For those of us who live and drive on rural Bonner County roads, this is an interesting season of weight limits, potholes and mud, soon to be followed by dust. For the Bonner County Road & Bridge Department, springtime is uniquely distinctive because we are converting trucks from snowplows back to dump trucks while keeping an eye open for the unexpected spring snowstorm. Operators are out on graders smoothing out winter’s potholes and leveling gravel surfaces as roads dry out and the rains cooperate.
The road crew really scrambles to complete the initial round of grading amidst spring rainstorms before roads are ready to apply dust abatement. Bonner County applies magnesium chloride to 390 miles of gravel roads, including roads that may receive a second shot because of high daily traffic counts. Finding suitable conditions over numerous days required for grading and application is almost impossible many years — the magnesium chloride needs moisture in the roadbed to be effective, but if it is too moist, the magnesium chases the moisture down from the surface and if it is too dry, the magnesium binds with gravel very ineffectively. When we have the misfortune of equipment breakdowns, the whole process is seriously challenged.
North of Sandpoint, crews will begin spreading a gravel overlay throughout the Center Valley and Upper Gold Creek areas when the load limits are lifted. Crews in Sagle will be focused on gathering and cleaning up the snow carnage from November on Lakeshore, Bottle Bay and Sagle roads before starting a major roadside ditching and brushing effort on Sagle Road. Priest River crews will be improving Carr Creek Road, reopening the closure of Eastriver Road, and doing significant culvert replacements on Peninsula Road before heading north to resurface Granite Creek Marina and Reeder Creek roads.
The most noticeable and aggravating project in our road system will be the rebuild and closure of the Bottle Bay Road intersection with Highway 95 beginning in May and carrying through much of the summer. There will be a bridge project on Eastriver Road that will impact, but not stop traffic this summer. Two large culvert projects will have short-term closures on Eastside and Evergreen roads during the summer. Once again, your Bonner County Road and Bridge crews will be quite productively engaged for the spring and summer.
Steve Klatt is the director of Bonner County Road and Bridge.