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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Clark County paving way for smooth streets

Summer road preservation work will cover 110 lane miles throughout county

By , Columbian political reporter
3 Photos
Darrell Young, a heavy-equipment operator for Clark County Public Works, center, helps spread sand over a newly paved section of Northeast Lakin Road to decrease the tackiness of the surface near Hockinson.
Darrell Young, a heavy-equipment operator for Clark County Public Works, center, helps spread sand over a newly paved section of Northeast Lakin Road to decrease the tackiness of the surface near Hockinson. Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Clark County Public Works crews were out on a stretch of Northeast Lakin Road near Hockinson around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, grinding out the road’s ruts and unevenness and laying down a new layer of asphalt.

“The road was alligatored,” said Carl Oman, road superintendent, referring to its rough, scale-like appearance that had developed after years of traffic from heavy trucks.

By about 1 p.m., the fluorescent-clad crew of eight used a roller to smooth out the new coat of asphalt, and workers walked down the road using shovels to fling sand on the fresh pavement to soak up excess tar.

“It actually saves money because we won’t be patching up holes all the time,” said Oman.

This project is one of many planned for this year’s construction season. According to Karen Carlie, Public Works engineering services manager, the county’s summer road preservation program includes $1.6 million for asphalt overlays on approximately 11 lane miles and $2.1 million for full-depth reclamation of approximately 15 lane miles.

Additionally, Carlie said via email, county crews will perform “chip seals” — a surface treatment that seals roads with a layer of asphalt and gravel — on about 84 lane miles. She said the program has been in place since the early 1980s and helps the county keep roads in good condition.

“Fortunately, this winter has not been as rough,” said Carlie. Harsher winters bring snow and freezing that creates potholes.

Funding threat?

The preservation program is funded through the Clark County Road Fund. The program spends approximately $10 million a year, according to Clark County Finance Director Mark Gassaway, but part of that money might end up diverted to other uses.

As the Clark County Council considers how to fundpay for about $67 million in infrastructure improvements to allow the much-anticipated development of more than 2,000 acres around 179th Street north of Vancouver, one pot of money that’s been proposed is the road preservation program.

A staff report presented to the council on Tuesday identified a $2 million allocation from road preservation projects to help pay for those infrastructure upgrades.

Councilors are considering a range of funding options to aid development around the 179th Street area, and they have been weighing varying combinations of public and private funding. While the council is months away from a final decision, councilors seem open to the idea.

Councilor John Blom said in a text that the use of $2 million in road preservation funds has been part of the plan for a while. He said he trusts the recommendations from Public Works staff.

“I trust our public works director that he has taken into consideration the road preservation projects over the next number of years,” Councilor Julie Olson said in a text. “We have a very high (road) preservation standard and believe that we can, over the next five years, manage to set aside $2 million to put toward the 179th Street infrastructure improvements.”

Councilor Temple Lentz in a text reiterated her comments on Tuesday that information on the project has been changing rapidly. She said that with so many continuing questions, she hopes to discuss it more closely with staff to understand trade-offs.

Councilor Gary Medvigy said he sees the $2 million as one piece in a bigger funding puzzle.

“It’s not going to save the day,” said Medvigy. “That’s the long and the short of it.”

Columbian political reporter