Budget Dilemma

Mount Index River Road

Here is what we know. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest roads were built during the past 60 years primarily for timber harvests and sales. These roads were not built to last—they were intended to move timber from the hills to the mills over relatively short periods.  As timber-harvest related road use has declined, so have the funds to maintain them. Today, more than five million people recreate on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest annually and road access continues to be in high demand for recreation, wilderness and Tribal needs.

Roads and repairs are not created equal. Paved roads cost more to maintain, but need maintenance less frequently. Gravel roads cost less to maintain, but need work more frequently. Double-lane gravel roads with lots of recreation traffic cost more to maintain. Roads on steep terrain with unstable soils with lots of drainages cost more to repair.

Washouts from flood damage can cost a few thousand dollars to more than a million dollars to repair. Sometimes a bridge, culvert or other stream crossing structure must be replaced. Culvert replacements cost from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand depending on a variety of factors. In some cases, a culvert must be upgraded to a higher standard to provide fish passage. Bridges cost even more to replace. If funding is not available to replace or repair flood damage, the road must be closed until we obtain funding.

Road decommissioning removes the road, which helps reduce operation and maintenance costs in the long term. It is necessary in areas where the road threatens fish and wildlife habitats, but it is also expensive. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has decommissioned more than 130 miles of roads. Decommissioning costs $40,000 to $100,000 per mile. Costs vary depending upon the location and the existing infrastructure. Paved roads cost more to decommission because of the additional haul and disposal costs for the asphalt.

The future is uncertain. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to stand back and let circumstances dictate our decisions for us. The Sustainable Roads Analysis will guide the Mt. Baker-Snoqulamie National Forest, in a holistic forest-wide approach, choosing the roads they can afford to keep open.

Budget Chart

5 responses to “Budget Dilemma

  1. I understand our road budgets have shrunk, but I believe that we should not close these roads or decomission them. Leave them or close them temporarily until our budgets can come back.

  2. I agree with Ed–why spend funds on removing asphalt (or preparing an area to go back to nature) when it will go back to nature by itself…and we may all decide we want that road opened up again later on (or sooner).

  3. What I would like to know is that with parks and forests budgets (at all levels) being miniscule fractions of the overall budgets, with parks and forests and campgrounds and such constantly being downsized/closed/removed, and with the ever-increasing fees going up, where does all the money go. A few years ago WA DNR wanted to close the Mt Si trail, one of the most heavily used in the entire US. To save… (drum roll please) $250,000/year!!! Effing nonsense. The only budget crisis is the one created by cynical politicians and bureaucrats stealing money from programs that don’t amount to a hill of beans budget-wise in order to maximize the pain on citizens, such as restricting access to or closing public lands.

  4. Have roads been evaluated to the extent that they can be put on a grid showing maintenance costs over the past two decades, for instance, and how much they are likely tocost in the next two decades. You could develop a grid based on cost and then compare that with use on the alternate axis. This would help to develop a priority for road improvement. I use the roads into the Lake Dorothy and Foss River drainage on a regular basis and would like to be kept abreast of those in particular.

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