Rural Road Maintenance

While most land owners don’t want to spend a lot of money on building roads, we don’t want to spend a lot on road maintenance either.  According to an article published by the Auburn University Extension Service, rural road maintenance should be evaluated in four areas to minimize both time and money spent

1.  Road surface maintenance – This depends on whether the road surface consists of its native soil (typically dirt or sand) or if it has a layer of gravel or rock on it.  Dirt roads are usually adequate unless water and/or traffic over the course of time warrants maintenance, and do require occasional grading.  Grass is also a good source of road surface providing it is mowed and regrassed when necessary.  Grass roads also can provide wildlife with food providing the correct grass species are planted.  Rock surfaces are the most durable they can be initially very expensive depending on the length of the road, how difficult it is to get the road, and the distance to your road from the supplier.

2.  Daylighting – Rural roads must be free of tree canopies to allow wind and sunlight in to minimize road maintenance.  Yes, there is a tendency in all of us to plant trees everywhere but trees too close to a roadway can reduce air movement and drying speed, thus increasing road maintenance.  Mathew Smidt of the AU Extension Service says a good rule of thumb is to allow 2-3 times the road width for total cleared area.

3.  Drainage – If proper drainage does not occur, excess rainfall will eventually cause expensive road maintenance.  This can result in parts of the road being unnavigable and thus needing repair.  Improper drainage can cause erosion issues, which can also be a costly endeavor.  Water turnouts need to be clear of sediment accumulations and culverts need to be clear of any debris which could limit the flow of water.

4.  Access Control –  Allowing access on a road that is too wet to be traveled on can cause major maintenance issues.  The investment of a gate to limit access when needed is a sound one and less costly than fixing a damaged road.  But remember when closing access, make sure it can be seen.  The use of such items as cable wire can be dangerous and can legal liabilities. (see Greenwood Project video on An Incredibly Bad Idea)

To learn more, read Road Maintenance.

For a first hand look on road maintenance, view the Greenwood Project video on How To Build an All Weather Road


  1. You are right on….Having developed 35 Rural Subdivisions with mostly 10+ acre tracts, I have become known in my market as “The Dirt Road Developer”. Using existing farm roads and natural assets can make for a more relaxing and visually pleasing development.

    Road maintained agreements can be tricky and hard to manage unless the language is direct and to the point. All Private Roads should have a Road Maintained agreement for new developments. Trying to create one after the fact is usually a waste of time and effort.

    I applaud your efforts and hope to see more environmentally protected developments.

    Lou Jewell ALC
    Accredited Land Consultant

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