A roads' scholar for county roadway maintenance
How to manage a “holey“ war
May 1, 2019
The first thing Ted Plank, division manager for Boulder County Transportation Department, wants people to know is, it’s a big misconception that the county doesn’t maintain roads.
“The county does a ton of maintenance, starting with potholes,” Plank said. “We do crack sealing operations in all our subdivisions. We sweep them, we snow plow them. We clean culverts and drainages.” Whatever the issue might be, maintenance is done.
What the county has to do though is prioritize projects, with safety as the primary driving force. Main county roads are the first priority. “The Lookouts and the 75th Streets that carry the highest volume of traffic get the first attention,” Plank said. Subdivisions are next, with those prioritized by how badly streets are damaged.
Plank stresses that maintenance is not done on a random basis. It is prioritized based on safety factors. “If we see something that is a true safety hazard, we try to get to it as quickly as we can.
“In the subdivisions, we do rely on neighbors to report things, because we don’t get in every road every week checking. It is important for residents to report things,” Plank added.
There are two ways to report a problem. First is a phone call to the main office at 303-441-3962. “You will get a live person most of the time. We really don’t have an answering service per se,” Plant said and if requested the department will give a call back. The request is then “plugged into” their system and sent to the appropriate department.
You can also go to the county website, http://www.bouldercounty.org. There is a tab for roads and transportation. Click on that to either send an email requesting repairs or fill out a maintenance request form. Putting in street addresses helps crews locate the issue.
As opposed to tracking the number of potholes, and other issues, Plank said his department tracks their work by tons of asphalt used. Tracking is done this way because “we’re more interested in how much material is used,” Plank said. “I can have one pothole that takes a ton of material and another one that only takes a shovelful.”
Plank wants to get the message out that there are other issues with streets than potholes. Most of those are called pavement condition types. Issues that fall into this category are cracks, which can run horizontal or vertical to a street and “alligatoring”, where the street cracking resembles alligator skin, and some of the surface might be gone. There are also ruts and settling, where the substructure of the street has deteriorated. These terms are industry standard.
Most of these issues are realized in a short distance on Mt. Meeker in Gunbarrel Estates. There is not only alligatoring, but also potholes, cracks, both vertical and horizontal to the street, plus the ruts and settling, which may signify damage to the roadbed.
Plank said that it’s very important to distinguish between the various types of road deterioration. He realized that most people don’t care about what kind of deterioration there is, they just want their roads fixed.
Because these issues are categorized under road maintenance, they can be fixed. “But we also rate it as a lower priority.” The damage on Mt. Meeker falls into this category. If the alligatoring becomes dangerous where cars and bikes can’t navigate the area safely, maintenance will be done.
It’s the same with the dips and settling. “Unfortunately, we’re just not far enough ahead of the curve to get to many of those, until it starts to get to, what we call, a blowout. That’s when the pavement actually breaks or fractures.”
Plank wants to stress that his department does repair all these issues. “Our crews, when they get going, are patching for the entire season, from April through October, nonstop.” With budget constraints and the volume of work, they are doing the best job they can.
To report road safety and condition issues, call 303-441-3962, or go to http://www.bouldercounty.org.