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Safety, Dust Top Residents' Concerns; Commission Consider Six-Year Plan

Public comment period extended to Sept. 25

By JODY ALLARD

Of the Sentinel

The Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing Sept. 9 to consider proposed amendments to the county's $22.6 million six-year road construction plan.

The annual update, as mandated by state law, determines prioritization of road improvement projects in the county over a six-year period.

Prioritization of projects is based on a number of selection criteria, according to Bjorn Hedges, assistant county engineer.

Chief among the list are average daily traffic, annual maintenance costs, and structural, drainage and safety concerns of a section of road. The type of usage, such as truck routes or school bus routes, the urgency of the grant funding used for a specific project and the length of time on the plan are also considered.

Of the approximately $3.5 million available for annual road construction, $2.4 million is funded by state and federal grants. The county's total share of the $22.6 million six-year project is $9.5 million.

The grants only provide funding for roads that connect cities to cities, or cities to state highways (termed 07s), for roads that link traffic from local access roads to 07s (known as 08s) and for bridges.

With road improvement grants awarded five to six years in advance of funding availability, much of the six-year plan is dictated by grant timelines.

"For us to get a project out in a year is really unfeasible for us because of the hoops we have to jump through," said Hedges.

After annual maintenance costs of nearly $2.8 million, funding for construction on local access roads that do not fall into the 07 and 08 categories averages $1.7 million.

According to Hedges, it costs the county approximately $200,000 per mile to reconstruct and pave a road. With 620 miles of gravel roads in the county, Hedges estimates that it will take 73 years to upgrade all of the roads.

In 2003, the county has slated 12 construction projects: Herion Bridge, replacement of .20 miles of Martin Road; Glenwood Highway, overlay on State Route 142 North from mile 17.96 to 23.82; Canyon Road, widen and guardrail on 2.22 miles of Old Hwy. 8 North; Old Hwy. 8, guardrail for 2.57 miles from Goodnoe to Rock Creek; Hoctor Road, guardrail from mile 15.61 to 18.04 in the Goodnoe Hills vicinity; Hoctor Road, reconstruct and oil from miles 13.21 to 15.61; Diver's Bridge, widening the bridge from mile 1.39 to 1.43 of Olsen Road; Rattlesnake Road overlay and reconstruct 4.14 miles from Oak Ridge Road to Staats Road; Oak Ridge Road, .87 miles of overlay; Northwestern Bridge, rehabilitation for .13 miles of Northwestern Lake Road; Dalles Mountain Road, relocate from mile 5.8 to 6.3 in the Spring vicinity; Balch Road and Sauter Road, reconstruct and oil on .95 miles of Old Hwy. 8.

An additional $115,000 has been allocated for paths and trails, and miscellaneous projects and preliminary engineering.

In 2004, the county has projects planned for Snowden Road, Bickleton Hwy., Calvert Road, Mesecher Road, W. Winterstein Road, Beebe Road, Knox Road, Spring Creek Road, Cemetery Road, Dooley Road, Old Mountain Road, Fenton Lane and Saxton-Bane Road.

For 2005, Courtney Road, Basse Road, Randall Road, Eshelman Road, Niva Road, Nestor Peak Road, River Road, Bristol Road, Rimrock Road, Ladiges Road, Jenkins Creek Road and Dot Road are scheduled for improvements.

Rock Creek Bridge, Sunnyside Road, Bickleton Hwy., Woodland Road, Spring St., Powerhouse Road, Jennings Road, Oak Ridge Road, Wnuk Road, Klickitat sidewalks, Lyle sidewalks, Marvel Bridge and BZ Bridge are planned for 2006 construction.

In 2007, Dot Road, Canyon Road, NW Loop Road, BZ-Glenwood Hwy., Harms Bridge and Keasey Ave. are scheduled. The plan tops out with a 2008 preliminary list of Horeshoe Bend Road, NW Lincoln St., Hale Road and a countywide overlay.

Of primary concern to the area residents who filled the seats of Monday's public hearing was safety, with concerns regarding unsafe roads on school bus routes and overly high speed limits topping the list.

"We have so many children riding the bus now, it's unbelievable," said Ownby Road resident Diana Pafford. "It would be nice to see some of the safety concerns addressed."

School buses are no longer driving on Joseph Bradwell's road: "That just shows that section is dangerous if they feel they can't get a school bus and a car on that road," he said.

Dust was also repeatedly mentioned by area residents hoping to bump their residential roads on to the six-year plan.

"The road is so very dusty, sometimes you can't see to pass a car," said Fenton Lane resident Dorothy Butler.

Written comments on the plan will be accepted to Sept. 25, 2002.

The complete text of the six-year plan is available from the Public Works Department, located at 228 W. Main St., 773-4616.

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