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County Road Concerns Are An Ongoing Fact Of Life

By Staff | Nov 16, 2010

While the outdoor construction season for roads is rapidly drawing to a close as winter nears, the ongoing concerns over maintaining and providing a viable network of roads and bridges remains an ongoing fact of life for both the Palo Alto County Engineer’s Office and the Palo Alto County Secondary Roads Department. With over 1,000 miles of roads to maintain in the county, crews also have to care for bridges and culverts as well, and events in other counties in the state have officials watching with a wary eye.

Bridges are an ongoing concern at all levels, not only for local county engineers and state highway officials, but also at the federal level, especially after the backlash of the Interstate bridge collapse in the Twin Cities a couple of years back. The concern in Iowa is perhaps more profound as in the past month, Buchanan County Iowa had three bridges sustain significant damage due to overweight loads.

Palo Alto County officials took special note of these incidents as former Palo Alto County Engineer Brian Keierleber is the current County Engineer in Buchanan County. Keierleber sent out a message to his fellow county engineers across the state, but the message could apply in any county. The following is Keierleber’s message to his fellow engineers.

Modern Equipment Takes Its Toll

The harvest underway is taking its toll on Iowa’s rural roads and bridges. In the past two weeks Buchanan County has experienced piling failures on three bridges. Two of them had load limits posted, while the third was OK for legal loads. In one case, the neighbor told me who to visit with and I did. The response we received was typical. “We have crossed that bridge with our combine every year since I was a little tyke.” This response was as much an expression of surprise as it was a defense against being blamed for the failure.

The problem isn’t who is at fault as much as it is the reality that the bridges are getting older while the agricultural equipment and loads are getting bigger and heavier. He acknowledged that the he had his corn header on but there was supposedly very little corn in the hopper. His forward momentum got him across even though a portion of the deck broke away and fell into the creek. Had the combine gone down with it he could have been injured or killed. In the other two cases the bridges did not fall in. They just developed funny sags and the grain wagons immediately stopped using them. That prevented immediate failure but left a risk of later collapse under another vehicle, perhaps even a family minivan.

One of our local farmers acknowledged that his two 750 bu. Grain wagons weighed just less than 100,000lb without the weight of the tractor. Bridges are designed for 80,000lb vehicles despite any proclamation any governor make. There is a strong tendency in all of us to continue to follow the same path that we always have regardless of what sign sits at the end of the bridge. What we fail to recognize is it is not just our life that that we are putting at risk but the lives of everyone else who may follow that are being endangered..

When the grain gets finished we will begin with the liquid manure tanks. Does anyone ever consider what a 10,000gal liquid manure tank weighs? I am told the loaded tanks with the weight of the tractor are in the vicinity of 140,000lbs. They shouldn’t be crossing the bridges.

We’d like to remind everyone that the load limits the counties post on the bridges are not arbitrary. They are a statement of how much load a structure can safely carry. It is possible to UNSAFELY cross such a bridge with heavier loads but doing so weakens the bridge with each passage, leading to premature failure, property damage and possible injury. The laws of physics do pertain.

It is not like we can replace all the bridges. We are currently funded to replace about one bridge per year with Federal funds. At that rate we could get to all the bridges in Buchanan County in 257 years. We are often told, “You always use such a large safety factor that there is never any problem crossing the posted bridge.” There are now three closed bridges in Buchanan County to dispute that statement.

Brian Keierleber P.E.

Buchanan County Engineer

While there have been no incidents of the like in Palo Alto County, County Engineer Joel Fantz and the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors have similar concerns. Large machinery and implements, such as liquid manure applicators, cause damage to the county’s roads and the operators of these implements usually have no idea of the potential damage they can or do cause.

“We need to have people operating the large “honey” wagons and grain carts not run them right on the edge of our pavements,” Fantz told the supervisors recently. “Either run the set of wheels out on the shoulder, or cross over the center line, where the road is built to take the load, but not right on the edge. That’s where we get the pie-shape breaks at the joints on our concrete roads.”

Like Buchanan County, Palo Alto County also has numerous paved roads that are reaching or have passed their design life of 50 years.

A careful plan for replacement, repair and maintenance has been developed and is always being reviewed and at the same time, those who use the roads must also take great care not to abuse and do further damage.

Countywide weight embargoes are enforced each fall and spring as a way to prevent further major damage to older hard-surfaced roads. Unfortunately, there are those who simply don’t get it, or don’t care if they haul overweight loads, oversized loads or violate weight restrictions. The mindset of “I pay taxes, so I can use that road any way I want to,” becomes an expensive proposition.

“We will always do our best to meet the needs of the traveling public in providing them with safe roads to travel on,” Fantz noted. “If they know of a road that is damaged or need attention, they just need to let us know and we will respond as quickly as we can to keep our roads safe.”

