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Over the past month or so I have been thinking about the condition of some of our roads and wondering if it’s time to adapt our road maintenance practices. Decades ago, and much before that, our seasons were fairly predictable: cold snowy winters, slow springs, warm summers with just enough rain, and cool falls with a dry period and a wet period. Like most places in the world though, our weather and seasons are changing in response to our warming planet.

Ice seems to be the main feature of winter now; we never know if it will be cold or mild, snowy or not, but I think we can pretty well guarantee our driveways and roads will be ice rinks. Sanding down the middle of the road just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. An accident on State Route 131 just after Northeast Equipment this week was evidence that Route 131 is not well maintained. The state later came back and thoroughly sanded both sides of the road, but that is a rarity. I have seen cars off the road in that area before.

Our dirt roads are taking on many more thaw and freeze patterns than they used to, and much more water all year, not just during typically wet periods in spring and fall. The occasional grading, and bringing in grit even less often, may not be satisfactory anymore. Monty, at 19 months, calls the dirt road the “bumpy road” and we even sing a little song about it (I came up with the song as a way to keep him awake on the ride home from daycare so that it won’t ruin his nap when we get home).

Shifting long-held practices and budgets is something that is happening all over our country, not just in northern climates like ours (I’m glad that we don’t have to plan for regular flooding of the Mississippi, for example). It would behoove us to look to more southern states in our northeastern region for ways they have historically managed roads with more water and ice.

Thanks for letting me put my urban planning hat back on this week.

Despite the below-zero temperature outside this morning, I heard notably more bird sounds when I woke up today. I imagine they know something we don’t.

 

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