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Omaha returns to gravel roads to cut maintenance costs

When the new road is the old road...

gravel road Ingvar Pärnamäe/Wikipedia

How do you pay for fixing potholes after decades of neglect? For Omaha, Nebraska, it’s a rocky road. Literally. To avoid shelling out an estimated $300 million to pave the city’s disintegrating streets with asphalt, Omaha is instead tearing up the pock-marked roadways and covering them with gravel, according to a recent New York Times story.

It all started some four decades ago with developers building on the outskirts of Omaha and deciding to save a few bucks by paving the streets with asphalt instead of concrete. When the city expanded its borders, it took in these shoddily paved neighborhoods and their many potholes. Street repair crews couldn’t keep up and the costs only increased as the roadways got worse and worse.

Eventually, the city felt that they had to turn to an unlikely solution: just go back to gravel. Much less costly than re-paving, gravel roads are also easier for the city to maintain. Last year, 27 states converted streets from pavement to gravel.

But many Omaha residents aren’t happy with the fix, citing the dirt and dust that gets tracked into their homes—and the fact that they pay taxes just like everyone else. Some homeowners have even negotiated with the city to split the cost of repaving.

Bruce Simon, president of Omaha Steaks, told the New York Times about his decision to pay $5,200 to help get his road repaved instead of pulverized, saying, “I got a road. Did I like chucking out the five grand? No. Did I like spending the money with an attorney to deal with it? No.”

Via: NY Times