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County roads: a ‘pretty good picture’

A five-year road plan for county roads is nearly 25 percent complete, with early results providing “surprising” information.

Consultant John Simmer, vice president of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. met with the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, County Administrator Greg Schulte, Public Works Director Ken Feyen and Todd Starr, county attorney, on June 15 and offered a progress report.

In addition to informing the commissioners that the plan was 24 percent complete as of the end of May, Simmer also provided early data on the current conditions of Archuleta County roads.

Simmer said only 18.44 miles of roads assessed for the plan were in failed or critical condition, out of about 270 miles assessed. According to the assessment, over 233 miles of county roads are in excellent, good or fair condition.

About 48.55 miles were not included in the assessment and were therefore not given a condition assessment (see below).

“That’s a pretty darn good ratio,” Simmer said.

“That’s kind of surprising,” Commissioner Clifford Lucero responded before discussion continued.

Later in the meeting, Simmer continued the positive comments concerning of the county’s current road system.

“As a county, you’ve done well to get where you’re at,” Simmer said, adding, “This is a pretty good picture, actually.”

The condition assessment scale is an industry standard, according to Feyen.

In an e-mail, Simmer said the Road Condition Index is a grading system where 100 points are possible and “where 100 minus the numerical sum of the defects observed results in a number ‘grade’ places the segment of road” into one of five categories:

• Excellent (90-100);

• Good (80-89);

• Fair (70-79);

• Poor (60-69); or

• Critical (0-59).

Further, Simmer explained in the e-mail that, “An ‘Excellent’ paved road would exhibit such characteristics as little to no transverse cracking, longitudinal cracking, alligator cracks, rutting, corrugations, raveling, shoving/pushing, potholes/patches, bleeding or polished aggregate. A road graded as such would also have suitable geometry, suitable drainage and a high overall ride quality.”

Similarly, Simmer wrote, “A ‘Good’ paved road would have a number of defects in one or more of the areas noted above such that the ‘grade’ of the road would place it in the Good category.

“And so on for Fair, Poor and Critical,” Simmer continued.

For gravel roads, Simmer wrote that defects used to determine grading include, “Inadequate aggregate, base failure, geometry, rutting, corrugations, slickness when wet, inadequate crown, potholes, secondary ditches, loss of binder, deficient drainage and overall ride quality.”

In the process of grading the roads, SEH performed correlation assessments on 25 percent of the roads previously assessed in order to check the validity of previous data and to apply a condition index that would be understandable to the general public, versus using technical jargon.

Next, Simmer said he is looking for the BoCC to issue guiding statements that will drive what factors prioritization is based on, and looking to see if the BoCC agrees with the Simmer’s idea for the road condition index.

The guiding statement could also help define how the road plan will be set up.

Different methods of setting up the road plan were discussed at the meeting — a plan based on what reasonable funding would allow, versus a plan based on an “unconstrained” budget that would provide an estimate for the amount of work that would ideally be done sans budget constraints.

“The whole five-year plan is unconstrained in my mind,” Simmer said, adding that if more or less funding exists, projects would be added to or taken off that year’s plan based on their prioritization (and potentially on other factors that might arise).

The BoCC commissioned SEH to work on the plan early in 2011 at a cost of $160,508. The plan is estimated to be completed in early fall, in time for the county’s budget planning season, though Lucero expressed a desire to have portions of the plan sooner in order to look at possible ballot initiatives to increase roads funding.

As part of the contract, SEH is also analyzing existing county policies concerning roads and will recommend possible revisions.

The needed statements for SEH to continue with the plan are expected to come before the commissioners at the July 5 regular meeting.

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