The Crawford County road and bridge crews replaced six bridges and graded about six miles of roads in 2019.
“That’s a pretty good year for us,” said Crawford County Engineer Paul Assman, “especially with the wet spring we had.”
The 2020 project map includes six more bridge projects, six culvert projects, another six miles or so of level B (dirt) road grading, two miles of gravel road grading and several potential Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) projects.
The EWP projects are still up in the air, Assman said.
EWP is a federal program that encourages the reduction of hazards from floods, drought, and erosion on an impaired watershed.
Assman said the county always programs more projects than can be accomplished in a year.
“We’ll never get all that done – we never do – but we planned for all of that so we have places to go work,” he said.
Other projects often spring up that take the crews’ attention, he said.
The common thread for the deterioration of bridges around the county is the decay of wooden pilings.
Many of the county’s bridges were built in the 1950s.
Only one contract bridge project will take place in 2020. A box culvert will replace a bridge on County Road E16 about three miles east of Schleswig.
The project will be let in January.
Assman expects the project to cost about $570,000.
“We’ll continue to work with the people in that area to make sure they are aware that’s going to take place,” Assman said.
The official detour for that section of E16 will take traffic up to Ida County Road D54.
“That part of the road will be closed for at least a couple of months during the summer,” he said.
He added that he hopes the project will take place in the summer.
There is a possibility that the contractor may want to start right away in the spring.
“It would be better to have it spring or summer than in fall,” Assman said. “We’d like to avoid harvest.”
While the contractor is constructing the culvert on E16, the county bridge crew will be performing repair work on a smaller bridge two miles to the east.
Assman wants work on both bridges done in 2020 because an asphalt overlay project is planned for E16 all the way from Schleswig to the east county line in 2021.
The E16 project is Assman’s highest priority for 2021.
The county will perform three or four overlay projects that year.
“Whatever doesn’t get done gets moved forward,” he said.
The overlay projects in 2021 will require the bridge crew to do repair work on a number of bridges in 2020.
“We’ll be getting those bridges ready so we don’t have to go back and work on them after we just put down an asphalt road,” Assman said.
The time needed for those projects will factor in to the number of other bridge projects the crew will accomplish next year.
Crawford County is currently borrowed ahead about four years for state and federal funds for contracted road and bridge projects; the maximum allowed is six years.
Assman said he does not want to have the county borrow the maximum allowed in case of unforeseen circumstances.
“We want to leave a little bit of room there, just in case,” he said.
Taking a year off from contract bridge construction will allow for the reduction of the amount the county is borrowed ahead.
“We aren’t going to do any bridges of a contract nature in 2021 because we’re going to have all this contract (paving) work,” Assman said. “It’s going to be a busy season. That will give us a chance to catch up.”
On average, the county receives $456,000 in state-allocated bridge funds each year.
“If we do one culvert, that pretty much chews up the year’s allocation,” he said.
Skipping a year will put the county at three years borrowed ahead, which allow for the construction of two contracted bridges in 2022.