Roads: The Good, The Bad, and the Gravelly

As anyone who drives in Ramsay Ward knows, we have too many kilometres of gravel roads. Each year, trucks lay down tons of new gravel, which snow plows push into ditches every winter. On dry summer days, dust wafts in clouds off the road. In rainy periods, pools of water collect in potholes. While some of Ramsay’s winding dirt roads will never change, it makes good fiscal sense in the long run to hard-surface high-traffic gravel roads.

Most of Ramsay's infrastructure is its roads. The ward has 202.2 KM of roads (not including County or Provincial roads), of which 36.8 are paved, 49.4 have surface treatment (a low-cost method of applying a hard surface), and 116 (or 57%) are dirt and gravel. In comparison, Pakenham Ward has 119.7 KM of roads, of which 10.8 are paved, 46.5 have surface treatment, and 62.4 are gravel. Almonte Ward has 36.1 KM of roads, with 34.8 paved and 1.3 in gravel.

According to Mississippi Mills figures for 2008, the annual maintenance cost for a kilometer of gravel road (per lane) is $615 versus $327 for a hard-surfaced road. (That does not include snow plowing, which varies widely.)

For the average gravel road, surface treatment costs about $30,000 per kilometer per 6.1-metre width. Paving costs $95,000 for the same distance. (Costs can vary dramatically based on how much advance preparation a road needs.) Surface treatment lasts 15 to 20 years. Paving lasts 10 to 15.

My Position: To reduce maintenance costs and improve road quality, I will urge Council to commit to hard-surfacing at least a few kilometres of gravel road each year. In time, that will lead to a better road infrastructure.

Note: Where a majority residents along a road do not want it paved, Council should listen to that majority.