By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
High volumes of traffic have caused a great deal of dust on a road in rural Seward County, and this has caused concern for some landowners on the road.
Hurbert Arellano, a resident along Road O, or Arkalon Road, which is between U.S. Highway 54 and Bluebell Road, talked recently with Seward County Commissioner C.J. Wettstein and Road and Bridge Supervisor Tony Herrman about those issues.
Arellano asked that the road no longer be bladed in an effort to discourage high truck traffic with the resulting dust.
“It’s terrible,” he said to the commission at Monday’s meeting. “We need some kind of help out there. After the road grader goes by and blades the road, it just pulls all that loose dirt on top of the road, and the trucks just go by and pick it up. The wind blows from the southwest or northwest, it blows right into our houses.”
Wettstein agreed that there was a lot of truck traffic on the road.
“In the past, we talked about paving one of those roads, but we just never ended up getting the money lined up and getting it done,” he said.
Herrman said county officials had talked several years ago about putting a few miles a year in the capital outlay budget for Road and Bridge every year for paving.
“Every year, another priority took precedence over it, so we’ve not done any new improving or new paving because of that,” he said. “Money’s always the answer or the stumbling block for any kind of progress. That road does take a lot of traffic.”
Herrman recently took a week long traffic count to get a daily average of the volume on Road O.
“I tried to include a weekend on that too because the traffic picks up out there,” he said. “There’s quite a few residents that live on both Road O and P.”
Herrman agreed with Arellano and Wettstein, saying the road handles a lot of traffic, much of which are trucks.
“At some times on some days, there’s as many as 100 or more trucks per day using that road,” he said.
Herrman said questions have arisen about closing Arkalon Road to truck traffic, but he was unsure of how to do so.
“I guess there’s a way a person could do it, but then trying to enforce it,” he said.
Herrman said on average, according to his count, about 449 vehicles used Road O per day.
“According to state guidelines, they say any road that carries over 250 vehicles a day should be considered to be paved,” he said. “We have a lot of roads in Seward County that carry more than 250 vehicles a day.”
Herrman said the solution is a matter of both cost and what the county can do with the money that is available, but he did say there are other ways of finding help for the landowners.
“If a person wants to try and do an improvement, we can look at doing special assessments or something of that nature,” he said. “I don’t know what your answers are going to be. All I tried to do is give you some items or things that are done in other areas.”
Herrman provided a list of options for the commission to consider including:
• Use of dust control chemicals – A chemical mix of calcium chloride or sodium chloride is sprayed on the roads a couple of times a year in Eastern Kansas with the cost charged to the adjacent landowners.
“In our area, this would need to be done three or four times a year due to our dryer conditions and heavier traffic, with a cost of approximately $5,000 per mile,” Herrman said. “If you have to treat it three or four times a year, you’re going to spend $15,000 to $20,000 per mile, and it’s a four-mile stretch. Even just doing one mile, you’re going to spend $20,000.”
• Prime and seal – Shoot penetrating oil, then seal and cover with fine rock, probably twice. This would cost approximately $48,000 to $50,000 per mile.
“Then this would be added to our roads and rotated through the rest of our asphalt roads every few years,” Herrman said. “This could be done on a cost share basis also.”
• Asphalt four miles – “For four lanes, 24 foot wide, you’re going to need to be putting five or six inches of asphalt down because it does carry a lot of trucks,” Herrman said. “If it’s paved, it’s going to carry most of the trucks. To build a road that the county could say is going to last for several years, you’re looking at 20,000 tons of asphalt for that four miles, and our last prices was $80 per ton.”
This equates to $400,000 per mile and $1.6 million for the four miles of road, according to Herrman, who said those costs are approximate figures.
“This cost could be budgeted for the county or shared by the landowners along this road,” he said. “We’d have to do a lot of dirt work and prep before we would ever consider paving those, but that can be done in house.”
Wettstein said $1.6 million is the estimated amount for an entire budget year for Road and Bridge.
“It’s just the cost of the deal,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any way we can take truck traffic off of that road.”
Landowner complaints also surrounded several incidents, including a recent fatality on Road O, but Herrman said those types of issues occur on every road in the county that has similar traffic counts.
“What would be nice is if we had some pool of money that we knew we were going to be able to pull out of or an allocation of funds or something that we could pave two or three miles of road every year and get rid of our troubled areas,” he said. “Until we have that or we assess the property owners or some mechanism of funding them, our budget for road and bridge just does not support that kind of improvement.”
Herrman said the state of Kansas is changing the way highway funds are distributed, and counties will no longer have the luxury of getting funds from other counties which did not use their allotment of money.
“Those monies are going to go back into the state coffer,” he said. “We’re not going to get to draw ahead like we used to. Over the years, we had a nice special highway reserve account. If we had plans to do an overlay, we could get a stepped up earlier because we had the matching funds to do it.”
Herrman said this likely means the county will have to figure out a different funding mechanism for future needs.
“They’ve borrowed so much money out of the transportation fund over the last 10 years that there’s no money there,” he said. “All we’re going to get is what the federal people are allowing the states to get, and the states hand it down to the counties.”
The item was tabled to allow Herrman to get a count of landowners in the area of Arkalon Road.