Harsh winter tough on county roads

Motorists who have been driving on Chisago County roads and other thoroughfares across the state this winter have likely noticed the trips in their cars haven’t been exceptionally smooth.

Some portions of roadways, even streets that are fairly new, can feel wavy, there are multiple potholes, and there are some areas where the roads have heaved to form sizable bumps.

Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett said this has been the worst winter for roads in about eight years.

The good thing about the wavy-feeling roads, Triplett said, is that those roads should smooth out once the weather warms and the frost goes out of the ground.

Potholes and heaves that have resulted in broken asphalt, however, won’t be addressed for another couple of weeks.

Triplett said he checked with Knife River Corporation in Harris — the business from which the county gets its hot mix to fill potholes — and Knife River told him they won’t start making more hot mix until the beginning of May.

Another business in the south metro mass produces hot mix, but Triplett said it doesn’t make much sense to purchase from them, because the county would be spending time and money to drive there to get the product.

“We’re limited with our material and the time we can be out there (repairing roads),” Triplett said. “We haven’t been able to keep up with potholes because it’s been snowing so much.”

So for the time being, county public works employees are marking particularly bumpy sections of roadway with signs.

Triplett added that plowing the roads is particularly harsh on patched sections of roadways, because a heavy plow tears the patched portion right off the road. In winters where the frequency of snow is less, roads tend to fare better.

Once the weather warms, Triplett said county crews will repair roads to the best of their ability with the money available in the county’s road and bridge fund.

But Chisago County, like other counties across the state, is underfunded when it comes to having money for road and bridge repairs.

Triplett said he’s been at the state Capitol lobbying for more money for the county’s road and bridge fund, but, in his opinion, road maintenance doesn’t seem to be an issue high on the priority list for many legislators.

“There still isn’t much hope for a comprehensive transportation funding package,” he said.

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