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Fixing Winter Woes
BY Angie Talken
CT 03 08 19

Most anyone will agree, it has been a long winter. Multiple winter storms, some lasting for days, frigid temperatures and what seems like weekly winter weather advisories hasn't been kind to residents of Livingston County. However, the biggest toll has been taken on the streets, highways, and the crews who work to clear the snow and also maintain the highways and roadways year round. "This winter has been a lot worse than usual," Jeff Gillespie, Chillicothe Street Superintendent said.

Chillicothe Street Department crews work to patch a series of potholes on Cherry Street. CT PHOTO/Angie Talken

According to Austin Hibler, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) area engineer, the MoDOT Northwest District Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been active 27 days so far in 2019. Hibler referenced a MoDOT press release, that he said explains this winter's negative effects on the roads not just in this area, but across the state. "This winter has been especially bad because we had grown accustomed to the mild winters we'd had the past several years. Additionally, we've had a substantially higher amount of freeze-thaw cycles this winter as compared to a "normal winter." The constant change from below freezing (with precipitation) to above freezing to back down below has caused significant deterioration to our pavements this winter," the press release said.

Gillespie noted that once temperatures are warm enough and the snow has melted off of the city's roadways, crews begin patching potholes. "We have three crews running all of the time when it is not snowing, working to fill the potholes that have come up since all of this winter weather," Gillespie said.

Mayor Reed Dupy said it is important that Chillicothe area residents realize, Washington Street, also known as US 65, is a MoDOT maintained roadway. "It would not be a wise use of our resources and time to try and address it," he said. "That is a state maintained roadway, and MoDOT handles plowing the snow and also making any repairs."

Gillespie said his crews have addressed pothole issues on most of the main roads and are now working on secondary roads within the city limits. "We have been trying to schedule pothole repairs and patching of the driving surface on some of our routes in the last couple of weeks, but winter weather has continued to wreak havoc on those plans. When maintenance crews have not been battling the winter weather, making equipment repairs or hauling material in preparation for upcoming winter events, we have been out on nearly all of our routes on an as-needed basis attempting to temporarily fix potholes before the next round of winter weather arrives.," Hibler said.

It is also important to keep in mind that the current repairs being made by both city and state crews may be just temporary. Gillespie noted that some areas in town will need to have roadways patched and sealed, even though potholes have been filled. "All repairs this time of the year are temporary in nature and crews will have to come back out in the spring to patch with better materials and make longer term repairs to the driving lanes," Hibler said. "The pavement temperatures need to get above freezing and stay above freezing before we can make these long-term fixes. Additionally, most of our long-term repairs use hot-mix asphalt and plants that produce that mix typically don't start running until the spring."

The number of winter weather events has also left the city and MoDOT working hard to make sure street crews still have the needed equipment and supplies to treat the roads. At the beginning of February, the City of Chillicothe's rock salt supply, which is used to treat the winter roadways, ran out. Until March 2, when 75 tons rock salt was delivered, crews had been using cinders to treat the roads. Gillespie said the city usually gets one delivery of about 200 tons of salt every winter season.

The excessive weather has also put a strain on MoDOT's supplies. "As of mid-February, we had already spent over $1.5 million on salt for this winter," Hibler said. "That totals over 35,000 tons of salt that our crews had spread on the roadways. We have used nearly all of our pre-ordered snow and ice treatment materials and, therefore, have had to be smarter with their usage as this winter progresses. We are currently trying to get more material in at about the same rate that we are using it during snow events."

Spring will be busy for street crews, Hibler and Gillespie both said, as several city and state projects have been put on hold this winter. "We had some tube replacements we need to get taken care of and we eliminated a ditch and put a tube on Bridge Street and need to finish it up," Gillespie said.

MoDOT has been forced to stop some paving projects and had to push back bridge construction in Sullivan County due to the weather this winter. "Also, US 65 is scheduled for a pavement project this year. We have a project that lets for bids in April that will address the driving lanes within the city limits of Chillicothe," Hibler said. "The project will start with the contractors bidding on three options for the pavement treatment: 1) A scrub seal and micro-surfacing (this treatment was done on the remainder of US 65 from Iowa to the Missouri River) with asphalt patching prior to the surface treatment; 2) An Ultra-Thin Bonded Asphalt Wearing Surface with asphalt patching prior; or, 3) Milling out and replacing the top 1" of asphalt from curb to curb through town. If the winning bid is approved by the commission in May, the contractor would be allowed to start as early as June 3 with a completion date in October of 2019."

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