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Deteriorating culverts an ‘ongoing battle’ for road department

Two rural county roads are closed as officials wait for the materials to replace two culverts that failed during Sunday afternoon’s torrential rains.

County Engineer Russell Oliver said maintaining and replacing the county’s aging culverts is an “ongoing battle” for the Pike County Road Departments and for departments all over the country.

“It’s an ongoing issue; we have a lot of culverts,” Oliver said. “Most of our paved county roads were built between the 1940s and 1960s and most of those pipes are galvanized corrugated metal, so many have already reached or exceed their design life expectancy.”

Oliver said more and more of the culverts are failing despite the department’s maintenance efforts as the years pile on.

“All of our infrastructure is constantly deteriorating, so that’s just a battle to maintain and replace what’s needed,” Oliver said.

Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said they discovered just how much the road department has to deal with culverts while digging into the road department data to find ways to resurface local roads.

“We knew a long time ago that we were in trouble with the Road Department – manpower is down and costs were way up,” Copeland said. “We saw some of his data and project backlog and there have been a lot of pipe failures; a lot of cost and time is going into this, whether routine maintenance or emergencies.”

Copeland said the department has been replacing the pipes with better materials that have a longer life expectancy, but there are many different types of culverts around the county and it will be a long process to continue replacing them.

When a culvert does fail, Oliver said there’s a wide range on how long the repairs can take.

“There’s lots of different types of culverts of different sizes and different materials, and different situations call for different solutions,” Oliver said. “It’s impossible to have the materials in stock and on hand to address any situation that could come up. These are large pipes, not the type of materials you typically keep in your inventory. With these last pipes that failed, our vendors didn’t have the right sizes so we have to wait for them to manufacture pipes before we can install them. That’s why this replacement is taking two weeks.

“Two weeks is not necessarily a long time for a drainage structure replacement. We try to be proactive. We do have a system in place to inspect our drainage structures and we try to be proactive and replace those before they get to the point of failure. We can’t replace all the ones that are beginning to deteriorate at once, but we do try to be proactive and replace those when we can before they become a problem.”of the culverts are failing despite the department’s maintenance efforts as the years pile on.

“All of our infrastructure is constantly deteriorating, so that’s just a battle to maintain and replace what’s needed,” Oliver said.

Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said they discovered just how much the road department has to deal with culverts while digging into the road department data to find ways to resurface local roads.

“We knew a long time ago that we were in trouble with the Road Department – manpower is down and costs were way up,” Copeland said. “We saw some of his data and project backlog and there have been a lot of pipe failures; a lot of cost and time is going into this, whether routine maintenance or emergencies.”

Copeland said the department has been replacing the pipes with better materials that have a longer life expectancy, but there are many different types of culverts around the county and it will be a long process to continue replacing them.

When a culvert does fail, Oliver said there’s a wide range on how long the repairs can take.

“There’s lots of different types of culverts of different sizes and different materials, and different situations call for different solutions,” Oliver said. “It’s impossible to have the materials in stock and on hand to address any situation that could come up. These are large pipes, not the type of materials you typically keep in your inventory. With these last pipes that failed, our vendors didn’t have the right sizes so we have to wait for them to manufacture pipes before we can install them. That’s why this replacement is taking two weeks.

“Two weeks is not necessarily a long time for a drainage structure replacement. We try to be proactive. We do have a system in place to inspect our drainage structures and we try to be proactive and replace those before they get to the point of failure. We can’t replace all the ones that are beginning to deteriorate at once, but we do try to be proactive and replace those when we can before they become a problem.”