Buckle up.

If your county government is approached by a company selling something called DirtGlue for gravel roads, what happened in Montgomery County, Virginia, may interest you and your local officials.

In an attempt to save money from “the usual $1 million per mile cost of building a new paved road, or $500,000 per mile cost of improving one to ‘rural road rustic’ standards,” the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors pushed for a company that uses DirtGlue to pave the mile-long stretch of Old Sourwood Road, Mike Gangloff reports for The Roanoke Times. The polymer was designed to “fuse the road’s unpaved surface into a hard material similar to asphalt.” The road “would not be officially classified as paved, but it wouldn’t have the maintenance costs typical of unpaved routes.”

The move was approved, and Montgomery County and the Virginia Department of Transportation split the $183,365 cost of the DirtGlue treatment, Gangloff writes. Board chairman Jim Politis told Gangloff, “We invested a little money to see if we could save a lot of money.”

Trying to save a few dollars cost the county big time when the gluing didn’t take on most of the road, Gangloff writes. “Potholes and washboarding quickly developed. There was heavy dust, according to residents and the highway department. Residents’ complaints set off a round of finger-pointing between company, county and state officials. DirtGlue blamed a contractor for applying their product during a rainstorm and said that VDOT did not prepare the surface properly. VDOT said that a company representative had been present when the DirtGlue was spread.

“Residents said that they endured an increasingly bumpy ride to and from their homes as officials wrangled about what to do next,” Gangloff writes. “Earlier this year, the company said that it planned to apply more DirtGlue but needed to coordinate with the county.” Instead, in August, the county and VDOT split the $16,000 cost to have “the road de-glued, grinding up the remaining DirtGlue and covering it with new stone,” returning the road to its original gravel state.

Update from RuralVotes: A glimpse into DirtGlue’s product claims can be found here.

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.  Article written by Tim Mandell. Al Cross,  former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog.

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