Sustainable roads analysis. What is it?
The Travel Management Rule of 2005 requires all national forests to analyze their roads and propose transportation systems that meet travel, administrative and resource protection needs within available budgets by 2015. To meet this requirement, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest development the Sustainable Roads Strategy (Strategy) to identify a more ecologically and financially sustainable road system by 2015. The Sustainable Roads Analysis informed the Strategy and helped the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest gather the information necessary to make future decisions about road projects such as upgrades, closures, decommissioning, and road-to-trail conversions.
Before proceeding with any future road projects, the Forest Service is required to conduct National Environmental Policy Act analyses.
This situation isn’t just about a report. The reality of the road budget decline is hitting us today.
The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has only enough money to maintain about a quarter of its 2,500 miles of roads. Last year they had $688,000 to pay for maintenance, this year they expect $200,000. Not only have road maintenance funds been reduced, but other funds have been reduced or eliminated, including Legacy Roads and Trails, Emergency Relief of Federally Owned Roads (ERFO), Recovery (Stimulus), Rural Aid to Counties (RAC – Title II), Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) and other grants.
Maintenance costs are expensive. A rough estimate shows that roads maintained for high-clearance vehicles costs an average of about $715 per mile, while those maintained for passenger cars cost about $1,750 per mile.
Right now, as the snow melts and Forest Service engineers assess the road damage, they are adopting strategies to work within this year’s reduced funding by cutting back on brushing, filling potholes instead of grading the entire road and not replacing as many culverts. They don’t know what to expect next year, but they do know there will be less money.