Heavy rains in the past couple of weeks have taken their toll on some of Bay County's hundreds of miles of dirt roads. News 13 gets questions from time to time on why the county just doesn't pave them all. That's the focus of this Problem Solver report.
According to the Bay County Public Works Department, there are 231 miles of unpaved roads in the county down from about 300 just a little over four years ago. There is a process in determining which roads get the pavement.
It is a familiar scene especially following heavy rains in the Bay County area. Last week, News 13 caught up with roads and bridges crew members repairing the damage to West Veal Road just off of Highway 231. Public Works says that road along with Ed Lee Road were two of the worst in the county. Travel on these roads can only help to make matters worse.
Bay County Public Works Director Ken Schnell says the recent heavy rainfall, fifteen inches, was similar to what a hurricane can bring here. Schnell says, "What happens is the dirt from the road goes into the ditches...plugs up the ditches and then the water tries to cut across the road and when it cuts across the road, it makes it impassable. We try to maintain those roads so when you do get rain...they don't wash out...we don't want to see the road cut across with water and become impassable. That's our goal."
Schnell says the county has seven grader districts to take care of dirt roads.. They are graded on a continual basis. A clay/sand mix is used for repairs. According to Schnell, "it is a little bit of a science...the sand/clay mixture. The clay binds the sand particles together…however, you put too much clay... it makes it slippery."
There are three ways for roads to be paved in Bay County:
First, the Participating Paving Program...residents pay forty percent of the construction costs for paving and bay county pays sixty percent.
Second, through the environmental permitting…where environmental grants are used to pave dirt roads.
Finally, the county agrees to pay for collector road...when funds are available.
But, Schnell tells News 13…private roads are different. He says, "The county cannot maintain private roads. It is against state law to use public funds to maintain private property and that's basically what a private road is. Residents can get together…deed the county the right of way…and they agree to have the road paved and then the county accepts the road.
Progress is being made as paving work is finishing up on Spikes and Old Spikes Roads just off of Highway 77 North of Bozeman School. Tram Road is a priority collector road set for paving. No date is announced yet for the work but News 13 will keep you updated on that project.
If you have a road question or concern, call Bay County Public Works Engineering at 248-8301.