County considering plan to pave 65 miles of road in one year

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The county is considering a 15-year financing plan to pave 65 miles of the county’s worst roads in one year and move the county from a 117-year paving cycle to about a 30-year cycle.

Commissioner Russell Johnson, District 6, and County Engineer Russell Oliver, along with the rest of the commission, have been working on the plan to use revenue from Alabama’s “Rebuild Alabama” gas tax to catch the department up on its paving cycle.

“We’ve got a $35 million backlog of road and bridge projects,” Johnson said. “This is formulating how to eat that elephant one bite at a time; we’re so far behind the eight-ball, to get caught up we need to look at doing a big bite off of the top of this. This plan is the culmination of six conversations with each of the commissioners. There is a total of 65 miles of resurfacing that we would be looking at, taking a two-prong 10-year and 15-year note to get the worst of the worst out of the way.”

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Johnson explained that 75 percent of the plan is repairing the county’s worst roads on its priority list, while 25 percent is set toward preventative maintenance.

“That way when we get to those roads, they’re still in good enough shape we can just resurface them and not have to rebuild the whole road,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the project would fall about $2.4 million short of the needed revenue, which he said he hopes the commission can fill in by doing two more “24-month plans” during the 15-year stretch.

The 24-month plan was devised by Johnson and Commissioner Chad Copeland to reallocate $1.2 million in the county’s own budget toward repaving local roads.

Assistant engineer John Bergschneider emphasized the importance of preventative maintenance on the roads.

“Anything man creates is going to basically fall apart,” Bergschneider said. “Pavement stays good for many years, but once it hits a certain point, it starts to fall fast. What we’re looking at is trying to get the paving cycle in such a way that we can keep the roads in good enough condition that we can resurface them for less. We’re saving $4 to $5 per square yard if we can catch it before the big drop off in condition.”

The plan also includes money to replace six bridges. This revenue is only a portion of the revenue planned in the Rebuild Alabama act, with another 50 percent of it being allocated toward major and minor collectors in the county year-by-year.

Commissioner Charlie Harris, District 5, said he did not like the working list of roads presented for resurfacing under the plan.

“This only includes about a tenth of a mile of a road in my district,” Harris said. “That’s a no-no.”

Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4, said there’s more to the division of roads that are resurfaced than just resurfacing equal miles of road in each district.

“As we’re assessing roads, there are a couple of things to keep in mind with the way our districts are laid out,” Copeland said. “In terms of miles of roads, the districts aren’t equal. My district has about 200 miles of our county roads. We don’t need to be shortsighted; I hope we can be apolitical about choosing roads. There were roads in my district I was upset weren’t on there, but (Russell Oliver) made a good point and I had to concede, those roads had lower traffic counts. If we’re investing in roads with traffic counts of 30 and don’t invest money in a road with traffic counts of 500, we’re not addressing the primary responsibility we have, which is the safety of the citizens of Pike County.”

No action has yet been taken on the plan as commissioners will continue to discuss which roads are on the list and how to divide the districts. The plan is due to be turned in by August 31 and the commission has two more meetings before that date to discuss and vote on a plan.”

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to clarify that the 65 miles of road would be paved within one year, with financing to be paid over 15 years using Alabama’s new gas tax.