The Franklin County Commission has shelved its “pave every road in the county” program. That was an ambitious program started several years ago which encountered oversight and rework problems that were costly. The program also was controversial because of a lack of justification for paving some roads with little traffic and even some for which the property owners adjoining them really didn’t want a hard-surface road.
In making the decision to halt the program for now, the commissioners cited a flat economy and the need and cost of maintenance of roads and bridges. Since the program started, about $21.8 million has been spent to turn gravel roads into paved roads. About 135 miles of gravel roads were paved. Gravel roads remaining total about 128 miles. The county has a road system of more than 800 miles.
Some of the money for the paving program came from the county’s half-cent sales tax for roads and bridges. The tax in recent years has produced more than $5 million a year. Revenue from the county’s three sales taxes has been flat in recent years. There has been only a slight growth in revenue.
Critics of the paving program did not object to paving some roads with high traffic volumes. But concern was expressed about the cost of maintaining the roads and the fact that paving some roads could not be justified due to low traffic counts and, in some cases, only a few people were served by some roads.
Because of poor oversight, about $1 million had to be spent to redo some of the work on roads.
Some property owners believed that paving the road that served them would add to traffic and development. They wanted to remain in a rural setting. That was some years ago before population growth slowed in the county.
The county commission made the right decision to put a halt to the program at this time. The program needs to be given a hard look. A study should be made to justify the paving of roads that still are gravel. A grading system should be created to justify and prioritize every gravel road as to the need for paving.