Wet weather leaves road tool sitting unusedA $380,000 machine purchased in 2009 to turn paved Stutsman County roads into gravel has been sitting unused for more than two years. The big yellow machine, officially known as a rotary reclaimer/mixer, is designed to grind paved roads into gravel. Stutsman County used it in June 2010 to grind up nine miles of Old Highway 10 but has been unable to use it since then because of weather conditions.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A $380,000 machine purchased in 2009 to turn paved Stutsman County roads into gravel has been sitting unused for more than two years.
The big yellow machine, officially known as a rotary reclaimer/mixer, is designed to grind paved roads into gravel. Stutsman County used it in June 2010 to grind up nine miles of Old Highway 10 but has been unable to use it since then because of weather conditions.
“It hasn’t been used since I’ve been on the commission,” said Dave Schwartz, Stutsman County commissioner since October 2010. “It was originally planned to recycle roads. Originally they did Old Highway 10 but that didn’t turn out well.”
The road is rough and difficult to blade because the ground pavement has hardened, Schwartz said. He blamed the problem on not enough gravel being mixed with the ground pavement at the time it was recycled.
At the time of its purchase, the rotary reclaimer was intended to recycle paved roads into gravel to reduce maintenance expenses. The County Commission chose Old Highway 10 east of Jamestown because the pavement had deteriorated to the point it was considered a safety hazard to travelers.
Then the wet years came.
For three straight years the Stutsman County area received greater-than-normal snowfall coupled with wetter-than-normal summers.
“The last few years of the wet cycle have changed everything,” Schwartz said. “We’re still dealing with wet conditions even after a year of drought.”
Much of the Stutsman County Road Department’s efforts have dealt with keeping roads usable through high-water areas. The rotary reclaimer has been parked because the county has been focusing most of its attention and resources on flooding problems instead of paved-road maintenance.
“We’ve had 15 projects and more than 1,900 FEMA sites in Stutsman County,” said Casey Bradley, county chief operating officer. “We won’t have the last bid letting for emergency work on roads until February 2013.”
Schwartz estimated the county’s share of the costs for the projects at about $3 million.
“That has set our road work back many years,” he said.
With the last of the flood-related construction planned for 2013, Schwartz said the rotary reclaimer may be used again.
“The plans are to grind the roads one year and to overlay with pavement the next year,” he said. “We’re working on a couple of projects. Money is still the issue.”
Grinding old pavement up and leveling it off before adding an overlay could reduce the cost by as much as 66 percent compared to completely rebuilding a road.
“To conventionally rebuild a road runs about $1 million per mile,” Schwartz said. “The grinding costs about $28,000 and an overlay up to $300,000 per mile.”
The section of Old Highway 10 east of Jamestown ground up in 2010 may be among the first to get this treatment. It is anticipated the road may see increased traffic with the planned construction of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant and the Spiritwood Nitrogen Project in the next four years.
“We might have to regrind it before the overlay,” Schwartz said. “But until we get more funding it is still in limbo.”
Bradley said the county pays about $60,000 per year on a lease-to-own arrangement on the rotary reclaimer. There are four more years left until the machine is paid off.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org