Jefferson County residents and officials feared the worst when the gas drilling boom was just a rumor.
There was talk about roads being destroyed by the movement of the heavy equipment.
So far so good.
County and township officials got together and implemented a road-use agreement whereby gas drilling companies were required to upgrade roads prior to drilling. The county engineer's department waives the road bond requirement if the improvements are made before drilling.
Chesapeake Energy last year completely rebuilt and paved 11 miles of county roads at a cost of $400,000 a mile as part of the road-use agreement.
Jefferson County Engineer James Branagan couldn't be happier. Chesapeake spent more than $4 million last year on his roads.
The work done by Chesapeake far exceeds what the county engineer's department is capable of doing in terms of money.
Branagan said Chesapeake's subcontractors either did base repairs or full-depth reclamation where the existing road was pulverized to a depth of 16 inches, adding cement and water, grading and compacting and then paving with asphalt.
Chesapeake also made improvements to road shoulders, culverts and drainage and added catch basins and road ditches, Branagan said. Chesapeake widened roads in sections from 18 inches to 5 feet, especially in curves and at intersections, to allow safer passage of large trucks going to drilling rigs, he said.
There are still issues with trucks using county and township roads. The roads are narrow and windy and drivers have to exercise caution.
Ohio is in the process of drafting its own road- use agreement that may or may not be as good as the county's agreement.
So far, the county has been able to protect its investment in the county and township road system. County residents throughout the years have paid for the roads to be built and maintained. The state should let each county dictate what is best for its roads.
Chesapeake has so far shown it is a responsible part of the business community in the county.
Company representatives have worked closely with the county engineer on the plans for improving county roads, with the engineer's office inspecting work.
The improved roads will remain after Chesapeake has left the gas wells.
County residents benefit in many ways from the gas drilling, from employment opportunities to cash in hand for residents for leases and royalties to improved sales for county businesses.
The improved roads paid for by the gas drilling companies represent another welcome bonus.