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Spring rolls out with street damage concerns: Potholes, weight limits cause issues

After a long, cold winter, it’s easy to welcome spring with open arms.

But as the ground thaws, it leaves roads vulnerable to damage. That is why several roads have had weight restrictions placed on them for the first several weeks of the spring season.

Those who break the weight restrictions will pay a hefty fine, Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said.

After exiting Interstate 94 and taking a shortcut on 21st Street West on Monday, several Baker Hughes trucks were stopped by a sheriff’s deputy along a stretch of road that, while paved, cannot support the weight of such trucks in the spring, Tuhy said.

“There’s signage on there, ‘No truck traffic, restricted roads, a ton limit per axle,’” Tuhy said.

Scales needed to be brought to the intersection of 21st Street West and State Avenue, where the trucks were found to be overweight, Tuhy said.

The company was fined $8,000 for the infraction.

“It’s unfortunate that it was like that, but the signs are out there for a purpose,” Tuhy said. “No matter who would have been out there, they would have got stopped and weighed.”

Restricted roads are listed on the county’s website, Tuhy said.

“We’re having more heavy traffic, more truck traffic, heavier traffic, and you just can’t get out there to fix the roads,” Tuhy said.

Ag equipment is just as heavy as oilfield traffic and not exempt from the restrictions, Tuhy said.

“If they’re hauling grain, they’ve got different routes that they’ve got to take instead of on the restricted roads,” Tuhy said. “Not all roads are restricted.”

To avoid confusion, the county tries to follow the state’s lead, Tuhy said. The restrictions typically last three to four weeks around the start of spring.

At the last regular meeting of the Dickinson City Commission, street and fleet operations manager Brent Coulter addressed the commission with changed the department would like to make regarding street maintenance, especially in the winter, to make sure the city’s roads stay in good shape.

Heavy truck traffic in the city has caused some issues with roads, Coulter said. A truck bypass is under construction to alleviate some of the stress on city roads.

“A good example of that would be State Avenue near Empire (Road) and Fairway (Street),” Coulter said. “Those intersections are not very old, and those were quality roadways when they were put in, but we do get a lot of heavy truck traffic on there and the rutting is evident to anyone who drives down that road.”

Paved roads are susceptible to potholes in the spring, said Darryl Wehner, Dickinson’s chief street maintenance operator.

“Obviously we have cold weather in North Dakota and pavement shrinks,” Wehner said.

When the pavement shrinks, it pulls away from its gravel base, creating cracks, Wehner said. Moisture from rain or melting snow gets into the cracks, softening the gravel. As traffic drives across the softened gravel, it pushes and cracks the asphalt, creating potholes.

During periods of melt and thaw, freezing water can also contribute to cracked pavement, either by expanding cracks or pushing from underneath, Wehner said.

Until the thaw is over, potholes cannot be fixed permanently, Wehner said. The street crew will fill the holes with a temporary mix and make note of the hole for future repair.

“It’s just something to keep the road driveable until we can get the permanent stuff,” Wehner said.

Reporting potholes

Call City Hall at 701-456-7744 to report potholes.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206