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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Rising costs impact county road maintenance

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  • Jim Meier, Harvey County Road and Bridge superintendent, remembers a time when the county was able to overlay 20 or more miles a season — the equivalent of the distance between Newton and Burrton.
    This year the county will be able to overlay just seven miles, a stretch of road not even equal to the distance between Newton and Hesston.
    Costs for road maintenance continue to rise, and the county isn't able to spread the dollars it budgets for roads as far as it used to. That means the county has to do more in-house patching, rather than contract out a major overlay project.
    "As those costs continue to rise, our maintenance crews are relied on more heavily to compensate for what isn't being contracted," Meier said.
    There are about 164 miles of asphalt surfaced roads in Harvey County, with 74 miles of graveled roads and one mile of concrete road.
    An overlay typically has a life-span of about six years before it deteriorates. Gravel roads require more frequent attention, including grading and adding more material to the road.
    Meier said the county's one concrete road — which was added in the late 1960s as part of the the construction of I-135 — has deteriorated greatly over time and requires patching.
    Meier said there isn't a set number of miles the county works on each year; the amount of work done depends more on the size of the budget.
    Although Meier thinks costs are stabilizing, road work still is far more expensive than it used to be.
    In 1999, it cost $34,000 to pave a single mile. In 2010, that cost jumped to $123,000 per mile.
    Harvey County currently has about 85 miles that need resurfacing. Some of the roads Meier is most concerned about include Northeast 60th, East First and South Kansas. He said the entire stretches of those roads need attention, not just certain sections.
    "Those pose the greatest challenges, just because of the length of the road," he said.
    In 2013, the county has two major overlay projects: South Hertzler from Southwest 36th to Southwest 125th, and West Dutch from Hesston Road to east of Plaza. The projects also will include milling, which involves grinding up existing pavement and removing it. This way, the road layers don't keep building up over time.
    The county will utilize about 12,000 tons of asphalt this year.
     

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