Identifying a Sustainable Road System - Existing Road Situation

An unmaintained forest road.The Olympic National Forest manages about 2,000 miles of Forest roads.  Approximately 1,400 miles of road are open to motorized vehicles.  About 600 miles of roads are closed that may be opened intermittently to provide access for resource management.

Most roads on the Forest were built between the 1950s and 1990s to support timber management.  Needs for and uses of the road system have shifted dramatically; A forest road damaged by water flow diversion.timber harvest on the Forest has declined while other uses such as recreation have increased.  As timber-harvest declined over the past two decades, so too has funding for road maintenance.

The road maintenance funding available is well short of the amount needed to maintain the road system to standard. Many structural components of the aging road system are also reaching the end of their structural life.

A road damaged by a slide.

Unmaintained or under-maintained roads become increasingly difficult to travel on and may pose a safety hazard.  Reduced maintenance, the aging infrastructure, and an increasing frequency and magnitude of large storms will likely lead to more road failures. 

The location, amount of use, and condition of roads can have substantial impacts on adjacent fish and wildlife habitat.  Driving on poorly maintained roads may increase erosion and reduce water quality. Culvert washouts, fillslope failures, and other storm damage can degrade water quality and fish habitat by transporting sediment into spawning and rearing habitat. 

The need for road access on the Forest for management, recreation, and other activities remains high.