Gravel Roads, Take Me Home

Jobst Brandt rides up Old La Honda Road in the days of dirt, 1986.

A recent story published in NACo County News brought the government financial crisis close to home. We may one day soon see our rural county roads return to dirt!

It’s happening close to home, in Sonoma County. The county requires $55 million to maintain its many rural roads, but has an annual budget of just $5 million. Something has to give. They’re talking about not just ending maintenance, but literally grinding up aging paved roads and turning them to gravel.

I’ve ridden on many rural roads in Sonoma County, and you can bet your 52-tooth chainring many of the roads they’re talking about turning to gravel are popular with cyclists.

On the whole, I’d rather have paved roads, and I doubt that unpaved roads will save on maintenance. It may even cost more due to washouts.

It wasn’t all that long ago Old La Honda Road (west side) was dirt. I won’t soon forget those rainy winter days when the road became a mud hole in places. San Mateo County went on a paving campaign starting in the mid-1980s and paved every dirt road under its jurisdiction.

We all know how Tunitas Creek Road has been a patchwork over the decades, although – magically — the Tour of California competitors saw the road mostly repaved in 2009.

Maybe Gov. Jerry Brown can fix the mess we’re in, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Enjoy those paved country roads, while they’re here.

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