July 2015

You Asked. We Answered.

At the Inquiry Answer Service, we answer, on average, more than 300 questions for our subscribers each month. We consult a variety of sources to create a custom research packet — which may include APA publications, sample ordinances and plans, articles and literature from partner organizations, and the most current information available online — for each question.

Each month, we choose one question to feature here, so you can see what your peers around the country are asking and how we answered. When your organization subscribes to PAS, you and your colleagues will also have access to previous editions.

You Asked.

Do other localities require intensive uses to repair damaged roads?

A natural gas pipeline will soon be constructed through our region, and we are concerned that the heavy equipment associated with that construction will destroy our rural roads, most of which are gravel roads with a substandard base. Do any local planning departments require repair of damage to local roads due to an intensive permanent or temporary use?

We Answered.

A number of communities have adopted road repair and maintenance provisions in their local codes. These provisions require project applicants or operators to assume responsibility for damages to local roads that result from heavy equipment operations relating to their activities.

Common contexts for such requirements include general construction on a project site, transport of forestry or mining products, wind energy conversion system development, or oil and gas extraction activities: situations where the hauling of heavy equipment by large trucks over rural roads often unpaved and not engineered or constructed to handle such loads can result in extensive damage to the local road network. A number of briefing papers and reports have recently been published exploring this issue for wind farm and oil and gas development; they recommend that communities proactively address this issue to protect their local infrastructure.

Ordinance provisions addressing road repair and maintenance responsibilities can take a number of forms. In some cases, the local government requires a performance bond or financial guarantee to cover any repairs or maintenance that might be required as a result of excessive road usage. Other codes state that applicants or operators are responsible for repairs.

Still others may condition permit approval on a signed road maintenance and repair agreement. Such agreements are being used in many communities with recent wind energy or oil and gas development. They typically require applicants to describe which roads they plan to use, provide a baseline road condition survey against which future road conditions and maintenance or repair needs can be assessed, and obligate applicants to pay the costs of any repair or maintenance needs resulting from their use of those roads. In some cases, applicants must agree to upgrade any roads or bridges that are currently unable to support the proposed usage. The example from Chenango County, New York, provides an especially detailed and extensive policy and agreement.

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