Taking the road less traveled: The work of roads in energy impact geographies

Authors: Kristin K Smith*, Montana State University, Julia H Haggerty, Montana State University
Topics: Energy, Rural Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: shale, Bakken, impact geographies, infrastructure, social impacts
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
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Remote, rural impact geographies with unconventional oil and gas development are frequently described as spectacle (Haggerty et al 2018). However, the mundane processes and infrastructure that enable industrial development within these geographies remain “invisible” (Bridge 2009). Road infrastructure prompts both responses – spectacle and invisibility. While traffic and road construction are the some of the most discussed boom impacts (Murphey et al 2017), the work that goes into constructing and maintaining roads, as well as the environmental, economic, and social impacts of new and upgraded roads, are overlooked (Laurance and Arrea 2017). This research seeks to articulate the inner workings of roads using the Bakken shale play of western North Dakota and eastern Montana as the site of analysis. The Bakken boom prompted extensive investment in road infrastructure, including significant increases in the number of employees – and the region’s access to civil engineering expertise – to manage roads at the local level. The upgraded road system has increased regional integration but for whom – industry and/or community members – is unclear. Roads have also increased environmental fragmentation, reconfigured community members’ interactions with landscapes, and created new risks for municipal budgets as long-term maintenance costs for roads are often ignored in planning stages. Roads have created an immense of transformation in the Bakken but exactly how and for whom is an open question that this research explores.

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