Alternatives for Rural Roads, HR-242, 1989

(1989) Alternatives for Rural Roads, HR-242, 1989. Transportation, Department of


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Much of the nation's rural road system is deteriorating. Many of the roads were built in the 1880s and 1890s with the most recent upgrading done in the 1940s and 1950s. Consequently, many roads and bridges do not have the capacity for the increased loads, speed, and frequent use of today's vehicles. Because of the growing demands and a dense county road system (inherited from the land settlement policies two centuries ago), revenue available to counties is inadequate to upgrade andmaintain the present system. Either revenue must be increased - an unpopular option - or costs must be reduced. To examine cost-saving options, Iowa State University conducted a study of roads and bridges in three 100 square mile areas in Iowa: • A suburban area • A rural area with a large number of paved roads, few bridges, and a high agricultural tax base and •A more rural area in a hilly terrain with many bridges and gravel roads, and a low agricultural tax base. A cost-benefit analysis was made on the present road system in these areas on such options as abandoning roads with limited use, converting some to private drives, and reducing maintenance on these types of roads. In only a few instances does abandonment of low traffic volume roads produce cost savings for counties and abutting land owners that exceed the additional travel costs to the public. In this study, the types of roads that produced net savings when abandoned were: • A small percentage (less than 5 percent) of the nonpaved county roads in the suburban area. However, net savings were very small. Cost savings from reducing the county road system in urbanized areas are very limited. • Slightly more than 5 percent of the nonpaved county roads in the most rural area that had a small number of paved county roads. • More than 12 percent of the nonpaved roads in the rural area that had a relatively large number of paved county and state roads. Converting low-volume roads to low-maintenance or Service B roads produces the largest savings of all solutions considered. However, future bridge deterioration and county liability on Service B roads are potential problems. Converting low-volume roads to private drives also produces large net savings. Abandonment of deadend roads results in greater net savings than continuous roads. However, this strategy shifts part of the public maintenance burden to land owners. Land owners also then become responsible for accident liability. Reconstruction to bring selected bridges with weight restrictions up to legal load limits reduces large truck and tractor-wagon mileage and costs. However, the reconstruction costs exceeded the reduction in travel costs. Major sources of vehicle miles on county roads are automobiles used for household purposes and pickup truck travel for farm purposes. Farm-related travel represents a relatively small percent of total travel miles, but a relatively high percentage of total travel costs.

Item Type: Departmental Report
Keywords: Bridges, County roads, Finance, Low volume roads, Maintenance, Secondary roads,
Subjects: Transportation
Transportation > Bridges and tunnels
Transportation > Roads and highways
Transportation > Research
Transportation > Economics, finance, and taxes
Transportation > Maintenance and preservation
ID Code: 17059
Deposited By: Iowa DOT Library
Deposited On: 04 Jun 2014 11:42
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2015 12:38