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County road plan unlikely before vote

A Wednesday status meeting concerning the in-progress road plan for Archuleta County revealed little in the way of a plan — what roads might be prioritized for work in the coming years or what factors the Board of County Commissioners might choose to emphasize to determine which roads would need work.

The lack of any plan available to the public also complicates the county’s quest to convince voters to approve a roads-specific mill levy to implement the plan.

No firm date was available on when any “final” iteration of information might be available. The election is being conducted as a mail ballot election, with ballots mailed to registered voters on Oct. 11.

Consultant and Vice President John Simmer of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. presented the status update on the plan to the commissioners Wednesday morning, giving a background, current status and future steps for the completion of a plan.

No members of the general public attended the meeting.

The BoCC commissioned SEH to work on the plan early in 2011, at a cost of $160,508, following a recommendation by the former Road Advisory Task Force.

Thus far in compiling the information and formulating the “complicated spreadsheet,” SEH has created a condition index to compare roads, gathered existing road information, performed traffic counts on 60 previously uncounted roads, assessed 25 percent of the roads previously assessed in an LTAP report to determine correlation, obtained a guiding principle from the BoCC and criteria for prioritization, developed a “decision matrix” and began developing the spreadsheet, Simmer said.

In a previous update meeting, Simmer said 18.44 miles of roads assessed were considered failed or critical, but declined to give an updated figure Wednesday due to the fact that not all county roads were included in the previous LTAP and were, therefore, not assigned a condition index.

Later in the meeting, Public Works Director Ken Feyen said he was sure the vast majority of county roads were now listed in the spreadsheet.

In a June e-mail, Simmer informed SUN staff that 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’ that places the segment of road” into one of five categories:

• Excellent (90-100).

• Good (80-89).

• Fair (70-79).

• Poor (60-69).

• 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, Pot holes/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, Pot Holes, Secondary Ditches, Loss of Binder, Deficient Drainage and Overall Ride Quality.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Simmer said that, currently, preservation of investment (maintaining roads in better condition) was given a “great deal of weight” because it would maintain the integrity of the roads and help to maintain safe roads.

Simmer said he has obtained accident numbers from the Colorado State Patrol to put into the spreadsheet that will help prioritize the roads by safety concern, but said the information was received last week and has not been included yet — a fact that “perturbed” Commissioner Clifford Lucero.

To date, the BoCC has not offered guidance as to which prioritization criteria should be more heavily weighted (out of average daily traffic, condition, preservation of investment, safety and primary versus secondary roads).

The BoCC did, however, approve a guiding statement — to bring all roads to a good or fair condition.

Simmer said he will recommend prioritization of the criteria in a future report.

Regardless of the priority, however, Simmer said the spreadsheet of information will be given to the county, as well as a “decision matrix or tree,” and said the county will be able to manipulate the data in the spreadsheet for the different areas of emphasis.

Simmer said budget amounts can also be entered for further help in prioritizing work to be done.

“It is a very powerful tool,” Simmer said.

The decision tree, a flow chart of sorts, includes a number of factors to determine a recommended course of action for a road based on the information available for the road (condition index, last treatment on the road, age of the road, etc.) — such as whether to crack seal, chip seal or rebuild a road.

Additionally, Simmer advised the county to consider assessing one-third of its roads annual to keep information up to date.

When asked by Lucero when a final report would be complete, Simmer offered no answer, but said he needed to meet with Public Works Director Ken Feyen and County Administrator Greg Schulte.

“This shows how important it is ... for this ballot question to pass,” Lucero said, adding that he hoped voters would see that the county needed money to implement the plan.

Simmer said, during his time as the Pueblo County public works director, information like that the county will get was the best tool to demonstrate the needs for roads in the county.

“The spreadsheet is not the plan,” Simmer added, noting that the spreadsheet was simply the tool for creating a plan.

Commissioner Michael Whiting asked how long it would take to develop a plan from the information, with Simmer responding that it was in the scope of the project to recommend a plan based on the BoCC’s prioritization.

“You tell us what to put in the plan,” Simmer said, noting that he hoped the information needed to guide that could be determined in a couple of hours in a meeting.

Schulte later suggested that the commissioners would need to see a few options for emphasis in order to make a policy decision as to what the emphasis should be.

Schulte also suggested that the commissioners and community needed a hard estimate for a delivered product, and that a public forum on the issue needed to be held, but no dates were set as of press time Wednesday.

Varying timelines for the election, road plan and the county’s annual budget could leave voters with a difficult decision about the proper way to invest in their community.

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