Residents of Old Woollam Road north of Owensville have edged closer to seeing their county road upgraded from gravel to a chip-and-seal coating. A contingent of residents left Thursday …
Residents of Old Woollam Road north of Owensville have edged closer to seeing their county road upgraded from gravel to a chip-and-seal coating. A contingent of residents left Thursday morning’s Gasconade County Commission session feeling more optimistic than any time in the past few years.
It’s been at least that long that Alice Wacker has been lobbying the Commission to consider improving Old Woollam Road, or at least a portion of the county roadway, to a hard surface.
According to Wacker, who led the group of area residents at the session, the desire to upgrade is prompted primarily by the volume of traffic on the road and the speed of the vehicles.
“There’s a lot of traffic on that road,” she said, adding that residents along the road are becoming increasingly concerned about the speed.
But Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, said speeding would continue to be a concern even if the road were upgraded to chip-and-seal. Presiding Commissioner Tim Schulte, R-Hermann, noted that there is a legislative effort in Jefferson City to post speed limits on all county roads, possibly down to 35 miles per hour.
Unless otherwise posted, county roads have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour.
Lairmore explained that county government doesn’t have authority to determine what speed limit should be on a county road.
“We don’t set speed limits,” he said, adding “the state does.” The associate commissioner suggested the residents ask the Sheriff’s Department to spend some time monitoring traffic on the road and, if warranted, write some tickets, possibly for careless and imprudent driving, if not for speeding.
“If they give a couple tickets, they’ll slow down,” Lairmore said.
As for the ongoing effort to win an upgrade to the road’s surface, Lairmore again told Wacker and her neighbors that moving forward depends mainly on having property owners’ agreeing to provide land needed for the necessary right-of-way, an area on each side of a road that allows for ditches and space for equipment to operate while maintaining the highway.
“Until we have the paper signed,” the county can’t move forward with a project, Lairmore said. “Once you get the signatures, we’ll put it on the list” of roads planned for upgrade to chip-and-seal, he added.
As of Thursday morning, Wacker said there were two landowners along Old Woollam that were hesitant to give ground for right-of-way. Another effort was going to be made by the residents, along with Lairmore, to persuade the landowners to agree to participate in order to move the project along.
If Wacker and her neighbors are successful, it could be while before the road receives a chip-and-seal coat, said the commissioner. The project could be at least two years away “if you turn in the paperwork today,” Lairmore added.
Other roadways would be ahead of it on the list. And, Lairmore explained, the typical chip-and-seal project includes no more than one mile of a road at a time.
“That’s what we do every year and we’re going to keep doing it,” he sad.
Usually the county includes in the annual operating budget two roads to receive a chip-and-seal coating.
County officials would like to do more in converting its 485 miles of gravel roads to hard surface — first a chip-and-seal coating and then an asphalt overlay. But it’s not practical, given the increasing cost of coating materials, they said.
However, Lairmore again noted that in the long run having hard-surfaced county roads would be less costly to maintain than gravel roads. Not just in operating graders on a road once every four weeks, but in the cost of gravel that is constantly needed on the these surfaces, Lairmore said.
“We spend about $500,000 a year on aggregate (gravel). That’s every year,” he said.
Meanwhile, in another matter involving a county highway the saga continues regarding the close-out of the Valentine Ford Road bridge near Mt. Sterling. County Clerk Lesa Lietzow told the Commission that the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) needs more documentation, such as payroll figures for Magruder Construction, the builder of the bridge that replaced a low-water slab.
The bridge was built several months ago, but the project has not been finally approved by the county because of ongoing water back-up problems at the low-lying site. MoDOT is pressing the county and consulting engineering firm Archer-Elgin to sign off on the final documents. But county government is in no hurry to ink the documents until all the problems have been resolved.
“We need to get some things clarified,” Schulte said.
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