During their meeting on Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners discussed a number of issues concerning roads with their newly re-appointed highway superintendent.
For nearly the past year, Tim Farmer of Speece Lewis Engineers, has served as the Jefferson County Highway Superintendent, and on Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to continue to have him serve in that role as they continue to develop a plan to improve the roads in the county.
Farmer presented the commissioners with a projected one and six year road plan that would focus the county’s resources on repairing critical roads and bridges. This plan will not be finalized until there is input from the public at the commissioners meeting on Jan. 17.
Some of the projects the county plans to tackle in the next year include armor coating all of the paved roads in the county, replacing small bridges with three culverts near Thompson and regrading some of the county’s roads.
Commissioner Mark Schoenrock explained that he attended the Steele City Village Board meeting on Monday and heard some concerns over a road that was completed last year.
“There were a number of citizens who raised concerns about how rough the road south of Steele City is,” said Schoenrock. “When we patched that, I think it was just too cold, so the patching is pretty rough. I’m wondering, can there be any way we can get that smoothed out a bit before we armor coat it?”
After some discussion, they agreed that if there is a warm day before the road is scheduled to be armor coated, the highway department will work to level the road. Terry Blas, assistant supervisor at the Jefferson County Highway Department explained that armor coating the road will also help to smooth it out.
Commissioner Gale Pohlmann asked about the plan to regrade a road near Plymouth, which will help to build up the road. He asked the highway department to check on the status of the culverts on that road due to concerns over drainage issues.
Pohlmann also asked about the proposed project slightly north of Fairbury on E Street. Farmer explained that it is a project that has been planned for several years, though they are unsure how to proceed. He explained that the original plan for the project was to grade the road and then to pave it.
“If a housing development goes in there, having the south part of the road paved would help,” Farmer said. “That’s where people wanted a stop sign in order to slow people down.”
The commissioners discussed some of the other road projects listed on the proposed one and six year plan and explained that they will take a vote on the plan after the public provides input during a hearing on Jan. 17.
Also during the meeting, Farmer explained that there are new minimum design standards which could allow the county to use shorter culverts, allowing for potential savings. However, Farmer explained that there are some concerns over safety.
“There used to be, in the standards, a clearance zone from the edge of the traveled roadway that, on our local roads, was 10 feet,” said Farmer. “So, if you had a 10-foot lane, you had to have 10 feet clear of any obstacles. That dictated how long our box culverts were. That has gone away; you only have a four-foot horizontal clear zone required for local traffic.
“Technically, we could be going to shorter boxes,” Farmer continued. “As an engineer, if you get over a six-foot rise, I get nervous. That’s a little dicey. I know we’re trying to save money, so I thought I’d bring it up, but it’s also a safety issue.”
The commissioners agreed that safety is the number one priority for the county. After some discussion, they agreed that, on roads with high levels of traffic, it would be best to continue following the same practices that the county has followed.
“For well-traveled roads, we want to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Schoenrock. “But for roads that don’t have a lot of traffic, we would consider going to this new standard.”