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January 20, 2011

The timing of the county's efforts to plan and execute a county resurfacing program was analyzed in our last article.  Few of us see all the roads in the county's 1000 mile inventory and many of us drive our familiar routes to work, church, school and the store to name a few, but seldom  have time to venture outside our normal routine and see the rest of the county.  A deeper look into the needs of the county and a comparison of that with available resources is the focus of this follow up article.

In 2003, the county began formulating a paved road inventory and grading system to evaluate pavement conditions of all its paved roads.  For perspective, current inspections (Fall 2009/Winter 2010 grading period) resulted in 109.5 miles grading below 70; 63.5 miles grading between 71 and 75; and 90 miles grading between 76 and 79.  This means that 263 miles (or 33%) of the county’s paved road inventory is in need of immediate attention.  Costs to resurface 263 miles are currently calculated at over $35 million dollars.

Comparing our needs to our resources, the county averages roughly $ 4.25 million dollars annually in total revenue available for use on the county road and bridge system.  On average, the County leverages $500,000 to provide a 20% required match on federal transportation funding that can  be utilized on select, federally designated county routes (these federally designated routes comprise approximately 200 miles, or 25%, of our 800 mile paved road system).  In addition, historically, the County Commission has allocated $ 750,000 to $1,000,000 from these total revenues each year to address the needs of the remaining 600 miles (or 75%) of our paved roads, commonly referred to as local roads.

The remaining approximately $2.75 to $3 million dollars per year (approximately 65 % of highway budget) is used for all maintenance activities on the county’s road and bridge network.  This pays for labor, equipment, and materials to perform routine maintenance and rehabilitative work to the county's system.  These funds are used to patch the potholes, mow and cut the right-of-ways, keep signs in place and in good condition, blade dirt roads, repair bridges and guardrail, and keep ditches and pipes clean and functioning.

If no pothole patching, mowing, brush cutting or sign replacements were done and every dollar the county has were allocated for road and bridge uses, it would take nearly a decade to fix the roads that need to be addressed today.  This would mean no one would be available to maintain the remaining mileage of roads and bridges and the county would face the impracticality of not being able to address emergency issues or routine tasks.

Currently the county is addressing between 10 and 15 miles per year on our local system and approximately the same mileage on our federally eligible system each year.  This is a rather aggressive approach when compared to other counties in the state; but even with this approach, the needs still outpace county resources and efforts.  On average, less than 10% of our current deteriorated roads can be addressed each year.  Estimates to ensure a 15- year lifecycle for resurfacing county roads would require investing approximately $ 8 million dollars above our normal maintenance operations annually.  In addition, Elmore County should also be expending approximately $ 1.5 million dollars per year investing in our county bridge infrastructure.

In a climate of no new taxes, relief is not in site for this silent looming problem.  The county continues to streamline processes and workforce, but at some point, reinvestment has to be made or we will lose the asset that affects every aspect of our lives each day.  This problem is not unique to Elmore County as both federal and state governments are facing similar challenges; but we remain committed to continue to find solutions that best fit the needs of the people of Elmore County.  


If you have a county road related question or problem, please contact the Elmore County Highway Department at 567-1162

Richie Beyer
County Engineer
Elmore County Commission