Unpaving roads in Vermont

A friend moved to Vermont after living in Iowa 71 years. He lives on a few acres on a dirt road in a rural area. He described the difficulties of driving it in mud season. I mentioned that some Vermonters have chosen to unpave roads rather than pay to keep them. He asked for my source. I don’t remember, couldn’t find, but did find a story about Montpelier unpaving a mile of one of its streets. My memory was that local governments (townships, I think) chose to unpave roads to save on taxes. Does anyone know more about this? Of course I searched the Internet on likely terms. I suspect that this is usually a false economy, that money saved on taxes ends up costing more in fuel, maintenance, accidents - we don’t pave roads because we like asphalt so much. Has someone studied this?

A non answer but you would have to find transcripts of township discussions. Roads are a main subject but every township is different, you’d have to focus focus on a particular township.

Some townships may not plow unpaved roads. Some may require taking over private roads as township property in order to maintain them. The private unpaved road to our cabin required continual regrading and maintenance so paving may actually be cheaper in the long run. Just too many variables for costs and taxes and usage to make a general statement but undoubtedly someone has torn up a deteriorated paved road that required a total rebuild.

Never volunteer to sit on a township board unless you are a masochist.

I had a house in New England that came with a 1000 foot long paved driveway, in poor condition. The driveway ran downhill to the south so during the day snow would melt on it and the freeze at night, so the ride to the road was like a toboggan run. And it had pot holes. After a few years I had it unpaved and properly graded and compacted. It was so much better, better traction, better draining, no pot holes. Every few years it needed some attention to even things out, but a giant improvement.

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Considering the Romans created paved roads, I’d say the answer is and has been clear for hundreds of years. Paved roads are preferrable.

It didn’t take much looking to find the article in “wired” “cash strapped towns are unpaving roads to save money” or something like that.

They made one statement though I have a little problem with and that is potholes can do more damage than unpaved roads. True potholes can cause suspension damage but can be fixed. Dusty roads and in particular those treated with dust control chemical, will ruin your paint and rust the bottom of your car out. So do you want to replace ball joints and shocks or fix rust and paint?

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I’d vote with my feet and get the hell out of any town that cares more about a few bucks in taxes than having paved streets, good schools, a full time police department, etc. Our house is worth perhaps $300K and we pay slightly more than $10K per year in property taxes, most of which goes to the schools where 96% of the students go on to 4 year colleges.

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I found that, of course, but it mentioned only that road in Montpelier (in Vermont), not the practice generally there.

I’m with you.

But not with concrete or asphalt.

Romans created roads with harder stuff… stones.

This is one of those situations where it appears cheaper at first but in practice, not so much. On my commute to my last house was a section of road they stopped trying to pave and left it gravel. What a disaster. They had to constantly maintain it. Replacing and regrading every month. The gravel would disappear from the sides, it would be a washboard mess days after regrading, pot holes were worse than any paved road, there were stones kicked up into windshields and last but not least DUST. The dust storms created by passing cars was unreal. Of course, these drifted over to the homes not far from the road and coated everything. One guy told me they couldn’t sit out in their yard anymore…good luck Vermont!

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Vermont is a very rural state, with lots of snow, frequent deep freezes and little traffic from a very small population. The land in Vermont is rocky and has poor drainage, except in the areas along streams, which are prone to seasonal flooding. A quick question shows that 55% of the public roads in Vermont are unpaved. With a few exceptions Vermont towns are governed by a very democratic system of elected citizen Boards and open Town Meetings, with no City councils or mayors. Perhaps the decision makers in Vermont know more about this topic than they get credit for here.

I live next to the state, travel there often and have relatives living there. Even their paved roads can be an experience…

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Why does anyone live there?

Vermont is a truly beautiful state in all seasons, and I really enjoy visiting it in the summer and the autumn. However I wouldn’t want to have to experience their winters every year. I guess that the year-round residents don’t mind their winter weather.

Been living along the VT border and working with a lot of rural residents for approx 3 years. I haven’t heard of anyone un-paving their roads but that isn’t authoritative. Can agree their roads are an experience — I have driven on some I was worried I’d get stuck with a popped tire and no cell service. Also I swear some of the speed limits are set as some sort of Darwinian test, because some are really high relative to the windiness of the road, with steep shoulders and little lighting.

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Ask them. But I know they do live there and they do cherish their state. When I drive into Vermont it feels, to me, like I’ve entered a secret National Park, dedicated to how “it should be”.

Romans created roads with concrete, not stones. Their concrete is a LOT harder than the concrete we make today and is very labor intensive. They used it to make a sort of brick that looks a lot like a cobblestone.

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I do remember from my ancient western civ that they did come up with a very high grade of concrete, but I believe the roads had ditches and side barriers and compacted sand, covered with aggregate of small stones and compacted.

The only mention of concrete here is for bridges:
Roman Roads - World History Encyclopedia

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Reportedly Vermont has more miles of unpaved roads than paved, mud season is a thing but one article suggests using a roller like you would with asphalt after the rock is put down does improve things. My parents built their house on a shared dirt/gravel road back in 1979 and the neighbors have basically got the upkeep down to a science including buying a particular type of rock and driving back and forth until it packs down. Or just renting a roller for about $250/day from a local rental place.

Dusty during the summer and only slightly muddy when it rains, can be as smooth as the paved county road which gets repaved probably every decade if we’re lucky. The cost of the gravel is split five ways and pro-rated to how far down the road you have to travel to get to your property.

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I guess the gravel road to our cabin was about 3/4 mile and served maybe 20 houses and cabins. The upkeep was a continual problem. The residences were charged an annual voluntary assessment which some didn’t pay. Would have had to become a political subdivision to assess it on property taxes and no one wanted that. A guy a couple houses down was experienced in road building but when he said what needed to be done, people balked due to the cost. Part of the problem is that it crossed a wetland that just ate the road away. I suspect the issues and various opinions were similar to those in Vermont. 20% of the people would have been happy to have the other folks pay for paving but not them. Mud was fine. The whole area was developed on a farmers land that had a couple miles of shore land, but he was as cheap or cheaper than the others and not about to pave a road. Heh heh.