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Supervisors Approve Road Embargoes

By Staff | Mar 5, 2009

Palo Alto County Supervisors once again approved a limited embargo on three roads in the county during action at their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 24. After trying an embargo program a year ago in response to considerable expenditures for road patching in 2007, the Supervisors had no qualms in enacting the temporary embargoes.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz reviewed how the embargo program came into being after the winter of 2007, and how enacting the embargoes on four roads in the county a year ago actually saved the county some money in the long run.

“We know that putting the embargo on can pay off,” Fantz said. “Two years ago, on the Ayrshire pavement, B53, we spent nearly $200,000 in repairing frost heaves and broken pavement due to those heaves. After putting the embargo on that road last year, we only spent about $20,000 for repairs, so we know the embargo is a useful tool. But, it is still a challenge to be able to strike a balance between necessary commerce and not doing severe damage to the roads when the spring thaw comes in.”

Once again, Fantz asked that the embargoes be approved for a period up to and not to exceed three months. “I would expect we’d be looking at about a three-week window in all reality,” Fantz explained. “But, when you look at the historical temperature data for March, you can see a range of anywhere from -20 below to 90 degrees, so who really knows?”

Under the provisions of the resolution, loads would be restricted to a six ton axle limit, meaning that the gross weight of the load can equal the number of axles on the vehicle multiplied by six. Additionally, the Engineer could issue permits of exemption in case of severe economic hardship being caused by the restriction in an emergency situation.

“We’re trying to target the worst period for the roads, when they are at their weakest,” Fantz explained. “With all of the frost heaves this winter, we know there is a lot of moisture under these roads and when thaw starts, it could lead to real problems.”

The restrictions would be enacted by the placement of signs designating the restriction, and would be rescinded when the signs are removed from the affected roadways.

This year, just three roads are specifically targeted for the temporary embargoes are County Road N48, or North Huron Street, on the east edge of Emmetsburg, from 320 Street to 360 Street; County Road N28 from Ayrshire north to Highway 18 and county Road B53, from Ayrshire east to Highway Four. The Depew pavement, or County Road N60, will not be embargoed, as it will be torn up and reconstructed this year.

“I realize that in some cases, this does create some extra travel, but for the most part, everyone has been very cooperative in the past on the embargo,” Fantz said.

“Actually, I’ve heard a lot of positive comments about the embargoes,” Board Chair Ed Noonan said. “I’ve even had some folks suggest we put embargoes on all of the roads for a few weeks in the Spring, and that really surprised me.”

With no further discussion, a resolution to enact temporary embargoes was introduced and approved on a unanimous vote of the board.