CHEYENNE – Shortly after the trucks started coming this winter, Don “Bud” Brown could see the road starting to give.
Rumbling down Laramie County Road 164, the trucks were hauling gravel from Nebraska to northern Colorado’s Cedar Creek Wind Project.
First, Brown could see grooves forming in the 50-year-old asphalt that runs near his house.
Now, he said, it’s a “scary” drive.
In the late-February thaw, it cracked and crumbled, leaving not the typical “hand- or hat-sized potholes,” but big ones, some spanning both lanes, said Laramie County Public Works Director Don Beard.
Drivers are swerving to miss potholes and creeping along the shoulders, which also are in danger of collapsing.
A sheriff’s deputy warned about the danger of crashes at hillcrests caused by drivers swerving from an unexpected gouge in their paths.
“I sure wouldn’t want a kid riding a school bus on that road,” Brown said.
Pine Bluffs Gravel has since stopped hauling gravel on County Road 164. But now they will have to find another way, even to Nebraska to refill their loads.
On Tuesday, the Laramie County Commission voted 2-0 to give Beard permission to set limits on what can travel on County Road 164. Commissioner Jack Knudson was absent from this special meeting.
Beard plans to ban heavy trucks. But he will allow farm machinery and military trucks transporting missiles.
Beard said the road may be dangerous and heavily damaged, but it is salvageable.
County crews have been filling the cracks with gravel and dirt. Two months from now, when asphalt is available, they will begin patching the road.
As a preventive measure, the parallel road that runs to its west, County Road 161, also will get the ban.
Old and broken as it is, County Road 164 will not be rebuilt or resurfaced. Crews already spend their summers “chasing” cracks and potholes on 100 miles of paved roads that need rebuilding.
The county has a $1.8 million budget for projects this fiscal year. At more than $1 million per mile for a complete reconstruction, the county focuses on maintenance and repair.
The cost of this project won’t be known until later, Beard said.
“This is our future,” Beard said. “On an old road, they cannot take the traffic.”
The $480 million Cedar Creek Wind Project plans for 274 wind turbines standing eight miles east of Grover, Colo.
They will produce enough electricity to support 120,000 homes – courtesy, some say, of the Wyoming wind.
County Commissioner Diane Humphrey said they had hoped to prevent this from happening and was “disappointed” with the contractors for the project. It’s the residents who live along County Road 164 who are paying the price, she said.
Her understanding was that they had met with Beard and agreed to work with the county and make sure they could keep the road in good condition.
“Right at the beginning, we told them it wasn’t a road that could handle that kind of weight,” Humphrey said.
But they refused to compensate in any way for the ripped-up road, she said.
Toby Kimzey of Pine Bluffs Gravel did not return a phone call to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. A man who answered the phone there said Kimzey was in Colorado, busy with the project.
By Jodi Rogstad
7 March 2007
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