County Board reviews road plan

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Falls News staff

The Sheboygan County Board was treated to a road show Tuesday, Aug. 21

County Transportation Director Greg Schnell led supervisors through the county’s highway and infrastructure needs and programs, leavened with a touch of humor, at their August meeting.

Schnell started by noting that many of the Highway Department’s costs have risen steeply over the past few years with the cost of oil and gasoline.

Asphalt costs have jumped 180 percent since 2005, he pointed out. That led the department to gear up to recycle asphalt as part of its paving operations, resulting in a cost reduction of $2 to $4.5 a ton for paving material.

“Asphalt is our gold and it has proven to be very positive as far as controlling our costs,” Schnell said of the recycling efforts.

The county has 450 miles of roads to maintain, according to Schnell. Since roadways have an expected lifespan of 15 years before needing resurfacing, that means the county ideally should resurface 30 miles of road a year to keep even.

With budget constraints and rising costs, the department has done between 13.5 and 26.5 miles of resurfacing a year over the past five years, Schnell pointed out.

A total of seven bridges the county is responsible for have a sufficiency rating of less than 50 percent, Schnell continued.

That rating qualifies them for federal Surface Transportation Program funds, under which the federal government pays 80 percent of repair or replacement costs.

But, Schnell cautioned, “We’re going to have a tremendous amount of competition to get STP funds in the future.”

Overall, the county’s bridges have an 86.9 percent sufficiency rating, according to DOT formulas.

“The bridges that have been added to the (county’s) capital improvement plan are 60 to 80 years old,” Schnell told the supervisors.

Other projects the Highway Department is looking to work on soon include the relocation of County LS in the town of Mosel and reconfigurations of several intersections for safety improvements, including County JM and M in Johnsonville and County M and PP in the town of Sheboygan Falls.

Schnell said placing the airport under his department should provide cost savings for the county.

As an example, he noted that the Highway Department was able to make repairs to buckling concrete on a runway last July in a timely manner.

He noted that it enabled vintage planes on their way to the EAA in Oshkosh to make scheduled appearance at the airport while showing a photo of a military cargo plane making an emergency landing at an air base in Afghanistan, one of several humorous moments in his presentation.

County Administrator Adam Payne praised Schnell for his efforts, but added a caution to the board, “We’re still not where we need to be. We’re still catching up.”

The board approved lowering the speed limit on County S north of State 23 after the Law Committee recommended against lowering the limit.

The section of gravel rustic road previously had a speed limit of 45 mph. The new limits will be 35 mph for the first mile or so north of State 23 and 25 mph the next mile or so to the village of Glenbeulah.

Law Committee chair Thomas Epping said the road has recently been improved with a seal coating that should make it safer to drive on and added that Greenbush had requested that the limit not be changed.

Supervisor Jim Baumgart argued for the lower speed limit, citing the narrow and winding nature of the road and its use by walkers and bicyclers, especially during the fall color season.

“Basically, you have a situation where you have two people living on that road and those are the two people asking for the lower speed limit,” Supervisor Richard Bemis commented. “I’ve received a lot of calls from other residents in the town of Greenbush who said don’t change the speed limit.”

Epping’s motion to file the ordinance was defeated by a vote of 14-10, with supervisors Al Bosman, Devin LeMahieu, Peggy Feider, Fran Damp, George Marthenze, Peter Salm, Greg Weggeman and Edward Procek joining Epping and Bemis in voting to file. Supervisor Vernon Koch was absent.

The motion to adopt the ordinance, changing the speed limit, then passed by a vote of 16-8.

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