Fall reflections of roads in Bonner County

| October 18, 2020 1:00 AM

Autumn equinox and measurable rain in the same week had me thinking of what the Bonner County Road Department needs to be focused on for the next month or so, and also wondering what little tricks Mother Nature has up her sleeves to make our lives a bit more interesting.

Those of you driving our 360-plus miles of gravel roads had probably not even noticed many of these are got a little bit roughed up by traffic increasing in volume and speed this past dry summer. We had a heck of a time getting our mag chloride applied because of the June rains and since then, we never received enough rain to help hold the roads together.

Road graders will be getting out fairly steadily and we will be starting the process of getting the gravel roads ready for winter. Although we have touched up a number of roads and rough spots, we have been holding off on our regular grading program hoping for seasonal rains. Since we have not been getting any natural moisture, we have been sending water trucks out with our road graders to begin smoothing up our gravel roads.

The Sagle crew is trying to get as much prep work done as possible to the western end of Lakeshore Drive to get ready for applying BST early next summer. The Priest River crew is still gathering and clearing up storm debris along Eastshore Road up at Priest Lake, then will haul gravel and begin to refurbish Gleason-McAbee Falls Road. The Sandpoint crew is starting a brushing project along Lower Pack River Road from the Highway 200 end that will cause a few traffic delays on that road.

The road department had some notable moments this summer, starting with getting several issues resolved with our chip sealing program and once again, putting down quite a few miles of quality asphalt preservation. We just finished replacing a small bridge in the Sagle area and doing our most extensive bridge deck restoration project on Peninsula Road above Priest River. After putting sustained efforts in rebuilding the structure and drainage systems under North Kootenai Road, we were just rewarded with the satisfaction of covering the road surface with hot mix asphalt.

The commissioners have encouraged the road department to work on a novel idea for funding road improvement projects primarily focused on new asphalt treatment for our existing gravel roads, but that could also include bridge repairs and replacement. The idea is to propose a two-year override levy to the voters next spring that will be dedicated to specific road improvement projects we will define and make known to the public for your consideration. We are developing a 10-year countywide program schedule, identifying specific road improvements which will need to be approved every two years for the program to continue. Given the constraints and restrictions of current Bonner County budgets and funding, numerous worthy road improvements are decades away from being completed. Our job is to develop a realistic program cost and schedule for your consideration and we are beginning to work seriously toward that end.

Steve Klatt is director of Bonner County Road and Bridge. He can be reached at Bonner County Road & Bridge Department, 1500 Highway 2, Suite 101; or by phone at 208-255-5681.