MADISON — There’s encouraging news for asphalt roads in Madison County.
With the county issuing bonds to help pay for road projects for the first time in recent years, the county is hoping to expand the number of miles of asphalt paving to 15 miles next spring and summer as part of the new budget approved this month.
In recent years, the county had been resurfacing about 6 miles annually. It was finding that it was not keeping up with the approximately 200 miles of asphalt roads the county has.
At a meeting Tuesday, the county board discussed how it wants to proceed to complete all the roads that need attention. After the discussion, they directed Richard Johnson, Madison County roads superintendent, to do the following:
— Count the number of asphalt “lane miles” in each of Madison County’s three road districts. Lane miles generally are the same as regular miles, except along county lines, they would count as half as many miles because Madison County shares maintenance responsibilities with the adjoining county.
— Based on the miles of roads, have the funds for asphalt resurfacing allocated proportionately in each district.
— After Johnson has completed the work, he will report back to commissioners.
It was noted that District 2, which is near Norfolk, has the most asphalt miles and roads in the poorest shape. As a result, it stands to have the most miles of asphalt resurfaced proportionately.
After considerable discussion, commissioners said they want to make sure the worst roads in each district get addressed immediately, but they recognize District 2 will get a higher percentage of miles finished initially.
It also was pointed out that District 2 probably has the most valuation and had been getting a disproportionate attention for resurfacing in the past. That is part of why it is behind.
Another issue is that some of the roads in the districts have gone so long without resurfacing, new asphalt won’t be enough. The road bases are gone and will require extensive work before new asphalt can be applied, making it even more costly.
Many of the roads under consideration already are listed in the county’s one- and six-year plan for road and bridge projects.
Johnson said there are a couple of “wild cards” or unknowns. The county has not heard back from FEMA yet following inspections, so it is not known when or how much reimbursement the county will receive.
The other wild card is a map that shows the proposed haul roads for the Keystone XL pipeline through Madison County, Johnson said.
The county may want to consider doing any overlays on the roads that TC Energy — formerly TransCanada — would use until after any work is completed, although company officials said they would take responsibility for any damage they might cause, he said.
Commissioners agreed. In addition, commissioners said they want the county to address the worst roads first.
“I believe this is a concerted effort,” said Ron Schmidt, county board chairman. “We will work together.”
Commissioner Troy Uhlir said the county also has more sophisticated counters to determine not only how many vehicles are using a road, but the type of vehicles — based on weight.
Finally, commissioners said they would look if there are any road restrictions on First Street near Norfolk and the First Street Bridge over the Elkhorn River. With the county line bridge and parts of Grandview Drive and Channel Road closed, farmers are looking for a nearby alternative to haul their crops across the Elkhorn River.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, commissioners directed Johnson to investigate a website known as govspend.com.
The site is operated by a company that collects purchase order data from local, state and federal government agencies. Customers, such as Madison County, then pay an annual subscription to view information or bid on projects, or how much other government entities are paying for everything from light bulbs to road resurfacing projects.
“Basically, you can compare it nationwide,” Johnson said.
The site already monitors 27,000 agencies and 14 million vendors. Some of it could be useful when a project doesn’t cost enough to be bid, but the county still wants to make sure it is getting a competitive bid compared to others.