I am wondering whether State Highway 88 is up to current State highway standards for a road that is going to handle the huge amount of traffic that is projected (click HERE to see a map of the county and how traffic on those roads is likely to build up).
Marcie and I shot a couple videos of Highway 88 this morning — a typical morning around here where the snow and ice didn’t really melt off of the shady parts of 88 until well into the afternoon. What you’ll see is what the road looks like most mornings in the winter — blind corners, no guard rails, houses right next to the road, no sidewalks, no shoulders, steep hills, steep drops. Is this really a road that can handle a minimum of 100 loads (200 trips) a day, and maybe as many as 500 loads a day if all the mines north of the Praag Valley Dugway get approved?
You be the judge.
Over and back — this is a speeded-up drive up and back over the Dugway road. Now wonder motorcyclists love it so much. Unfortunately there’s always at least one bad accident a year. One year a semi lost control — that was fun to look at.
Drive from the mine site to Highway 35 — this one starts with a trip over the dugway but then goes all the way to the river. You’ll flash through the little towns of Praag and Cream on the way and see that there’s more than one narrow/twisty part of this road. Like the first video, we’ve edited out the straight parts. But this is 24 miles of road — if it’s below state standards, there’s a bunch of upgrading to do.
A civil engineer’s view
We had a friend who’s a civil engineer take an informal peek at those videos and, after looking at the first one for about a minute, this is what he said.
“It looks like there are a couple tight reverse curves on that roadway that may not meet the current design requirements that are outlined in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, which is the primary source of guidelines for modern roadway design.
“Current regulations have requirements on sight distance, stopping sight distance, horizontal curves, vertical curves, superelevation transitions and drop-off protection that may have not been accounted for when the road was originally built.
“It is possible that some of the current regulations may not have even been in place when the road was built.
“I think, from a safety standpoint, that it would be in the State’s best interest to analyze the current roadway before committing to substantially increasing the volume of truck traffic.
“Furthermore, the lifespan of pavement is designed using Equivalent Single Axle Loads (ESAL’s), which are used to normalize the affects of traffic from trucks to the traffic of a standard automobile.
“A pavement design is determined by estimating the anticipated traffic volumes (converted into ESAL’s) that the road can expect to have over the course of its design life and developing a pavement section that can handle those demands.
“Increasing truck traffic increases the ESAL’s substantially because of the additional axles. If the roadway was designed with a pavement section that did not account for the increased number of ESAL’s, then the pavement life can be expected to decrease substantially.
“The result of this would be earlier-than-expected repair of the existing road and the additional costs to build a new road to a thicker, more expensive section.
“In addition, a road with that much curvature could not be reconstructed under traffic, which means that all of the added truck traffic would have to be detoured onto another roadway, which may also not be designed to handle the increased loading.
“This is on top of the fact that full closures of a roadway would have a major impact to the current users of the roadway because it would cause them to drive several miles out of their way to get to their destination. In general, I think you have reasonable grounds for concern.”