Should Skunk Hollow Road be paved?

May 19 this year the Jericho Selectboard discussed the possible paving of Skunk Hollow Road. This is what Tim Nulty reported about the issue at that time on a TTO message board.  

" Jericho had previously commissioned the Metropolitan Planning Org.  (MPO) to do a study of the merits of paving Skunk Hollow vs. leaving it gravel.   MPO itself did a traffic assessment and safety review of the gravel section of the road. They also hired the engineering firm DuBois&King to do a life-cycle cost comparison between paving and leaving the road gravel.   Both MPO and DB&King presented their findings at the May 19 meeting.   For its part, MPO concluded that the traffic levels and safety issues were great enough to justify paving.   DB&King’s study concluded that the life-cycle cost of paving would be less than leaving the road gravel.  However, their study contained a major error in the calculations.  When this is corrected, the conclusion is the opposite: i.e.  based on DB&K’s own data, it is cheaper over an entire   “life-cycle” period (20 years) to leave the road gravel.

That said, cost is not the only consideration—safety, dirt, aesthetics, noise, speed etc are also important concerns (some of which weigh on the side of paving and some on the side of gravel).   Thus, the presentations at the SB meeting were not sufficient to settle the matter and no decision was taken by the SelectBoard at that time.   Since paving the remainder of Skunk Hollow would be expensive (estimate $340,000),  the SB would like to hear more from citizens on this matter."

You can let the Selectboard know what you think by selecting one of the options in the adjacent poll. If you have more to say about the issue than a simple yes or no , log in and give your comments by replying to Tim Nulty's message.

Be aware that this is not a referendum; the SelectBoard is not obligated to follow an apparent conclusion of this poll.

Message from Tim Nulty per 12/03/2011 in response to messages on this board and on FPF


In thinking about paving an existing dirt road there are many subjective considerations that people have to assess in their own way.

However, $ cost is also important and, unlike the others, is relatively objective. In general, paving a road involves major up front costs followed by relatively low maintenance costs. Dirt roads are the opposite: low up front but large continuing costs.

To compare these there are well established methodologies and techniques for assessing "life cycle costs". Earlier this year the SelectBoard utilized a grant to employ a civil engineering firm to study the comparative life cycle costs of paving Skunk Hollow vs. leaving it dirt. The study concluded that paving was cheaper in the long run.

Unfortunately, the engineering firm in question committed a major methodological error in the study--so large that if they had been doing this as an exercise for a college course, they would have flunked the course. When the mistake was corrected, the conclusion was reversed 180 degrees--showing that it was, in fact, cheaper to leave it dirt.

Subsequently, the town administrator and the Road Commissioner examined the actual up-front cost of the paving itself and concluded that the engineering firm had greatly overestimated these and that, in fact, the Town could pave the road itself much more cheaply than the engineering firm had estimated. When these new numbers were fed into the calculation the conclusion reversed again. Thus, we now believe that the long-run life-cycle costs of paving are lower than for leaving Skunk Hollow dirt.

However, it is important to re-iterate that this does NOT negate legitimate subjective feelings about aesthetics, rural quality of life etc which some people consider to be more important than cost alone. That is a legitimate point of view. But the fact that cost seems to be lower for paving is an important factor in deciding what to do.

Tim Nulty; Jericho Select Board.

Documentation on paving Skunk Hollow  on the Jericho Town website.

Results of poll

Question:" Should Skunk Hollow Road be paved"

Yes; 112; 67.5%

No; 40;24.1%

It depends; it is not a simple +/- issue;14; 8.4%

Number of Voters :  166

First Vote :  Tuesday, 15 November 2011 Last Vote :  Tuesday, 08 May 2012 

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