The 2015 Barton County road sealing program is humming along, Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips told the County Commission Monday morning.
The operation began east of Ellinwood at the Rice County line and progress north and northeast for approximately 80 miles of roadwork. It started in July and should wrap up in a week or so.
Barton County Road and Bridge maintains 389 miles of paved roads, he said. Normally the roads are sealed every four years to prevent water from destroying the pavement and creating potholes.
Preparations for the project started in June. That is when crews started patching the roads and other preparatory work.
Factoring in materials, labor and painting, it costs $11,000 per mile for the undertaking. That price varies from year to year depending on the price of oil and rock, Phillips said.
This year’s effort will cost $900,000.
With the exception of the chip rock, materials used in the work come from local sources, Phillips said. But, even the rock comes from a Kansas quarry.
This takes a lot of planning. Phillips said they want their supplies on the ground at least a year in advance, meaning orders are often placed two years ahead of time.
The annual campaign also takes a lot of manpower. From flagging to brooming to spreading to rolling, as many as 26 county employees are involved, Phillips said, adding sometimes workers form other departments step in to help.
“It takes everybody to work together for this operation,” he said.
When approaching work areas, drivers should slow down and use caution around construction vehicles and personnel, Phillips said. Fresh oil and loose gravel can be dangerous for motorists.
Each mile will be closed to traffic while the work is being done. But, crews can cover six miles in one day. “We encourage everyone to have a little patience out there,” he said.
Looking to the future
As plans are in the works for next year’s program, Phillips said the maintenance of these roads will become more of an issue. From new grain handling facilities bringing more big trucks to the area to rural roads still designed for the smaller trucks of old, there is a lot of wear and tear.
County roads are already starting to see rutting cause by heavy vehicles. The only way to stave off further damage is to continue applying asphalt overlays every five or so years.
Phillips also fears for state highways in light of potential budget cuts. “In the next several years, we will see a lot of failures.”
The future also holds some unique opportunities, he said.
Recently, Great Bend-based Sunflower Diversified Services purchased a glass crusher to grind up all the recycled glass items it receives. Once a large enough supply of this is built up, Phillips said they are going to experiment with using it in the resurfacing mixtures.