Environmentally Sensitive Road Maintenance Practices for Dirt and Gravel Roads

USDA Forest Service - National Technology & Development Program
2012-04-01
Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies

INTRODUCTION
Over 1.6 million miles of dirt and gravel roads exist within the United States providing a vital part of the nation’s transportation system. Roads crisscross mountains, flat lands, and valleys intercepting streams, meadows, and riparian areas. The ecological effect a road has on the surrounding environment varies greatly depending on location, design, and maintenance. Roads can adversely affect the surrounding environment through erosion, and increased sediment delivery to streams, meadows, and riparian areas. Roads can intercept subsurface flows; increase hillslope drainage density through ditch lines and relief culverts; and create diversion potential at stream crossings. An environmentally sensitive road maintenance practice is a practice that when implemented reduces the adverse effect of a road on the environment by treating the cause of the problem and is in keeping with the natural landscape. The goal of this field guide is to provide examples of environmentally sensitive maintenance practices, which if implemented reduce erosion and sediment, maintain subsurface hydrologic connectivity, restore drainage density to more natural conditions, and eliminate diversion potential. Additionally environmentally sensitive maintenance practices reduce long term maintenance costs and lengthen maintenance cycles. To achieve this goal, the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads, have established a simple protocol to help road managers and maintenance practitioners to: carefully assess road conditions; identify problems; determine cause; and select the appropriate environmentally sensitive practices that fit the site conditions.

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