Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies

The Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies plays a key role in environmental research and outreach at the Larson Institute. The center’s focus is on environmentally sensitive research and maintenance training, specifically geared toward applying advanced techniques and materials to existing and reconstructed unpaved roadways. The center provides education, guidance, and technical assistance to minimize the impact of unpaved roads and trails on natural landscapes and hydrology.

The funding for the center is provided by a grant from the Pennsylvania's Dirt Gravel, and Low Volume Road Maintenance Program. The program was enacted into law in April 1997 as Section 9106 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, with $5 Million in annual funding for "environmentally sensitive road maintenance" for unpaved roads. Starting in 2014, the program allocation was increased to $28 Million, with a minimum of $8 Million earmarked to pave low volume roads. 

Through a contract with the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission (SCC), the center provides services to Pennsylvania's Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program.

The center’s efforts on this front include:

  • Development and delivery of Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) training.
  • Technical documentation of ESM practices.
  • Educational efforts for conservation districts.
  • Technical assistance on projects.
  • Development and maintenance of a GIS System to track and map projects.
  • Advising the SCC on program policies.


The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute is Penn State’s transportation research center. Since its founding in 1968, the Larson Institute has maintained a threefold mission of research, education, and service. The Institute brings together top faculty, world-class facilities and enterprising students from across the University in partnership with public and private stakeholders to address critical transportation-related problems.

Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute

201 Transportation Research Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710