Winter’s road conditions challenging for all

by Steve Klatt
| January 30, 2020 1:00 AM

I began to write this update to Bonner County rural drivers two weeks ago and am now rewriting it to reflect two significant weather cycles we have just dealt with in Bonner County.

The first was warm rain and melting snow floor creating havoc for our crews and significant hardship for a multitude of rural driveway owners. The next has been the continued rain turning road surfaces into potholed frog ponds of very irritating driving conditions. Honestly seems too early in winter to be composing a letter regarding road conditions and our winter maintenance, but from the volume of phone calls we have been receiving, I think county roads are on a lot of people’s minds right now.

A road condition that is of great concern to the Road Department are the plethora of potholes that have cratered a number of roads into miserable driving experiences. This extraordinary deterioration of roads is a product of the Thanksgiving cold spell, followed by rains, more frost and more rain. The commissioners just passed a resolution proclaiming this a unique circumstance of extraordinary road conditions and authorizing the Road Department to take whatever extraordinary measures we deem appropriate. Our whole crew is interested in doing what we can to remove potholes absolutely as soon as we can.

The conundrum we are faced with is almost everything we may attempt to do has the real potential to backfire and make the situation even worse. Those of you driving any one of these cratered roads probably think it simply is not possible to make your road worse, but we have the potential to turn gravel roads to soup and not get rid of potholes. The almost constant rain we have been receiving is a nightmarish adversary of wintertime road restoration.

We are geared up to begin using graders to cut gravel roads and muck some of the water out of potholes, then windrowing the muck to the side of the roads. We will follow that up with hiring large belly dump trucks to place gravel ahead of road graders to provide some driving relief that is unlikely to last until spring maintenance can begin. We are committed to doing whatever is possible under the circumstances.

The road crew has put in a considerable amount of overtime and weekend work in the brief winter we have experienced in January and hopefully, we have seen the worst of this winter already. Bonner County residents are quite fortunate to have the services of such a responsive, resolute road crew that regularly begin an arduous day at 3 or 4 a.m. to combat extremely challenging conditions. Please keep in mind, we are maintaining nearly 700 miles of road each day and spring is around the corner, but none of us know how long that corner is.

Steve Klatt is director of the Bonner County Road & Bridge Department, 1500 Highway 2, Suite 101, Sandpoint. He can be reached by phone at 208-255-5681; ext. 1; by fax at 208-263-9084; or by email at steve.klatt@bonnercountyid.gov.