County discusses Trough Road maintenance & safety

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by Marissa Lorenz
Complaints about conditions on the Trough Road have reached the ears of Grand County Commissioners and were addressed this week by Micah Benson, Assistant Superintendent of Grand County Road & Bridge.

Benson mentioned the magnesium chloride that the County applies to road surfaces in order to bind finer dust particles, reducing dust, the loss of road material, and the need to regrade. It is considered an “environmentally preferred compound” and is used in sensitive watersheds. This year, Road & Bridge tested a new mag chloride product on the Trough Road (County Road 1), and she noted that, while it lasted longer than the regularly-used product, “It’s coming apart now.”

“We really do like the new material,” she continued. “We usually only get a month after spraying before having to do maintenance work, but we got about 8 weeks out of the new mag. And we have the understanding that, when you have residual on the road and keep putting on more material, you actually get a better result each year.”

Benson indicated that the mag chloride budget for 2021 would likely be higher than this year and that one possibility for improved conditions in the future would be to respray before the road deteriorated too badly, “if more mag were available.”
For now, however, spot maintenance has begun on the frequently traveled roadway, and she says it will likely continue for the rest of the summer. “We’re trying not to make a bigger mess than what we already have. We’re just maintaining right now, smoothing out sections and doing upkeep on corners, et cetera.”

She observed that the department is out of the mag chloride product and the associated funds for this year and would have to ask for supplemental funds if they were to purchase more.

Commissioners expressed support for increased application next year. “I think the Board would be open to a plan for a double dose that would get through the whole summer without the breakdown happening,” stated Commissioner Rich Cimino.

Safety messaging considered
Benson expressed a wish to keep large trucks off of the road for both care and safety reasons. And Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer cited discussions with Benson and R&B Superintendent Chris Baer about plans being developed to address issues such as heavy usage and unprepared drivers.

Some potential strategies include signage on the Eagle County end informing that there is no cell service on the road and that nighttime maintenance is limited. Of particular concern is the traffic that is routed across the Trough Road when I70 experiences closures. “Drivers need to be aware of the risk that they take,” stated Moyer.
Benson noted that efforts had already been made to contact major GPS companies “to reroute away from Trough Road as an alternate route and keep traffic on state highways.”

Staffing concerns impact summer & winter maintenance
Benson cautioned that maintenance work, current and future, would be limited by only having three Road & Bridge staff for the Kremmling area.

Chair Kristen Manguso noted that there are five plow routes in the area and only three plow equipment operators, including the area foreman who plowed all last winter as well.

“There are going to be some hard decisions,” Benson confirmed. “We won’t be able to cover everything this winter. I just don’t see that it’s physically possible. People are going to have to understand that main roads will get done, but side roads may be waiting a couple of days after a storm before they’re plowed.”

In spite of a County hiring freeze, positions for Road & Bridge equipment operators have been approved and are being sought by the County. Details can be found under Employment at co.grand.co.us.

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