Rapid survey of road conditions to determine environmental effects and maintenance needs

Publication Date



diversion, environmental effects, erosion, fish passage, monitoring, slope, streams, structures, survey, water quality, watershed

Journal or Book Title

Transportation Research Record


Research shows that low-volume roads, including commonly studied forest roads, can have many effects on water quality and aquatic resources. The temporal and spatial relationships of these environmental effects are complex. Water quality sampling is costly, and results are difficult to link to specific road problems. Research results from other road systems or regions are often dated and not reflective of a well-maintained road system. Because most best management practices deal with new roads, a landscape-level survey is essential for understanding and managing the environmental effects of roads at a landscape or watershed scale. This rapid survey has been developed by using monitoring and research results. Metrics were developed to quantify the environmental effects of road systems: road location in relation to streams or slopes prone to landslide or erosion; stream crossing effects on fish passage; washout and diversion risk at stream crossings; percent of road system with hydrologic connection to streams; land area dedicated to roads and not growing forests; and general condition rating of the prism, surface, drainage system, drainage structures, and brush and weeds. This survey analyzes conditions on the ground and is organized in a database and linked spatially to a geographic information system. Application of this survey to three watersheds indicates that most serious problems are limited in extent and severity. Performance measures and benchmarks have been developed and evaluated on the basis of information drawn from this survey.





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