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A recent study of roads in the Midwest indicates that many states are responding to budget problems by allowing rural roads to return to gravel.

According to the Minneapolis Tribune the worst states are:

    • Michigan has changed more than 100 miles of pavement to gravel. After one road was torn up a year and a half ago, the County Road Association of Michigan bottled the millings and asphalt and sent them to state legislators as a message.

    • In North Dakota, a couple of stretches nearly 10 miles long have gone to gravel along with a sprinkling of smaller patches. County leaders are discussing more such changes, a transportation official there said.

    • South Dakota may hold the distinction of being the most torn-up state in the Midwest. A state transportation official estimated that 120 miles of pavement have been ground up or left to crumble back to gravel.

Going beyond the issue that this change is a simple step backward from modern society and yet another example of how certain political decisions have completely ignored our infrastructure, there are other implications on these changes.

– We already know that rural roads are more dangerous than other roads:

Rural Roads: Our Deadliest Drives, Christy Thompson | January 10, 2010 11:45 PM

More Traffic Accident Deaths on Rural Roads than Urban, Paul Jacquart | October 07, 2009 5:42 PM

Feeling Of Safety On Rural Roads Seems To Be Misguided, Mike Bryant | September 29, 2010 9:31 AM

Why No Seatbelt On Rural Roads?, Mike Bryant | October 18, 2009 7:00 AM

Rural Roads: More Dangerous?, Mike Bryant | October 09, 2009 9:35 AM

Will this loss of pavement actually save lives? I could see that as being possible. Although with the leading factors for deaths on these roads being speed, drinking , and lack of seat belts, it seems that only the speed would be directly affected. It could also be suggested that while speed may come down, the issue is still driving too fast for conditions. It is unlikely that the risky young driver is going to slow to a significantly slower speed.

– Is any of the needed maintenance being done? There has been talk for years that these roads are being neglected. How long until we have lack of proper signage, giant cave ins , and impassable roads during certain weather conditions?

– How will these problems affect the political debate? I can’t wait until the next billboard goes up warning about the loss of Minnesota jobs to one of our neighbors. Will it say " to one of those states without roads?" What will these changing conditions do to the mindsets of the legislators from those areas?

The issue here is safety. How many deaths on the roads will it take until those in the capitol will look at the need to invest in our roads? The kind of investment that makes us stand out.

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