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Proactive road solutions require partnerships

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 19 March 2012

Agricultural equipment manufacturers have risen to meet the needs of today’s growing industry; however, local town and county roads where this equipment travels have not changed.

Based on the results of a four-state, four-year study (click here to read Lee's article in the March 21st issue of Progressive Dairyman and more about this study), Kevin Erb, conservation professional development and training coordinator with the University of Wisconsin Extension, has identified a few short-term and long-term solutions.

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“There are several key steps the farm community and town board can take to minimize damage potential,” Erb says.

One-way traffic
“We can move traffic away from the shoulders and edge of the road,” he says. Less damage occurs the further away heavy equipment is to the edge of the road. Converting roads to one-way traffic for a limited time is an easy way to accomplish this.

“If we can move that traffic, the heavy equipment, to the center of the road, we cut that damage by 75 to 80 percent,” Erb states.

By eliminating oncoming traffic, it also allows for safer operation.

In Lima township, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, the farmer, manure hauler and town chairman meet prior to application. Certain roads are designated as one-way – except for emergency traffic – for two to three days.

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All traffic, including the farmer and hauler, must follow the one-way signs. Empty loads take the long way around back to the farm.

Once agreed upon, the farmer is responsible for notifying neighbors and road users (milk trucks, school buses, etc.), while the town contacts 911 and emergency responders.

The first time this was tried, they found citizens were ignoring the barricades. This was remedied by placing a deputy at the barricade the first day to issue warnings to those who disobeyed.

Depending on the length of the route, one-way traffic can be cost-saving to farms. “Where we’re doing loaded right turns, where we’re not having to pull off to meet oncoming traffic, the farmers and manure haulers are sometimes getting 20 percent more loads per hour,” Erb says.

However, if haulers end up having to travel seven miles out of the way because of a narrow bridge, that efficiency is lost.

The Town of Rockland in Brown County, Wisconsin, does not close the roads or reduce traffic to one-way. Yet, solutions are met when the farmer, hauler and town chairman sit down to discuss the best routes for hauling.

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They review maps and take into consideration traffic, road conditions, topography and safety. In the end, all parties mutually agree on the best route.

Another situation where the center of the road is an important factor occurs when semi-trucks slow down and stop along the edge of a road to empty into a frac tank.

One way to remedy this is to close the road for half a day and allow the semi-truck to be parked in the middle. Or, the farmer can build a paved pad along the edge of the road for the semi to pull off onto.

Longer-term solutions
Driveway entry can be difficult on the edge of roads, especially when equipment is cutting through the road ditch or running on the shoulder to make a wide turn.

A solution here is to place a wider culvert, making a larger field entry. Erb suggests a 60-foot culvert and encouraging drivers to enter only at field driveways.

In Illinois, he witnessed a similar solution. The highway department was willing to put in a wider culvert and even pave a five-foot entry as long as it was placed between two properties and shared by both parties.

Investment upfront by both farms and local government can prevent problems. “Instead of gold-plating the entire mile, let’s look at where damage is likely to occur – make the pavement stronger there,” Erb stresses.

These selective investments entail high-quality subgrade and surface where vehicles are accelerating, decelerating and turning. Also, pave the shoulders at those turning points.

Waupaca County, Wisconsin, had a real problem with road drainage, which they solved by putting in a curb and gutter to protect the pavement edge and allow for proper drainage.

If damage occurs, Erb recommends investigating before repairing. The problem may have been due to drainage in the subgrade, the thickness of the asphalt and/or subgrade or a poor repair the first time.

“Try to figure out why – because if you put in a poor repair it’s going to fail again in the future,” he says.

All solutions need to involve farmers, towns, counties and the industry. Everyone has a need for good roads and limited resources but, by working together, these issue can be solved. PD

00_lee_karen

Karen Lee
Midwest Editor

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