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County's pared back five-year road plan likely won't tackle the big paving jobs

Hubbard County board chair Lyle Robinson frequently jokes that his district in the sparsely populated northeast region of the county doesn't need highway maintenance funds.

All District 4 needs is a good lawnmower to shave the stripes of grass down the centerlines of the gravel roads.

As county engineer Dave Olsonawski unveiled a five-year road improvement plan in Nary Monday night, those grass centers are looking like they won't be paved over any time soon.

In 2009, which may have been the zenith of road and bridge projects, Hubbard County got federal and state funding to complete 13 jobs.

For the foreseeable future, that number will be down to a handful.

Olsonawski explained funding sources to 30 residents of northeastern Hubbard County.

Although County State Aid Highway funds increased by $83,333 in 2010 over last year, the price of a bituminous overlay has more than doubled in the past five years, to $50 per ton.

Olsonawski explained that means picking and choosing projects carefully or foregoing them altogether.

Only two federally funded projects will be undertaken this year. One is County Road 9 west of Highway 71, which has undergone an asphalt reclamation and is having the shoulders repaved now.

The second project will be a bridge on County Road 38 near Benedict, which will start soon and cause a 2½-month detour near the border of Cass County.

Three box culverts will be built, two on County Road 118, the third on County 97.

What interested most of the residents gathered was the proposed paving of County Road 37, a Natural Preservation Road that runs along the south shore of Kabekona Lake.

Olsonawski said the county hopes to purchase right-of-way land for the project in 2011. If money becomes available, the road would be graded and surfaced with aggregate that same year.

Improvements to County Road 85, through Mantrap and Akeley townships, are also on the wish list for 2011, if bituminous prices come down.

Lastly, Laporte will get four blocks of curb, gutter and storm sewers around city hall in 2011.

In 2012, Olsonawski said plans call for a bituminous reclamation of County 12 from Akeley to the Cass County border. County Road 81 east of Highway 4 carries 262 vehicles in average daily traffic. Ideally, Olsonawski said that should be paved to Dorset.

"We're gonna do less projects," he told the audience. "We could keep borrowing ahead but at some point you've got to pay it back."

If the right-of-way acquisition is completed, $2.5 million of projects in the northeast corner of the county, including County 37, could get an overlay. That would also include County 101 in Farden Township.

In 2014, County Road 18 will need a new overlay from Highway 4 to Nevis. Olsonawski said because bituminous specifications have lower mixes of oil than they did years ago, asphalt can't withstand the wear and tear of 25 years, like the older bituminous roads have.

Olsonawski said concrete contractors are promoting the use of concrete as a cheaper alternative to asphalt, but he's skeptical.

"Concrete has much higher maintenance costs," he said. "Joints, jointing (work), we're not geared up to do that."

Olsonawski said projects are selected based on traffic counts, the current road conditions, the age of the roads and other factors.

In an ideal world, he'd like to pave County 44, an east-west stretch across the northern half of the county, County Road 23 out of Akeley and County 49 from Akeley to County 33.

Meanwhile DOT will begin repaving Highway 71 in the northern part of the county, necessitating a detour on County Road 89 west of the highway.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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