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Written by JOHN MORTON   
Thursday, 27 April 2017 19:39

Town road tour shows newly repaired roads survived winter, while others cry for a little help

Fresh off an annual-meeting scolding from residents about road conditions, supervisors for the Town of Saukville held their annual tour-de-force of a road trip on Friday, April 21.

No, they weren’t making a spring break escape from it all. What they did was gather in an SUV for a four-hour zig-zag of a circle to assess the town’s 40 miles of roadways that consist of 51 different roads.

Knowing this year’s freeze, thaw and repeat winter could likely result in some unpleasant springtime surprises, how did Supr. Curt Rutowki feel about what he saw?

“In general they held up well, in relation to the winter we had,” he said of the roads. “And that’s shown in how our ratings didn’t change much.”

During the trip, the supervisors rate each road on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. By the end of the trip, most roads held the same ranking as last year — often in the 5 or 6 range. 

“That’s not so bad, especially in a low-lying, swampy area like ours,” said Town Chairman Don Hamm.

Many headaches were found, however, with potholes on the town’s six gravel roads rearing their ugly head as usual. 

Yet it was the condition of the four roads that received extensive sealing last year that had the group on edge — the roads being the main beneficiaries of the roughly $200,000 spent by the town.

Not only did they pass the mustard, but Hickory Road on the town’s west edge received the only “10” on the day. Last year, it was a 3.

“I’m glad it held up,” a relieved Rutkowski said.

It’s a road that causes the town frustration due to the fact the Milwaukee River forces motorists to go through either Newburg or Fredonia to reach it.

“It’s a feeder, but just not for us,” Hamm said of the road. “It gets mostly Newburg traffic but we’re the ones who have to maintain it.”

The others to receive overhauls last year include nearby Highview Road, which jumped from a 4 to a 9, and Blueberry and Northwoods roads on the northern edge.

 Northwoods looked solid, going from a 4 to an 8, while Blueberry, also a 4 last year, was a mixed bag.

“It’s a bit bumpier than I’d hoped,” Supr. Mike Denzien said in reaction to one section, as he upgraded it only to a 5. The next section, however, was smooth sailing, earning a 7.

“That’s good to see, because that was one of our toughest stretches to repair,” Hamm said. “You’re going through swamp.”

Other roads continued to hold their own despite going years without upgrades. Riverview Trail, which Hamm called “our nicest road,” received a 9, as did the western part of River Park Road off County Road I.

The supervisors chuckled over the fact that no repair needs were visible on River Park until they reached the Town of Fredonia portion of it. It’s one of many roads shared with other townships.

Meanwhile, Birchwood Road and Evergreen Lane were given an 8.

With the positives in the rear-view mirror, the officials turned their attention to some trouble spots and those pesky potholes. Last year, the town spent $16,000 on them.

Tree Lane, a gravel road, not only was loaded with holes but showed signs of standing water.

“I need to talk to them about creating a ditch line,” Rutkowski said. “This road just doesn’t hold up well.”

Then he laughed about what one resident of the road told him.

“He said, ‘Don’t fix it.’ I don’t want people speeding,” Rutkowski said.

The reaction to the holes on Echo Lane, also a gravel road and where a new house sits, are much different.

“I get more calls about this road than all the others combined,” Rutkowski said, adding it only has two residences.

Juggling condition with the number of residents on a road is an ongoing dilemma, Hamm said, and the 4-rated Hillcrest Road is a good example. It’s home to only two farm houses, but stretches from the heart of the village to County Road I.

“Do you let such a low number dictate what you do? A lot of people won’t use it because of the road being so poor, but if you fix it are you creating a super highway?” Hamm said.

“I mean, what do you do with that? You want to be a good neighbor (to the village) but are you hurting the town?”

Another tough call goes with low-lying Cedar Sauk Road, along the south edge, where portions belong to the town. The major east-west artery was a 5 last year and dipped to a 4 this year, but would repairing it be throwing good money on top of bad?

“The truck use absolutely tears it apart,” Hamm said. “The last total rebuild (funded mostly through grants available for roads shared by two municipalities or more) wasn’t that long ago — maybe 15 years. And just look at it.”

Meanwhile, higher portions of the road looked just fine to the supervisors.

Other roads to slip a notch included Forest Court, from a 5 to a 4; a portion of Sauk Road, from a 6 to a 5; and Forest Court, from 5 to a 4.

Hawthorne Drive — known for its stomach-dropping dips was a 5 last year and remained as such.

The trip also offered a chance to earmark areas in need of general upkeep. Shoulder work, where gravel needs to be added to maintain a 2-foot buffer between asphalt and grass, was determined on 10 roads. Patching work, whether it be for filling potholes or touching up crumbling edges, was determined on nine roads. And one road needed tree trimming while three gravel roads required basic grading — a procedure done twice per year.

In all cases, work is at least a month away because of the soggy spring conditions.

“Otherwise, you’re just filling a hole and making mud,” Hamm said.

Other discoveries were made along the way. The “no-truck” sign on Cold Springs Road, just west of Charter Steel, was faded and in need of replacing, while a speed limit sign was down at Shady Lane.

The trip also revealed that street signs were missing for Mink Ranch Road (at Northwoods Road), Meadowlark Road and Forest Court.

With the assessment in hand, up next are discussions on what projects to pursue, if any.

“It depends on the budget and what kind of bids we get,” Hamm said. “We don’t know where the contractors are at yet, but it always comes down to costs.”

Any work that does receive a green light would see only maintenance or sealing. A total rebuild, where the road is torn up, costs on average about $125,000 per mile, Hamm said.    

“The money’s not there for something like that,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had one of those since the 1980s.”

 
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