Drive safely; have patience with road crews

by Steve Klatt
| July 5, 2020 1:00 AM

The past three months have been a most interesting time in the life of the Bonner County Road Department. Mid-March found us shuffling half crews on and off for the next six weeks, during which our summer construction schedule began to slip immediately. By the time we got our full crews working together again, Mother Nature decided to play pranks upon us with frequent and persistent rain events. Now, at the end of June, we are finishing our mag chloride treatments of early June.

The interruptions and rain delays have also upended our construction schedules for this year. We have been able to get a substantial amount of work done on North Kootenai Road, brushing work done up on Eastshore Road at Priest Lake, and several smaller roads graveled near Cocolalla Lake that have been waiting a few years. A project impacted by this year’s interruptions has been our BST project for Lakeshore Drive being split into road improvements later this year and surface treatment being completed next summer.

Chip sealing projects will get underway right after the Fourth in the Sagle area, move out to the Clark Fork area and then up to Priest Lake. Depending on what little tricks Mother Nature is hiding up her sleeves, we should be done with chips around the middle of August. We will have a crew working on brushing and ditches up Baldy Mountain Road, plus a contractor clearing right-of-way on Woodland Drive. We are working on setting up a guardrail project for an area on Denton Road and the striping of roads will get under contract before too much longer.

Bonner County got a unique opportunity to participate in planning efforts funded by the Federal Highway Administration to create a Local Roads Safety Plan. The numbers of serious and fatal crashes on local roads is disconcerting at best and I have wanted to study our crash data to determine if similarities in crashes exist that might be treated systemically for improved driver safety. This effort has been made a bit cumbersome by COVID 19 restrictions on travel this year, but getting traffic safety planners to help us analyze our road system is a good starting point. We have been awarded a grant for right-of-way clearing of hazard trees in a couple of years and that will help reduce the severity of future crashes.

We are working on a project to replace a small bridge that is failing out on the Gypsy Bay Road after summer traffic slows down and have a bridge deck restoration job scheduled up on Peninsula Road once we begin to have some warm days. There are three more intersection lights we will have installed on Highway 95 south of Sandpoint later this summer and will continue to expand our lighted intersection program each year. Hard to believe, but we are beginning to gather up our stockpiles of anti-skid material for winter already in a program that costs nearly $2 million each season. It has been good to add three new trucks to our aging fleet.

Let’s all drive safely and have patience with our crews working to improve your county roads.

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.