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Willow Creek MD sets road improvement priorities

LAWRENCE GLEASON, GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
The MD of Willow Creek has at least $52-million worth of work to do on improving roadways.
About one quarter of the 2,250 miles of the road network the municipal district maintains needs to be rebuilt.
The municipal district is prioritizing work that will take decades to complete, one project at a time.
Public works superintendent Roy Johnson said many roads in the municipality were originally built using topsoil as a base and then gravel over top.
Gravel was added over decades of use and road maintenance.
That has created instances of mud oozing through the gravel when the road is wet, which is covered with yet more gravel.
“We gravel and gravel and gravel and gravel,” Johnson said. “We have 523 miles of road that needs to be rebuilt. It will cost $100,000 a mile.”
That is the cost for the easiest work. In the hills the cost could easily double, chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said.
“We try to start where the roads are the worst,” Johnson said.
Roads needing work have been outlined on a large MD of Willow Creek map.
The map is a result of feedback from grader operators, assistant public works superintendent Roly Cochlan and Johnson, instead of the municipal district hiring an outside consultant to do that preliminary road study.
“You just saved $50,000,” Vizzutti told councillors gathered around the map at their May 9 council meeting.
Johnson said his department was “chipping away” at rebuilding the road network. The work is done in the fall and depends on money available.
Which road takes priority for work include a number of factors. The state of deterioration of the road is only one factor.
“A lot of things have to be taken into account,” Vizzutti said. “We need to know the traffic count or if it is a feeder road.”
Also taken into consideration is if there is no alternate route for land owners living in an area of the municipal district, served by a deteriorating roadway.
The roads beat up most are those around high traffic areas, particularly including heavy commercial truck traffic.
Roads prioritized to do first are not necessarily the roads with commercial truck traffic.
Johnson also said the municipality is looking at hauling gravel in winter from an MD of Willow Creek gravel pit, near Fort Macleod, to storage sites in the northern part of the municipal district, for summer use.

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