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Natrona County Needs Road Maintenance, But Government Contractors Bring Delays

By Frank Elswick on 05/13/2015

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Natrona County’s many gravel roads are in need of some serious assessment and repair. Unfortunately, government contractors will likely delay their much-needed road audit due to “weather conditions.”

Originally set to begin at the start of the summer, a three-year road audit by Road and Bridge officials in Natrona County, Wyoming, could now be delayed until August. This news is highly distressing to local residents, many of whom feel that Natrona’s roads are in need of immediate repair.

The Study’s Importance

This enormous study would provide a road condition assessment based on ease of travel and base condition, ultimately identifying the roads in greatest need of maintenance. The government contractors are set to assess nearly 276 miles of the most highly-traveled gravel roads throughout the county at a whopping $140 cost per mile.

These same contractors are at the heart of the delay, citing abnormal winter weather conditions in parts of the county as the primary issue. The cost was already nearly prohibitive, and this hold-up is even more unfortunate for local officials who need the information to allocate resources and solve the issue quickly and effectively.

Trevor Graff of the Casper Star Tribune spoke with Natrona County Road and Bridge Superintendent Michael Haigler about the study, who explained that identifying the roads in the worst shape is half the battle.

Haigler clarifies the study’s importance, pointing out, “You can see where we are improving the roads in the data…if you ever were to come into the money, you would have some roads ready to go to get to work on.” But herein lies the bigger issue: how will the county pay for the repairs?

Ongoing Issues Plague Infrastructure Improvements

As the Natrona County commissioners shift their focus to concentrate on road repairs, some other issues have surfaced to further delay all progress. Infrastructure improvements require an exhaustive process, as well as the proper materials, funds, and permits for the job.

Natrona County pays for 20% of its road-building costs, with funding bolstered by grants from both the federal and Wyoming state governments. In total, the county invests more than $13 million in road projects — but unfortunately for Natrona, the portion of that investment coming from grants is still coming up short.

To improve just the county’s gravel roads, the total cost would come in at around $30,000 per mile, an expense that hinders regular upkeep of all of Natrona’s roads. Haigler commented on the funding gap, explaining, “It’s a shuffle every year as to where the funds come from. The projects are all waiting [and] we have plenty of things to do. It’s just that mess of funding.”

The county has also experienced problems acquiring suitable materials for the proposed projects. Unfortunately, quality gravel is often located more than 30 miles from these roads, driving up the cost of maintenance and creating a logistical headache.

Rob Hendry, County Commissioner, also spoke to the Tribune, stating, “It can be a huge cost to haul gravel… If you can find the gravel closer, you can rework more miles of road.”

To make matters worse, the roads in Natrona County often weave between public and private lands. This persistent issue quite literally entangles residents and builders in permit and property rights issues, creating even more delays while the details get sorted out.

Why Midwest’s Solutions Are Different

Natrona County’s road repair headaches aren’t unique, as we’ve seen similar situations across the nation in which high costs and long waiting periods affect the quality of both the road and residents’ lives. And this problem never has to linger: Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. offers a range of solutions that are effective, efficient, and, most importantly, immediate.

Midwest is unique in that we provide a variety of road and surface stabilization products that work with in-place soils while saving you precious time and money vs. traditional construction techniques. Midwest’s Natural Paving extends the surface life of the road, ensuring that any thoroughfare can withstand the test of time.

And no matter the infrastructural issues in play, we provide a specially tailored, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly solution every time.

If ongoing road maintenance issues are plaguing your community, try something new. Investing in the high-quality products provided by Midwest could be the solution you’ve been looking for.

(Image credit: Wordshore/flickr)

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Frank Elswick

Written by Frank Elswick

Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction, natural paving markets.

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