KEARNEY — The wet spring and summer has taken a costly toll on Buffalo County’s roads, and so has the heavy traffic carried on those roads, said Road Superintendent John Maul.
“We were in the $800,000 range from the March flooding, and in July it was $144,000 in damage,” Maul said.
As a result of the heavy traffic and rain, Maul is asking to add three additional motor graders to the county’s fleet of 20 in the 2019-20 budget. In addition, the gravel budget will grow to $1 million in 2019-20. The county had budgeted $500,000 for gravel in 2018-19, but spent twice that much recovering from the March and July floods.
Buffalo County has 1,500 miles of roads, and approximately 1,300 miles are gravel that requires regular attention, Maul told the board of commissioners during its meeting Tuesday morning. Repeated rainfall has increased the difficulty in keeping roads in drivable condition, and so have other factors, including a shortage of gravel.
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The county has four gravel contractors, Maul said, but when other area counties call on the contractors to deliver gravel, it can be challenging.
“When we need gravel we need it all at once,” Maul said of the high demand across the region.
Commissioner Ivan Klein of Gibbon said that as new rural subdivisions sprout, it means more vehicles will be traveling county roads, and that means additional maintenance.
Maul agreed. “I’d like to see no more subdivisions.”
He said rural subdivisions are supposed to organize homeowners associations that care for their roads, but many subdivisions aren’t organized so the residents expect the county to provide minimum maintenance. It adds up, Maul said.
He said the 20 motor grader drivers employed by Buffalo County each are responsible for maintaining 100 miles of road, a task that takes about 2 ½ weeks. Expectations eventually exceed what the road department is able to deliver.
That’s why Maul is asking for three more motor graders and additional drivers in 2020.
Maul told the commissioners he will be calling for bids on three bridge repair projects. All three are linked to the March and July storms:
- Loup River bridge on Cessna Road north of 362 Road in northwest Buffalo County. The channel needs realignment because the north side was damaged in March.
- The washed-out creek bridge on Poole Road north of 295 Road in north-central Buffalo County, which was damaged in July.
- The Muddy Creek bridge on Pine Road on the west edge of Ravenna. It was washed out in March.