By John Holler, Correspondant
Given the temperatures that were forecast for the week that included the Jan. 31 meeting of the Wright County Board it was hard to sell the impression of spring, but the meeting included an annual rite of passage for those enduring a Minnesota winter – the annual imposition of future road restrictions on county highways.
Wright County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins presented the board with a map of roads that will have weight restrictions of between five and 10 tons when it is determined that the roads need to be protected from trucks carrying heavy loads.
“It’s getting to be that time of year – spring is coming, so we need to approve our annual resolution concerning spring load restrictions,” Hawkins said. “There is a resolution because sometimes we put these on as early as the middle of February. We’ll see what the weather does.”
The purpose of the road restrictions is to extend the life of the roads. Paved roads are at their most vulnerable when the frost boils out of the ground in the spring. It weakens the base of the road and makes it more susceptible to significant cracks that compromise the integrity of the road.
Commissioner Mike Potter pointed out that the lack of a specific date for imposing the weight restrictions isn’t arbitrary or even the county’s determination. The Minnesota Department of Transportation monitors ground temperatures and frost levels throughout the state and provides that information to counties to let them know when the roads will be at their most vulnerable.
“When these goes on, we follow MnDOT’s lead,” Potter said. “Just so the public remembers, it’s not you or me making the call. It’s someone else making the call when it’s the appropriate time to do this.”
Hawkins said Wright County has more information that most counties from the MnROAD segment of I-94 that tests different surfaces, which gives them a constant reading on frost levels in Wright County.
“MnDOT monitors it through their MnROAD site [along I-94 in Wright County],” Hawkins said. “They have areas in the county that they determine when the frost is out and when it’s appropriate to put these [restrictions] on.”
The board unanimously approved the weight restrictions, which are located on roads throughout almost the entire county. A copy the board is available in the documents as part of the Jan. 31 board agenda on the county’s website, and the highway department annually posts the map on its website as well. The highway department will do its best to close down on a date before roads are posted, but it typically happens quickly once the decision is made.
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