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County roads in need of TLC

By Staff | Mar 5, 2008

With the change in seasons from winter to spring, Emmet County Engineer Roger Patocka cautions drivers about carrying heavy loads on county roads.

According to Patocka, potholes and soft road conditions can be common. He said frequent, heavy winter storms have caused county maintenance crews many challenging days.

Ice storms earlier in the season plus the several months of below-freezing temperatures have driven the frost deep into the roadbeds.

The warmer weather, coupled with light rains and wet snow, cause the upper layer of material on gravel roads to thaw and become saturated. As a result, that soft, saturated layer is pounded between traffic and the ice shelf beneath it. Consequently it deteriorates, and heavier loads increase the deterioration, Patocka said.

Roads undergo this process to some extent every spring. However, it is anticipated that conditions will be more severe this year. Therefore, the county is asking for your cooperation since loaded busses, trucks, and wagons can cause extensive road damage with just a few trips.

There may not be as great a problem with some of the more stable gravel roads and drivers will be aware of those areas where conditions are the worst and where changes occur. However, on the softer roads, drivers should consider limiting travel to frozen mornings with lighter loads.

While provisions exist within Iowa law for counties to impose temporary weight restrictions (a/k/a embargoes) on roads, the county is asking residents to take into account road conditions when planning, and voluntarily adjust loads and routes accordingly. That helps to keep costs down for all the taxpayers, and helps preserve the road system.

Call 712-362-4846 if you see any problem areas on county roads. It is difficult for the county to monitor its 648 miles of the secondary road system. The county will apply gravel to help heal the road later in the spring, but road crews try to minimize applying gravel when late winter storms require them to remove snow, which causes the freshly applied gravel to be bladed into the ditches.

The engineer’s office regrets any inconvenience and thanks residents for their cooperation.