Document dirt road maintenance, drainage issues with FRCOG’s new mapping program

  • Ashfield Road in Hawley has some very muddy spots. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ashfield Road in Hawley has some very muddy spots. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ashfield Road in Hawley has some very muddy spots. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ashfield Road in Hawley has some very muddy spots. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Franklin Regional Council of Governments has created an interactive online mapping program that will allow residents to mark spots where there are issues with dirt and gravel roads. SCREENSHOT

  • The Franklin Regional Council of Governments has created an interactive online mapping program that will allow residents to mark spots where there are issues with dirt and gravel roads. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2022 4:39:24 PM
Modified: 3/14/2022 4:39:11 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) has created an interactive online map to enable residents to document condition issues with the area’s unpaved roads.

Community members can add “pins” to the map’s roads that have recurring maintenance problems or are in need of repair. They can also add pictures and further details and comments when they visit bit.ly/3JaVZmF, which was launched about a month ago.

“Franklin County has 420 miles of unpaved roads, and in the context of more frequent, intense storms like we saw this past summer, the costs to towns of maintaining these roads (becomes) more of a challenge,” explained Megan Rhodes, a senior transportation and land user planner with FRCOG. “The first step to examining how we plan for unpaved road improvement is to gain a better sense of the immediate needs in rural areas with a significant amount of unpaved roads.”

There were at least 21 pins on the map as of Monday, with chronicled problems ranging from Rowe to New Salem. A few of them had photos attached. Issues were logged by private residents and various town highway departments.

Ryan Clary, a senior GIS (geographic information system) specialist at FRCOG, said this idea was conceived after he and Rhodes created a similar mapping system years ago to take inventory of the county’s culverts.

“(We) realized there are some bigger problems going on,” he said. “Basically, we’re trying to get an understanding of whether there are issues that could possibly be fixed.”

He said remedies vary depending on the problem. Solutions consist of drainage, grading a road differently, managing the slope of a road to control the direction of runoff, and moisture control, which could involve using molasses or magnesium chloride. Clary explained an indicator of insufficient moisture is driving down a dirt or gravel road and only hazily seeing the headlights of the vehicle behind you. He said an inability or near-inability to see the headlights means up to two inches of gravel is being lost each year.

Information from the mapping program, Clary said, will help lawmakers representing western Massachusetts make the case for larger state investment in unpaved road maintenance. State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, and other members of the western Massachusetts delegation filed H.3411 last year.

“We need data. We need information,” Blais said. “This (legislation) would create a working group to identify and evaluate the safe, efficient and environmentally-sound maintenance and improvement of unpaved roads and paved low-volume roads.”

Other area state representatives co-sponsoring the bill are Lindsay N. Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Mindy Domb, D-Amherst.

Blais said there are 60 Massachusetts communities that have to maintain dirt roads that make up 25% of their total roadway mileage. By comparison, 33% of roadways in the 1st Franklin District, which she represents, are dirt or gravel roads. She mentioned Pennsylvania has a significant successful program like the one proposed for Massachusetts.

Clary said map pins will likely start accumulating fairly rapidly, as it is now mud season in Franklin County.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had several of them this year,” he said of the seasons.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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