Mark Smith, Bradford County (PA) Commissioner, said that in 2008 when he was sworn in, natural gas was not even an issue. Three months later road use became an issue and, to date, remains their biggest challenge. The worst time for roads is now - spring. Not only because traffic is heavy, but because this is when roads in the northeast are at their most fragile.
There's a lot of heavy truck traffic associated with wellpad construction. Then, after they build the well pad they need to haul in enough rock to cover it 18 – 24 inches thick. The roads crumble, especially where trucks leave the main roads, and the pavement grinds into smaller bits and turns to mud. “We’ve had several roads where the industry has had to tow the trucks on the roads,” said one of the Bradford officials.
One unexpected problem: there's not enough material to fix the roads!
Bradford County officials find dealing with road damage to be overwhelming. They encourage other communities to develop Road Use agreements with the gas companies. However, they said, don't expect your roads to be in good shape while the drilling is happening. They’ll get repaired when the gas company completes their drilling – and that could be a number of years in the future. Right now, the companies are making the roads “passable” which means that they're smoothing down the dirt (on roads that used to be paved).
The other major impact in the county is housing. Rising rents have forced some people out, leaving them homeless. In the past the social services have been able to put people up in a motel or other temporary room for a few days . Now, with housing shortage, that is no longer an option. Bradford officials also noted that there are a number of "parks" or encampments of 5th-wheels where the temporary workers are living.
And if you're in a hurry to grab coffee and a bagel on your way to the office, forget about it. There’s a 20-minute line at the convenience store as folks wait for a fast take-out breakfast, they say.