With all the money they generate, you'd be forgiven if you thought the roads to America's oil wells and shale fields would be paved in platinum and lined in gold. The reality is, though, that these roads are so devastated that they're starting to actively hurt the oil industry.
A large portion of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the semis that bring things in and out of the fields. As Bloomberg points out in an excellent piece, the popularity of fracking has required huge imports of water, sand, chemicals and steel structuring to the fields, consequently increasing the weight and frequency of trucks on roads that were originally designed for cattle ranchers.
"If you drive a cattle truck one or two times a year, you're not affecting that road very much, but the first day you drive a 175,000-pound substructure of a drilling rig up that road you begin to destroy it," DeWitt County judge Daryl Fowler told Bloomberg.
There are other issues, though, that are making life difficult for the men and women in America's oil industry. Roads are crumbling due to torrential rains and spring thaws in addition to the weight of trucks. The result is a situation that's not only hurting profits, it's increasing accidents.
Solutions, meanwhile, are in short supply. Tax dollars are short, with Texas estimating it'd need to spend $1 billion just to maintain roads in its energy producing regions. That's equal to the total road maintenance costs for the rest of the state – to which we ask, wouldn't it make sense for the oil companies, whose trucks are responsible for much of the wear and tear on these roads, to chip in for their upkeep?
Head over to Bloomberg for a comprehensive piece on the problems facing these surprisingly important roads, and what it will take to fix them.