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Photo by Pam Louwagie, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Photo by Pam Louwagie, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Declining resources for many areas will mean less infrastructure, not more:

The paved roads that finally brought rural America into the 20th century are starting to disappear across the Midwest in the 21st. Local officials, facing rising pavement prices, shrinking budgets and fewer residents, are making tough decisions to regress. In some places, they have even eliminated small stretches of gravel road altogether.

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Michigan has changed more than 100 miles of pavement to gravel. After one road was torn up a year and a half ago, the County Road Association of Michigan bottled the millings and asphalt and sent them to state legislators as a message.

In North Dakota, a couple of stretches nearly 10 miles long have gone to gravel along with a sprinkling of smaller patches. County leaders are discussing more such changes, a transportation official there said.

South Dakota may hold the distinction of being the most torn-up state in the Midwest. A state transportation official estimated that 120 miles of pavement have been ground up or left to crumble back to gravel.

Many rural roads are deteriorating faster than they used to because farm and industrial equipment are heavier than ever. Meanwhile, thecost of pavement has risen dramatically in recent years. Some engineers estimate it costs up to $300,000 to replace a mile of paved road surface now. Gravel isn't free, but it's far less expensive.

Quote of the week

Planning by experimentation

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