County Road Concerns Are An Ongoing Fact Of Life

By Staff | Nov 16, 2010

While the outdoor construction season for roads is rapidly drawing to a close as winter nears, the ongoing concerns over maintaining and providing a viable network of roads and bridges remains an ongoing fact of life for both the Palo Alto County Engineer’s Office and the Palo Alto County Secondary Roads Department. With over 1,000 miles of roads to maintain in the county, crews also have to care for bridges and culverts as well, and events in other counties in the state have officials watching with a wary eye.

Bridges are an ongoing concern at all levels, not only for local county engineers and state highway officials, but also at the federal level, especially after the backlash of the Interstate bridge collapse in the Twin Cities a couple of years back. The concern in Iowa is perhaps more profound as in the past month, Buchanan County Iowa had three bridges sustain significant damage due to overweight loads.

Palo Alto County officials took special note of these incidents as former Palo Alto County Engineer Brian Keierleber is the current County Engineer in Buchanan County. Keierleber sent out a message to his fellow county engineers across the state, but the message could apply in any county. The following is Keierleber’s message to his fellow engineers.

Modern Equipment Takes Its Toll

The harvest underway is taking its toll on Iowa’s rural roads and bridges. In the past two weeks Buchanan County has experienced piling failures on three bridges. Two of them had load limits posted, while the third was OK for legal loads. In one case, the neighbor told me who to visit with and I did. The response we received was typical. “We have crossed that bridge with our combine every year since I was a little tyke.” This response was as much an expression of surprise as it was a defense against being blamed for the failure.

The problem isn’t who is at fault as much as it is the reality that the bridges are getting older while the agricultural equipment and loads are getting bigger and heavier. He acknowledged that the he had his corn header on but there was supposedly very little corn in the hopper. His forward momentum got him across even though a portion of the deck broke away and fell into the creek. Had the combine gone down with it he could have been injured or killed. In the other two cases the bridges did not fall in. They just developed funny sags and the grain wagons immediately stopped using them. That prevented immediate failure but left a risk of later collapse under another vehicle, perhaps even a family minivan.

One of our local farmers acknowledged that his two 750 bu. Grain wagons weighed just less than 100,000lb without the weight of the tractor. Bridges are designed for 80,000lb vehicles despite any proclamation any governor make. There is a strong tendency in all of us to continue to follow the same path that we always have regardless of what sign sits at the end of the bridge. What we fail to recognize is it is not just our life that that we are putting at risk but the lives of everyone else who may follow that are being endangered..

When the grain gets finished we will begin with the liquid manure tanks. Does anyone ever consider what a 10,000gal liquid manure tank weighs? I am told the loaded tanks with the weight of the tractor are in the vicinity of 140,000lbs. They shouldn’t be crossing the bridges.

We’d like to remind everyone that the load limits the counties post on the bridges are not arbitrary. They are a statement of how much load a structure can safely carry. It is possible to UNSAFELY cross such a bridge with heavier loads but doing so weakens the bridge with each passage, leading to premature failure, property damage and possible injury. The laws of physics do pertain.

It is not like we can replace all the bridges. We are currently funded to replace about one bridge per year with Federal funds. At that rate we could get to all the bridges in Buchanan County in 257 years. We are often told, “You always use such a large safety factor that there is never any problem crossing the posted bridge.” There are now three closed bridges in Buchanan County to dispute that statement.

Brian Keierleber P.E.

Buchanan County Engineer

While there have been no incidents of the like in Palo Alto County, County Engineer Joel Fantz and the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors have similar concerns. Large machinery and implements, such as liquid manure applicators, cause damage to the county’s roads and the operators of these implements usually have no idea of the potential damage they can or do cause.

“We need to have people operating the large “honey” wagons and grain carts not run them right on the edge of our pavements,” Fantz told the supervisors recently. “Either run the set of wheels out on the shoulder, or cross over the center line, where the road is built to take the load, but not right on the edge. That’s where we get the pie-shape breaks at the joints on our concrete roads.”

Like Buchanan County, Palo Alto County also has numerous paved roads that are reaching or have passed their design life of 50 years.

A careful plan for replacement, repair and maintenance has been developed and is always being reviewed and at the same time, those who use the roads must also take great care not to abuse and do further damage.

Countywide weight embargoes are enforced each fall and spring as a way to prevent further major damage to older hard-surfaced roads. Unfortunately, there are those who simply don’t get it, or don’t care if they haul overweight loads, oversized loads or violate weight restrictions. The mindset of “I pay taxes, so I can use that road any way I want to,” becomes an expensive proposition.

“We will always do our best to meet the needs of the traveling public in providing them with safe roads to travel on,” Fantz noted. “If they know of a road that is damaged or need attention, they just need to let us know and we will respond as quickly as we can to keep our roads safe.”