Franklin County roads are a mess. That could be an understatement.
David Lee, Franklin County Public Works director, said the harsh winter coupled with the flooding of the past month, has not only taken a toll on the roads physically, but on personnel and the public.
“Everybody’s tolerance of poor weather, poor roads, is not very forgiving right now,” Lee said. “That is totally understandable. We are all wearing thin. The road and bridge division — since the first of the year — have faced one severe weather event after another. They have done a tremendous job of keeping the public safe in these situations. Those folks live out in the county as well. They deal with the same conditions that [our residents] deal with.”
Many roads — whether hard surface or gravel — have pothole issues or the gravel being washed away.
“We have tons of rock that has washed away into ditches, creeks, rivers and fields,” Lee said. “Because the rock has washed off the road in locations all around the county, we have the edges of the roads down to the stone that is underneath the road. We are down that deep in some areas. We have quite a job ahead of us to rebuild [the roads] and straighten these areas out.”
The situation came from the rough weather, Lee said.
“The ground is so saturated with the winter we had, now we are having [these] flood events,” he said. “Every drop of water we have now is running off into the fields and ponds. Every pond I drive by is filled to the brim, just like Pomona and Melvern Lake. All of that impacts our ditches. The system is taxed. It can’t hold anymore.”
Lee pointed to a couple of roads — Virginia, north of Lane, and Colorado, south of Pomona — that are getting a lot of attention right now. He said the rock erosion on the edges of those roads is substantial.
“It will be a quite an investment to correct that situation,” Lee said. “I have met with contractors to look at options for that. I could not venture to guess how much material we have lost from the edge of [Virginia] road. There is some erosion [on Colorado] that will take quite a bit of work to correct that situation. The magnitude of the damage is the biggest thing in those locations. We have major issues all around the county. Basically everything in the Marais des Cygnes basin, everything in the Pottawatomie River basin and even areas up north are having similar issues.”
He said other hilly and bottom areas in the county have miles and miles of road repair.
“We are working to get those filled in and make those roads passable,” Lee said. “We have barricades out there in a few locations for safety purposes. I don’t think we have any roads closed. Our folks are working overtime. We are spread out everywhere trying to address these issues.”
Lee said the county roads are safe and functional.
“Virginia and Colorado are hard surface roads and the road surface itself is fine,” he said. “They are safe to travel on. We are marking the danger areas [on the side]. On most of our gravel roads, we are able to travel safely down the center of the road. The edges have washed away. We want to encourage the public to drive to the conditions of the road and slow down and take their time getting through these areas.”
Lee said the public is the best resource to report problem areas throughout the county.
“We are trying to be everywhere once, but we can’t be,” he said. “It is impossible to do that. When they see those [holes], they need to let us know. We rely on the public when they see dangerous situations out there, so we can focus our attention in those areas. If folks will let us know what they are seeing, we are collecting and creating work orders for all the projects we are doing associated with this storm event. We are tackling them as quickly as we possibly can.”
To report bad road conditions, call (785) 229-3161.
Lee said securing material to fix the roads should not be a problem.
“We are blessed with a number of rock quarries in the region and they have treated us very well,” he said. “The hot mix asphalt we use, we get locally. This time of year, it is not a problem. The biggest issue is making sure our personnel is rested and available for us when we need them to [work] these storm events. Our folks worked all weekend long, there was no three-day [holiday] weekend for our road and bridge division.”
He said the road work will be documented in hopes of getting reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We are in the process of assessing the damage,” Lee said. “We are collecting pictures and many cases we have started the process to fix these areas. We are tracking all this information related with the disaster declaration of last week, so we can accurately document these things and hopefully get refunded, at least partially through FEMA.
“We are not in this alone. Every county in eastern Kansas is dealing with exact same issues that we are.”