By JARED MILLER - Staff Writer
Flathead County's road supervisor was on hand at Tuesday's
meeting to discuss possible improvement alternatives for the North
Supervisor Charles Johnson said the county's maintenance costs on
the road have increased from $50,000 per year to about $70,000
annually over the last five years. The county maintains 57 miles of
the North Fork Road.
"Our maintenance up there is increasing considerably,"
Johnson said. "My bosses feel paving would be the most viable
option (to control maintenance costs)."
If the road is paved, the county will request that state money be
used to maintain it.
Road maintenance on the North Fork Road involves snow plowing two
to three times per week and sanding in the winter as well as
application of gravel and other dirt work in the summer.
In 1982, the North Fork Road was improved with a raised bed and
added culverts, said Rod Hickle, of the U.S. Forest Service, who was
also at Tuesday's meeting. Since then the road's gravel cover has
Additionally, the county doesn't own any gravel in the North Fork
area, all maintenance materials are hauled from either Kalispell or
Columbia Falls, a costly process, Johnson said. Increased requests
for road maintenance in other parts of the county are also putting a
burden on the road department, he said.
"We don't see that we can afford to maintain that
road," he said.
In addition, gravel being applied to the road now carries the
maximum amount of binding material which hold the gravel together,
Johnson said. In time, that binder becomes silt in the river.
"Every year we haul additional gravel up there, but its
futile," he said.
Johnson said a lack of funding has also prevented his department
from addressing problems with dust on the North Fork Road. The cost
of "dust oil" is too high and the current condition of the
road's top gravel layer won't allow proper application of magnesium
chloride as a solution.
"Magnesium chloride has worked in the past, but with the
current road condition it won't last," Johnson said.
According to Johnson, at the same time that maintenance on the
North Fork Road falls further behind, traffic on the road increases
by 10 percent each year.
During a six-day-week in September, 1998 2,140 vehicles traveled
the road south of Big Creek. North of there, 1,901 vehicles drove
Johnson said his department has plans to measure traffic figures
at least three times per year in the future to collect more data.