A really wet spring brings out the worst in many Pennsylvania roads. Springtime typically finds roads in Pennsylvania at their most vulnerable stage; a really wet spring combines the road-busting spring thaw with shoulders and bases soft and sometimes washed out. At the same time gas companies are moving into new areas of the commonwealth with exploration equipment and drilling rigs and a lot of heavy truck traffic. Road damage is not a matter that local communities should wait on the state to sort out before tackling road issues, despite news of “impact fees”.
Posting and bonding of local roads is a necessary step to help protect municipal infrastructure and local taxpayers. The goal of posting and bonding is twofold: to keep heavy haulers off of roads that don’t have the capacity to support them without significant damage, and to make heavy haulers pay for the road damages that they have created.
Oil and gas specialists in the Geologic Resources Division of the National Park Service estimate that the “average” oil and gas well requires 320 to 1,365 truckloads of equipment to bring a well into production.
There are two concerns that crop up for municipalities regarding posting and bonding – the cost of doing it, and making sure it’s done right.
In looking at the cost of posting and bonding, consider what the cost of not doing it is. Determine a cost estimate for re-building a paved road. There may be some opportunities for creative funding/cost savings here too: group bidding for engineering/traffic studies; using county liquid fuels funds to subsidize; asking the gas drilling companies to fund/partially fund independent engineering/traffic studies.
Make sure proper posting and bonding procedures are followed. One county planning office has noted some concern that some municipalities may just be posting weight limits without engineering/traffic studies. Section 4902 of the Vehicle Code requires municipalities to adhere to Department of Transportation regulations, which includes engineering and traffic studies, passing an ordinance, erecting signs in accordance with PA Code, notification of law enforcement agencies, and advance notice of posting. Bonding procedures also require adherence to state code in the amounts required and the steps municipalities should follow. If your posting and bonding is challenged in court, you need to have some documentation that you have followed the rules.
This may be a good time to review your posted roads; make sure you have the documentation in place. You may also wish to look at all the secondary roads in your municipality and create a plan to protect your infrastructure. Help is available through PennDOT and LTAP (Local Technical Assistance Program).
It may be useful to work with drilling companies. They may be willing to work with you on roads, staging areas, and drilling operations. It never hurts to ask and could prove to be a win-win for all.
New Well Development
- Drill Pad and Road Construction Equipment – 10 to 45 truckloads
- Drilling Rig – 30 truckloads
- Drilling Fluid and Materials – 25 to 50 truckloads
- Drilling Equipment (casing, drill pipe, etc.) 25 to 50 truckloads
- Completion Rig – 15 truckloads
- Completion Fluid and Materials – 10 to 20 truckloads
- Completion Equipment – (pipe, wellhead) 5 truckloads
- Fracture Stimulation Fluids and Materials – 100 to 1000 truckloads
- Fracture Stimulation Equipment (pump trucks, tanks) – 100 to 150 truckloads
General Well Maintenance
- Every 3 to 5 years – 25 to 40 truckloads
- Numerous truck-mounted pumps and temporary storage tanks are needed on location to fracture-treat wells. Refracturing wells after 3 or 4 years has proven effective in the Barnett Shale of Texas. If this practice extends to the Marcellus Shale, then truck traffic will have few lulls.
- Potential Development of the Natural Gas Resources in the Marcellus Shale: New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio (PDF)
Written by Dan Brockett, Venango County Extension Educator
Posted at PSU.edu