In rural Tinicum Township, Pa., on the Delaware River north of Philadelphia, residents can apply to have a road designated as “scenic.” Then the township can choose to quit maintaining the crushed-stone-and-oil surface, letting the road revert to dirt over time. So far, that's been done on two of four scenic roads, says township supervisor Nick Forte.
“The advantage to the municipality is it is a traffic-calming technique. There's little or no speeding along these roads,” Forte says. “It was a proactive attempt to preserve the character of our community.”
“Traffic calming” is the design of roads to slow or even discourage traffic. Orlando, like many places seeking to enhance historic ambience, has torn up 5 miles of asphalt streets in residential and commercial neighborhoods to reveal the bricks underneath.
Brick streets are “a little rougher. They're a little noisier,” City Engineer Rick Howard says. “And I think people know that and they just react accordingly.”
Returning streets to brick has cut traffic by 10% and lowered speeds, he says. Orlando also has about 45 miles of brick streets that have never been paved.
The city removes the asphalt on a street when a majority of property owners request it. But for every homeowner who thinks brick streets are charming and improve property values, “there's just as many people who think they're too rough, they're too noisy,” Howard says.
If unpaving West Marlborough's Wilson Road succeeds in reducing traffic, Lofting hopes to do the same to all the township's narrow rural roads. “That's going to keep traffic where you want it (on main thoroughfares), and it's going to keep the horse people happy,” he says.