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Gas drilling shows connection between highways, prosperity

March 12, 2010

Nothing illustrates the connection between prosperity and a sound highway system better than the flurry of activity surrounding Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale “play.”

Equipment and materials – and lots of water – must be transported to drilling sites in order to tap the natural gas reserves that lie deep beneath the ground. PennDOT keeps a watchful eye on the permitting process, then scurries out to post load limits on the roads that will serve the drilling sites.

Drillers must obtain permits in order to exceed posted weight limits and post bonds to cover repairs from the damage they cause. Throw in Pennsylvania’s traditional freeze-thaw cycle and a particularly challenging winter, and you have the recipe for quite a mess in the areas where the drillers are active.

Boroughs, townships and counties join PennDOT in the concern about the condition of the roads, and the damage that the drilling activity can cause. The old “Pinchot roads,” a product of the rural road improvement program of the 1930s to “get the farmer out of the mud,” are particularly vulnerable to heavy loads.

The prosperity associated with Marcellus Shale will lift the entire state, but it requires a sound network of state and local roads to work. The same can be said for any enterprise that depends on the efficient movement of materials, goods and people from Point A to Point B.

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