(Shaun Friedrichsen, Publisher)
Robert Huffman is looking for an end to the noise at his residence coming from semi drivers using engine brakes as they are driving along Highway 15, and he is asking for the Jefferson County Commissioners to get involved.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners discussed a variety of issues, including the state of several bridges in the county, budgets and Huffman’s plea for the commissioners to help put a stop to jake brakes.
Huffman explained that he has visited with several different public agencies to try to resolve the issue; however he was referred to the commissioners. He wants to put up a sign that would prohibit the use of engine brakes.
“It’s not a state deal no more,” said Huffman. “The state has nothing to do in the county. It’s up to the county commissioners of said county if they would approve such a thing.”
This has been an issue for a while, Huffman explained, noting that before the meeting on Tuesday, he counted 11 semis using engine brakes as they drove past.
“With the traffic coming through there lately, we have had an increase of probably over 50, 60 percent of traffic coming through Highway 15 compared to when I moved there six years ago,” Huffman said. “It’s getting to where it’s unbearable.”
Commissioner Michael Dux noted that Huffman also drives a truck. He asked if Huffman uses jake brakes, and Huffman responded that he has to use them because of his job, but that he does not like to use them. Dux noted that posting a sign may not resolve the problem.
“We’ve been told that if we post signs and pass an ordinance that it probably would be worse than it is now,” said Dux.
Commissioner Mark Schoenrock asked if Huffman had taken note of which companies are using them the most, and Huffman stated that there were two companies that he has definitely noticed.
“If you know the ones that are doing this repeatedly, do you think it would do any good to try to contact them?” Schoenrock asked. “My thought is they probably have the same guys running the same routes. Maybe they could take care of it through management and talk to those guys.”
Schoenrock noted that he resolved a bit of the same issue where he lives by talking to those companies. He explained that it may not resolve every single issue, but it could dramatically improve the situation.
Commissioner Gale Pohlmann believes that it may be difficult to completely resolve the problem where Huffman lives because the residence is located at the bottom of a hill.
“You’ve had experience, I’ve had experience,” said Pohlmann. “You can gear down before those hills, but your momentum going down that hill, that’s the challenge. You can be geared down and you’re going to pick up momentum. It’s a challenge.”
Schoenrock stated that the board will research the issue some more before making a decision. He asked that Huffman visit with the companies that he has witnessed using the engine brakes to try to resolve the issue.
Finding Bridges Over Some Troubled Waters
Also during their meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the status of two bridges in the county that are currently closed due to the safety risk they pose. The commissioners hope to repair these bridges, as well as other bridges within the county.
Highway Superintendent Tim Farmer explained that one bridge near Endicott is in need of repair because of a large hole in the deck of the bridge.
“We talked about using a timber deck, and that’s not going to be feasible,” said Farmer. “It’s just something we’re going to have to break the concrete back and go with an eight by eight patch. The spacing between the stringers is such that the wooden deck would not be adequate because there’s not enough support.”
Dux noted that the road does not usually have much traffic, but still believes that the bridge should be repaired. Farmer agreed and explained that patching the bridge would be the cheapest solution. This job will be completed by the Jefferson County Highway Department.
Another bridge in the county that is closed is located near Plymouth on 576 Avenue between 719 Road and 720 Road. Farmer explained that the bridge currently does not have a deck.
“The truss is leaning about 15 degrees in, and the deck is off,” said Farmer. “There’s a cottonwood that fell in across the road on the south side.”
Farmer noted that there is also a low volume of traffic on this bridge because it is a dirt road. Dux asked if it would be possible to use a culvert in place of a bridge there, and Farmer explained that it is possible, although because of the area, there would likely be water covering the road, which leads to more requirements.
“We could look at putting a couple of tubes in knowing that every year it goes over it,” Farmer said. “Of course with low water crossings comes signing and liability issues. It’s another sign that you gotta make sure is up and visible.”
Farmer will look into the cost of installing tubes in place of the bridge. Also during the commissioners meeting, Farmer noted that the armor coating project should begin within the next week, starting with the road leading to Meridian Public Schools near Daykin, then focusing on repairing parts of PWF Road, a road near Steele City, a road near Endicott and a road south of Reynolds.
Dux also noted that there will be a household hazardous waste collection at the highway department from 7 to 9 a.m. on Aug. 27. He explained that the collection is a service offered to anyone in the county. People can bring their hazardous materials, such as paint, to be disposed of in a safe manner.