Multiple Communities Face Amish Buggy Road Damage

A new bill may require Amish buggies in Wisconsin to reduce the size of horseshoe studs in the warmer months.

Typically the spikes used in winter need to be larger to get traction in the snow and ice. It turns out this is overkill in the spring, summer and autumn. And it’s really beating up local roads.

The buggies have caused significant road damage in Eau Claire County, home to 1000+ Amish. In the story and video below, the County Highway Commissioner explains that repairs would cost $3,000/mile just for the material costs.

This is a pretty common problem in Amish areas – and one that seems to have arisen frequently in the past year.

A recently-proposed buggy registration fee in Lancaster County would go to repairing road damage. In that case the damage in question is attributed to steel buggy wheels.

The issue has also been addressed recently in communities including Elkhart County, IN, Holmes County, OH, and the Daviess County, IN settlement, and several years back in Branch County, MI.

In the Holmes County case, a $320,000 ODOT grant is funding a study on how to reduce buggy damage.

In Elkhart County, one of the few places where Amish buggies do carry license plates, authorities are considering increasing buggy plate fees (currently $50), which may not be covering annual repair costs.

The article notes that Amish leaders in the Eau Claire case are open to making changes to address the issue. I’d expect that this would be an area where Amish are willing to adapt with little objection.

Filing down unseen horseshoe studs does not involve adopting a visible and potentially objectionable item such as the SMV triangle or buggy license plates. Using smaller ones when they’re not needed seems like the common-sense thing to do.

Generally speaking I think Amish would be more than willing to do their part to reduce damage and contribute to repairs, especially if the damage is clearly attributable to their use of the roads.

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    1. AJ

      It looks like they’re looking to blame road damage on the Amish horses shoes. That is kind of pathetic. Having driven through Amish areas, I would say their roads are in far better condition than in cities where potholes are formed by the corrosive combination of nature, oil and car fluids, and the fact that cars drive at 40-70 mph which wears away the asphalt much more so than horses shoes going at 10 mph.

      1. Not a fiction

        Well if the type of damage is directly traceable to these types of studs, which I assume it is easy to tell vs. the type of damage done by cars or semis traveling on rubber tires, I don’t think we should absolve Amish of responsibility. I don’t think they’d invite that either, generally speaking.

        I also don’t think this is a fiction created by the authorities, especially given that Amish acknowledge that their usage also contributes to wear and damage (see link and article excerpt below).

        Even though the road damage on the rural roads may be relatively less, it is still damage that needs to be addressed.

        Ohio Amish in Quandary on Road Repairs
        JOE MILICIA Published 6:00 pm, Thursday, January 30, 2003

        Associated Press Writer

        Amish resident Merlin Keim is well aware his horse’s studded shoes are gouging paved roads. He’d like to make a donation to help pay for the damage.

        Keim, 53, and other Amish residents in northeast Ohio think it’s only fair they chip in to fix roads torn up by their horse-drawn carriages.

        Since buggy owners are not required to buy licenses _ which automatically defers $20 for road maintenance _ Amish residents think they should be allowed to donate their fair share.

        “I think it’s better left up to the individual,” Keim said.

        But Ohio law prevents local governments from accepting donations.

        “In Ohio, county governments and township governments can’t do anything unless the state law specifically tells them to,” said Republican state Sen. Ron Amstutz, who is preparing legislation to allow the contributions. “If somebody writes them a check, they probably can’t do anything with it.”

        The idea for the bill came from the Amish, Amstutz said.

    2. Rita

      Damage to roads

      Our local area has had a large influx of Amish over the past few years. Those steel wheels on the buggies sure have done a number on our road. I don’t know anything about the horseshoes, but it’s easy to see where the buggies usually travel – just follow the trail! I haven’t heard anything being discussed about repairing or preventing the damage at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens “down the road”.