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Weather lengthens road work to-do list

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A bitterly cold and snowy winter ravaged roads throughout the county, so expect to see more orange barrels and workers paving and patching more roads than usual this year.

Johnson County, Greenwood and Franklin will spend more than $4.5 million in total on paving and road work this year. Some of that work could impact your commute on some of the county’s main routes, including Smith Valley, Fry and Stones Crossing roads in Greenwood and the Center Grove area and Jefferson Street and other downtown streets in Franklin.

Multiple days with subzero temperatures took a toll on local roads, causing frequent potholes that left some roads so pitted that simple patching wouldn’t be enough to fix them, Greenwood deputy mayor Terry McLaughlin said. City workers drove every city street this year to re-rate the pavement because some roads, such as Meridian Street in Greenwood, that were in good shape two years had seriously deteriorated during the winter, he said.

County highway department workers will pave over roads that were patched in the winter for a smoother and more permanent fix. The county will repave about 5 miles more roads than in 2013. The county is using the most expensive type of paving, which costs about $80,000 per mile, but is necessary to get the best fix, highway department director Luke Mastin said.

Because of last winter’s weather, some of the maintenance the county is forced to do will be more expensive, he said.

You also might see workers out doing more maintenance to local roads, such as filling cracks and sealing roadways. Doing that maintenance is much less expensive per mile and keeps roads in good shape for longer if done routinely, officials said.

Street department workers drive roads and use a rating system that helps prioritize which streets get fixed. For example, a road with a score of 8 is nearly new and may need some work to seal cracks, while a road that gets graded at a 4 or 5 needs to be milled and repaved.

Departments try to focus on preventive maintenance to reduce the amount of repaving that needs to be done, Mastin said. Filling cracks and sealing roads costs about $6,000 per mile, compared with $75,000 or more per mile for repaving.

State lawmakers increased by about 35 percent the amount of money local governments get for road work, which was good timing after this winter, Mastin said. The county highway department got about $900,000 more and also had money left after repaving prices came in low last year. So Mastin is planning $1.8 million worth of projects. Of that, about $1.5 million is going into repaving 19.4 miles of road, compared with 14.4 miles in 2013.

The longer stretches of road that are being repaved, such as Mullinix Road, Rocklane Road and Smith Valley and Morgantown roads, already were due for new asphalt this year. But more short stretches of road where large potholes had opened up are being repaved, Mastin said.

Potholes took their toll on Greenwood’s busiest streets, which is why the city will focus on repairing major thoroughfares, such as Smith Valley Road and Fry Road, instead of lower-traffic streets, McLaughlin said.

Subdivision streets and side streets will get maintenance but aren’t being repaved this year, he said.

Franklin also is spending more after saving money last year when paving costs were about $200,000 lower than expected. The city put about $800,000 into paving and maintenance last year and will spend about $1.6 million this year.

Road maintenance had been neglected for several years, and the city council recently pushed to spend more to catch up on repairs, according to Steve Barnett, city council president and board of works member.

“The people that pay taxes, they don’t get upset when you spend money to get stuff upgraded. They get upset when you’re not doing anything,” Barnett said.

Franklin’s roads weren’t as badly affected by weather, but the city is continuing a road maintenance program started last year.

The city has been working to seal cracks to try to preserve good roads as long as possible, Barnett said. Ideally Franklin can get all of its roads in good condition over the next five years, which would reduce how much the city needs to spend on repaving in the future, he said.

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