads causes a multitude of problems. Dust inhalation is a serious health hazard, which is why meeting the EPA guidelines for particulate matter pollution is essential to the health of residents on gravel roads frontage.

PM2.5 dust particles are the greatest cause for concern, as they tend to permanently lodge in the lungs once inhaled.

The Cancer Journal for Clinicians conducted a study on particulate air pollution and found that, from a sample of 500,000 people in the U.S., deaths from lung cancer increased by 8% for every 10 microgram increase of very fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic meter of air in their general habitation.

Dust from poorly maintained gravel roads covers roadside plants, hampering their ability to absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide. Not only are the plants made less attractive, but their growth is stunted.

The ability of plant life to provide adequate ground cover for erosion protection is reduced, along with their capacity for oxygen production.

Is There Really a Need to Pave?

If fugitive dust is the only problem, then paving should not be the only solution considered. Using various engineered compounds and techniques, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. can completely contain the annoying and harmful dust produced by gravel surfaces — all at a much lower cost to both the environment and the taxpayer.

Road surface strength can also be significantly increased through the use of Midwest’s advanced technology and expertise. Let’s take a look at a few of the options at Lowndes County’s disposal, all of which are environmentally safe and non-toxic.

One option is Midwest’s Natural Paving Solutions, which help you create durable, eco-friendly roads that match the native soils in your area. Midwest will work with you to evaluate your site and create a unique formula that fits your land and your budget.

In addition to Natural Paving, Midwest offers customized Road and Surface Management Solutions to improve the quality of your unpaved roads by making them longer-lasting, more durable, and less costly to maintain. Both solutions are developed on an individual basis to make your roads safer and more efficient.

Paired with any combination of Midwest’s solutions for roads, proper maintenance of Lowndes County’s roads could put a stop to both excessive dust generation and the looming costs of paving roads, leading to healthier lives for residents and local plant life alike. The result? A happier community, a better operation, and a more robust local economy.

(Image credit: Loco Steve/flickr)

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