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As tax revenues continue to drop, towns and municipalities everywhere are trimming their budgets and looking for places to make cuts- in some cases by converting paved roads to gravel.

Here are excerpts from a recent article I came across at the Denver Post (Clarke Canfield, AP), on this emerging trend:

Ever since the invention of the automobile, paved roads have meant progress. Now some cash-strapped towns and counties are finding progress too expensive, and they are tearing up battered roads and putting down gravel.

The high price of pavement and the sour economy have driven municipalities in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Vermont to roll up the asphalt — a mile here, a few miles there, mostly on back roads — rather than repave.

“Do we really need to keep getting fancier? This is also about quality of life,” said Richard Beal, a selectman in the town of Cranberry Isles, Maine, population 118, which got its first paved roads in the 1960s. The town is considering ripping some of them up rather than spending the $500,000 or so that Beal said is needed next year to fix them.

The U.S. has more than 1.4 million miles of unpaved public roads, according to the Transportation Department.

Paved roads are particularly susceptible to deterioration in cold-weather states, where they take a beating from freeze-and-thaw cycles and road salt. States have gotten federal stimulus dollars for roads and bridges, but local municipalities have, for the most part, been left in the dust.

In Michigan, more than 50 miles of paved county roads have been converted to gravel in the past few years, according to the County Road Association of Michigan. Most of those roads aren’t well traveled, but this year, one county turned a 10-mile stretch of primary road into gravel for lack of money, said association spokeswoman Monica Ware.

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