Road Reflections: Fall 2019

By Steve Klatt
Special to the Reader

Overseeing a county road operation has some remarkable resemblance to surviving as a small farm operator. You take stock of the conditions in spring, as mud squishes under your boots, then begin to make plans for strides forward during the warm months of summer. As summer ends, you take stock of the progress you made and realize that your harvest of work completed is not as large as expected — equipment breakdowns, weather disturbances and work details taking longer than ever imagined.

This summer was no exception for Bonner County Road and Bridge, as we did not get a number of projects accomplished that we anticipated working on. Several of the projects we were working on ate our lunch for time because they required much more effort to complete properly than we projected. Hard to believe that road crews putting in beastly hours in the winter actually want some time off in the summer — or the medical procedures to put themselves back together from injuries. It has also been quite challenging to find suitable candidates to fill the vacancies in our crew.

Now that fall is upon us, we are scrambling our graders to get roads smoothed back out from the summer assault and get our roads ready for winter. We are about to start brushing Sagle Road again and do some work up on Baldy Mountain Road about a month later than we expected, but we will get some work done on each. 

We are also attempting to get some bridge repair done north of Priest River and guardrails installed up near Priest Lake, but encountering delays in those projects, too. A number of gravel roads that we had on this year’s work plan are now on next year’s work plan, but they are still in our work plan.

While we hear from residents regularly about their desire to have roads paved, Bonner County believes we need to place primary focus on catching up on some of our basic road maintenance that has fallen behind. Ironically, commitments we had to put hard surface on two roads ate our lunch for completing the maintenance work we intended to get done this summer. We applied mag chloride to some 200 miles of gravel road and we chip sealed nearly 40 miles of existing paved roads. The task we are most challenged by is establishing a sustainable ditching program with a predictable rotation throughout the road system.

We are working on safety features to improve several of our highway intersections and these have also gone a bit slower than we anticipated. A new streetlight has been installed at Algoma Spur and one will be added at Selle Road in the coming weeks. We are also about to get a contractor started on widening the Dufort Road intersection and adding another turn lane to accommodate north and south bound Highway 95 traffic. 

Road and Bridge has teamed up with several local engineers to begin working on some possible ideas for improving the Lakeshore Drive-Highway 95 bottleneck and garner an Idaho Transportation endorsement. This is a safety conundrum of significant proportions that is a state problem because it is a highway, but is of tremendous local importance. Getting this project to construction will take major doses of persistence and patience, but is worth the effort. Bonner County is committed to seeing improvements constructed.

Steve Klatt is the director of Bonner County Road and Bridge.

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