Lack of Snow Positive for Roads and County Budgets

Warmer weather experienced in the Kankakee Valley during fall and winter has been good for keeping potholes repaired on Starke County roadways.

Crews have used zero time or money to clear snow this year. That opens up some room for Starke County Highway Department staff to fill damaged road surfaces.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says the big problem for maintaining quality roads in winter is the freeze/thaw cycle.

“We’re a little concerned now about this week, when it warms up in the next week or two, that some more potholes are going to pop up, but as long as it doesn’t snow, we will be able to get out there and take care of them before spring,” says Ritzler.

Some proactive steps have been taken to prevent future potholes in Starke County in the form of crack sealing. Eight miles on Toto Road and Highway 625 around Bass Lake saw an emulsion spray that attempts to keep water out of cracks in the pavement surface.

Preventative sprays will be expanded to include 20 miles of county roads in the near future. Ritzler says any savings from reduced potholes and warmer weather could eventually be used elsewhere.

“We’re hoping we don’t get much snow removal at all this winter and we can turn that into more paved roads in the summer,” says Ritzler.” So we’ll see how January and February go. Last January we had one pay period we had almost $9-thousand in overtime. We’ve had almost no overtime in the last two months.”

As temperatures continue to drop in January and February, some patching work may stall until spring. That prevents unnecessarily repeating pothole repairs.

Ritzler says the Highway Department typically holds off on pothole repairs once temperatures consistently fall below 20 degrees.