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COLUMN: Fracking’s impact on roads studied

TRANSPORTATION is like the Kevin Bacon six-degrees-of-separation phenomenon—pretty much anything you can think of is somehow tied to it.

Here’s a case in point: fracking.

Fracking—hydraulic fracturing of deep rock formations to extract natural gas and oil—has become a widely popular practice in the United States in the past decade.

A Texas-based company hopes to use the controversial well-drilling process in the Taylorsville basin south and east of Fredericksburg, something that could happen by the next year.

What, you might ask, could fracking have to do with transportation?

Well, there is evidence that fracking sites can wreak havoc on surrounding roads.

A recent study published in the Journal of Infrastructure Systems looked at the impact of fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.

The study found that many of the roads around fracking sites aren’t built to handle heavy trucks hauling in such things as gravel, water and chemicals needed for the fracking process. The trucks then also have to haul out the fuel and wastes.

A single fracking operation can cause $13,000 to $23,000 in damage to roads around it, according to the study’s researchers, from the RAND Corporation and Carnegie Mellon University.

The companies pay for a portion of that damage, but the rest falls at the feet of the states (i.e., taxpayers).

A case in point: Researchers found that the 1,700 fracking wells drilled in Pennsylvania in 2011 resulted in between $8.5 million and $39 million in damages to roads.

And that tab had to be picked up by taxpayers.

Just something else to consider in the fracking debate.


From time to time between now and the opening of the Interstate 95 express lanes, we’ll pass along some tips and notes that can help drivers prepare for the new lanes, expected to open by early next year.

This week we’ll touch on “Express Assist,” something already in use on the Interstate 495 express lanes.

The I–95 lanes will include the same service, which means safety patrols will be available around the clock.

So if you’re in the lanes and your car has a flat, runs out of gas or the battery dies, express lane safety patrols will be able to help.

There’s no charge for the service.


If you have plans to travel by bus anytime soon—such as during spring break—consider checking company safety records first.

That would be a good idea, especially in light of the recent Princess Tours bus crash on I–95 in Stafford.

It’s not hard to do.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has an online tool and an app you can use to determine a bus company’s safety record.

You can find links to the motor carrier’s “Look Before You Book” Web page and the app on The Free Lance–Star Transportation blog

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436


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