County road plan outlines maintenance of 267 miles |

County road plan outlines maintenance of 267 miles

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County’s Road and Bridge Department has a plan.

A maintenance plan, that is. A document that’s available to all residents, the Pitkin County Road Management and Maintenance Plan outlines the rules for maintenance of the county’s 267.98 miles of county roads.

The current Road Management and Maintenance Plan was updated in 1997. It will be revised again this year and at two-year intervals in the future, said Brian Pettet, deputy director of public works. The original maintenance plan was written in the 1980s – a period of rapid growth in the county.

The maintenance plan places each county road into one of four service categories: high, moderate, low and limited. Pettet said roads are categorized by the amount of traffic they receive.

For example, Red Mountain Road and Castle Creek Road are in the “high” category, while Woody Creek Road is “moderate,” Summer Road on Aspen Mountain is a “low” service area road, and Richmond Hill Road receives “limited” service.

Some roads are divided between service areas. The first 1.8 miles of Snowmass Creek Road have a high service rating, the next 10.4 miles are in the moderate category, and the top .37 miles are in the low category.

Maintenance work includes snow plowing, grading, mowing, herbicides, dust control, drainage, and road surfacing with asphalt or chip and seal. High service area roads receive priority for snow removal, Pettet said, while on limited service roads, no snow plowing is allowed – by county crews or private plowers. Residents on moderate or low service area roads may have to wait for a time for their roads to be plowed.

Grading on unpaved roads in the moderate category, such as Owl Creek, is done as needed. Some limited maintenance roads, such as Richmond Hill, are graded once per year, while others, intended as recreational four-wheel-drive-only roads, are never graded.

Maintenance levels do not depend on whether or not a road is paved. The upper 6.52 miles of Maroon Creek Road, though paved, receives limited maintenance service.

“What sticks it in the limited area is plowing,” Pettet said. “It doesn’t require as much maintenance.” Because upper Maroon Creek Road is closed in winter and through the spring months when nearly all the damage to roads occurs, it needs much less repair work than other paved roads, Pettet said.

Citizens can request a higher level of maintenance on any road, Pettet said, and many do. Typically, it’s the road on which they live. But since 1997, he said, no roads have been reclassified.

“Given that, we’re pretty well on target with our management and maintenance plan,” Pettet said.

One common request is for the addition of a guard rail, Pettet said. Another frequent demand is gravel on dirt roads. But such requests are frequently denied, as are requests for snowplowing beyond normal stopping points. The reasons are both budgetary and environmental.

“We don’t want to allow people to drive farther into the backcountry,” Pettet said. “That wouldn’t be good policy. So we allow the roads to close naturally.”

Pettet is proud of the people that take care of the roads – the county’s road maintenance crew. The workers take a personal interest in maintaining the county’s roads. “With the 12 guys we currently have, they’ll identify a problem and take care of it the same day,” he said.

Want to build a driveway connecting to a county road? The plan provides guidelines for driveway permits. Road cut permits (needed for placing utilities under roads) and right of way permits (needed to place a fence or other structure in the county right of way next to a road) are also explained in the plan.

Permits for oversize or overweight loads or vehicles must be obtained before driving those vehicles on county roads. Various county roads have different load limits, Pettet said. McLain Flats, for example, is limited to 20,000 pounds for tandem-axle trucks, he said.

The maximum vehicle weight allowed on any county road without an overweight permit is 36,000 pounds for a tandem axle truck, he said. That limit is based on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s statewide limit.

These standards are not arbitrary, Pettet said, but are imposed to preserve county roads. A heavily loaded, tandem-axle truck can cause as much road damage as 3,000 cars, he said.

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