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Hubbard County's future road plans are skimpy, funding short, prices high

The glory days of large road and bridge projects may be behind us, Hubbard County engineer David Olsonawski told citizens in Laporte Monday night.

And although partnership in an 11-county regional consortium of transportation managers has resulted in $7 million flowing to Hubbard County, the main pipeline of money is slowly being squeezed.

Even though the county's share of a state apportionment sum for 2012 projects rose, the allotments must be split between city and county road maintenance and construction.

There's simply not enough to go around.

"If we had unlimited funds we'd have a hay day," Olsonawski told the crowded Lakeport fire hall.

Federal funding programs are constantly being revised. A new reauthorization bill called MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) moves funds through those Area Transportation Partners recommendations.

MAP-21 will supposedly double funds for safety projects and to reduce highway fatalities. Counties in Hubbard's surrounding region get 19 percent of those total funds, split between the 11 counties, for federal roads and bridges.

County State Aid Highway funds in 2012 will be $3.4 million, to be used for upkeep of the county's 323.82 miles of CSAH roads and 31 bridges. Five of those bridges are deemed deficient. Annual bridge inspections will continue, Olsonawski said.

County and township road repairs come from various allotments of tax monies and road accounts. Two of the county's 11 bridges are deemed deficient.

Township roads get funding through a mileage formula and population base, so larger townships such as Todd get more funds.

Olsonawski reviewed a list of selected projects through 2019, but said the price of bituminous pavement is prohibiting major work.

"Asphalt has gotten very expensive, in the $50 to $60 (per ton) range."

A county road project on Hubbard's County Road 3 and on the Beltrami County line cost $900,000 for three miles of pavement, Olsonawski said. Beltrami and Hubbard counties are splitting the cost.

Although asphalt paved roads last 20 years, it's the initial cost of paving them that's hard to swallow, Olsonawski said, so not too many more gravel roads will be paved in the future.

County 37 south of Kabekona is on the list for 2013, but Olsonawski said he won't hesitate to hold on that project if bituminous bids look like they will be in that $60 per ton range.

A County Road 12 project paving to the Cass County line runs another $1 million. That project is slated for this summer.

Olsonawski said although counties can borrow from state aid allotments, he's reluctant to do so because the funds must be repaid the next year.

"We'll have very few projects until we see increases in funding," he reiterated.

He hopes the truck route around Park Rapids will be completed during the 2016 season to route truck traffic away from downtown Park Rapids.

Paving County Road 81 from County roads 4 to 7 is on the wish list.

"Roads outside the Highway 34 corridor have triple the traffic" they were designed for, he noted.

County 81, which runs along Sweitzer Lake, had heavy use last summer as people sought to avoid the Highway 34 construction. That 3.2 miles of grade work is scheduled to begin next summer.

And County Road 18, which was used by construction trucks last summer, needs major repair, from County 7 to Nevis. That's tentatively set for 2014. An overlay on County 18 west of the Fish Hook River is tentatively slated for 2016.

Olsonawski told the Laporte residents not to expect much work in their area again until 2019, when a $2.7 million overlay of County 36 is planned.

Sarah Smith

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

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