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Costly road work

Posted 4/17/13 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

A large portion of a $30 million impact grant given to McKenzie County for road repair for the next biennium will be spent this summer bringing 21 miles of County Route 16 up to full legal weight capacity.
According to Mike Dollinger, acting McKenzie County engineer, County Route 16, from N.D. Highway 200 north of Cartwright east to U.S. Highway 85, is currently only capable of handling weight loads no larger than 80,000 pounds, or six tons per axle. The construction will beef the stretch of road up to the point where it can handle 105,500 pounds of weight per load, which is the state’s legal load limit for all state highways.
Dollinger further states that a good portion of McKenzie County roads are not equipped to handle the full weight capacity set by the state and have been on a county-imposed weight restriction since the start of the 2011, during the early stages of the oil boom.
“We set the weight restrictions back then and just never lifted them. The roads simply aren’t set up for the traffic they are seeing,” states Dollinger. “A good hard rain, combined with the fact that the trucks don’t stay home when the ground is soft, creates conditions that are very hard on the roads.”
Of McKenzie County’s county roads, only County Route 10, a three-mile portion of County Route 16 and the asphalt portion of County Route 50 have been brought up to the 105,500 weight capacity. Dollinger states that Route 50 was brought up to full weight capacity back in the ’90s, but Route 10 and the three-mile section of Route 16 were only just completed last year.
The county’s load restrictions have been set in place to protect McKenzie County roads. Though the overweight ton mile fees generated were $2.7 million last year, that amount, according to Dollinger, will only cover the cost of building just under two miles of roadway.
“Currently, a mile of highway costs $1.7 million to rebuild,” states Dollinger. “The weight restrictions are not in place for money. They are about keeping the loads light on the roads and extending the life of our roads.”
Last year, McKenzie County completed $17.3 million of road construction to pave 12 miles of County Route 10 between N.D. Highways 1806 and 23, just north of Keene. That construction brought County Route 10 up to legal 105,500 pounds weight capacity.
Last year, three miles of County Route 16 were also brought up to a 105,500 weight capacity.
This year, that same three miles will be given a face-lift, and Dollinger states that the remaining 21 miles of County Route 16 will be upgraded to 105,500 weight capacity as well.
The construction is expected to eat up all of the $30 million impact grant given to McKenzie County for this biennium. But, with the road work needing to be done and costing $1.7 million per mile, the county sees no need to wait.
They have started letting bids for the work and Dollinger expects construction to begin toward the end of May. That date, however, is solely dependent on when the winter weather officially ends in McKenzie County.