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High Paving Costs Mean More Unpaved Roads

Roughly one third of the U.S. road network – some 1.4 million miles – is unpaved, meaning those roads have a gravel or dirt surface, according to the Federal Highway Administration in 2012. The total may be rising slowly, says Stateline, which covers state government. Some 550 miles of paved road (the distance from Chicago to Kansas City) were converted to unpaved roads by counties and cities in 27 states in recent years.  

Gravel and other unpaved roads require more routine maintenance, but they are much cheaper to install or maintain than a paved road. Some 50 miles of pavement were recycled into gravel roads in three Iowa counties in 2013 and 2014, says Stateline, which cites an estimate by Allamakee County in northeastern Iowa, that resurfacing a paved road costs $100,000 a mile while conversion to gravel costs $5,000 per mile.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.


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