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MILLERSBURG -- Excited not about the new surfacing, but all the added safety features it will bring with it, Holmes County Engineer Chris Young recently announced details of a 2017 paving plan, to be funded by the county sales tax increase approved by voters in November.
"I'm excited. There's no doubt about it," Young told the Holmes County commissioners, adding, "I'm excited not only about the paving, but the edge lines and centerlines. Now, you can't see the edges at night and in the fog. These will be the first edge lines on county roads."
The centerpiece of the plan is a competitively bid project to pave the entire length of four county roads, a total of 23.95 miles, at an estimated cost of just over $2 million. The roads involved in the 2017 paving project are:
■ County Road 51 (9.83 miles).
■ County Road 189 (4.63 miles).
■ County Road 160 (6.63 miles).
■ County Road 144 (2.86 miles).
Additional county road mileage may be paved in 2017 depending on how the bids come in for this project, and Young said he will include alternatives for paving of additional roads. Next in line for paving are County Road 168 and County Road 245.
"I'm excited to see how the bids come in," said Young, who anticipates an April bid opening. "We've never sold a job this big, and we want to have some alternatives in case they come in big. I think there's going to be quite a lot of good, competitive bids.
"We would like to pave even more than 24 miles this year, but we simply won't know how far we can stretch the available funds until the competitive bids all come in," said Young, adding, "I think people are really going to like the product they receive from the road sales tax though, and they can rest assured we will accomplish as much as possible with every penny available."
He's thankful to voters, noting, "We're lucky. Holmes County is very thankful we can do this, while others are hurting (in local government)."
The commissioners agreed.
"We've got to do something, and I'm glad people supported it. We can't let our roads fall into disrepair," said Commissioner Rob Ault.
It's a condition that's afflicting governments across the country, added Commissioner Ray Eyler, as all the commissioners agreed they're hopeful President Donald Trump will soon address the country's infrastructure problems.
Young said the paving project will be unlike any previous road project in Holmes County. These newly paved roads will not only have yellow centerline striping, but will also feature highly reflective and long lasting white edge lines. These edge lines are something new for the county road system and help promote safe driving during nighttime and fog conditions.
In addition to centerline and edge striping, the bid project will also include some other important safety features. A two-foot berm made of compacted asphalt aggregate will extend out from the paved asphalt surface. This will make it easier for vehicles to pull off the road if needed, while also providing additional space for pedestrian, bicycle and other modes of transportation at the edges of the road. This berm will be connected to the asphalt road surface using what is a called a safety edge.
"A safety edge is an angled finish edge to the pavement surface, instead of a hard drop off.", said Young, "This is an important safety feature, especially for less experienced drivers, because in the event they drift off the primary road surface the tapered safety edge allows the driver to more easily correct themselves.
Most people tend to overcorrect when there is a hard drop off at the edge of the pavement and this overcorrection of the steering wheel can cause accidents," he said.
As soon as the weather permits, county road crews will begin preparing the four targeted roads. All preparation work will be done with office maintenance funds, not the road sales tax, which is reserved for competitively bid paving projects. The preparation will include "full-depth pavement repair," which consists of sub-base repair and pavement patching to fix the road foundation and provide a smooth surface on which to pave.
This, according to Young, will help extend the life of the newly paved roads and help minimize premature potholes from forming. Ditching and berm repair also will be a part of this preparation.
And, while the paving project for 2017 will bring major improvements to a segment of Holmes County, there is still an additional 226 miles of the 250-mile county road system Young is required to upkeep until paved in future years.
To accomplish this upkeep in 2017, an additional 50 miles of the county road system will also be resurfaced with chip and sealed, using the engineer's existing maintenance funds -- derived from the Motor Vehicle Excise (MVE) and gas tax funds -- at an estimated cost of around $1 million.
"In addition to the road sales tax funded paving project, we intend to chip and seal 50 miles of county roads with our own maintenance funds. This will stabilize these roads until we can properly pave them in upcoming years using the road sales tax funds," said Young. "The decision as to which roads will be chip and sealed is based entirely on road condition. Some roads are simply in poor shape and need immediate attention before they get any worse."
Since collection of the new road sales tax does not begin until April 2017, to start the paving plan in 2017, some sort of bridge financing needs to be put into place until the sales tax revenue starts to build up. Work is presently underway to secure favorable financing from the Ohio Department of Transportation State Infrastructure Bank to provide a bridge loan and allow work to begin in spring 2017.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.