Better Roads Digital Magazine
Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/348335
10 July 2014 Better Roads Applications & Innovations L ocated in the heart of the Mississippi River Valley; Clayton County, Iowa, is a far cry from the expan- sive fl atlands associated with the rest of the state. Bordering Wisconsin, the county is exemplifi ed by its abundance of streams and rivers, lush rolling hills and winding gravel roads. While certainly picturesque, the land- scape can pose challenges for those maintaining the roads, especially in harsh Iowa winters. The man in charge of maintaining Clayton County's 1,100 miles of roads – 900 of which are gravel – is county en- gineer, Rafe Koopman. It's a responsibility he doesn't take lightly because he knows how much is on the line. Challenging conditions "We have a lot of people depending on us to keep the roads open in the winter and well-maintained in the summer," Koopman says. "There is a lot of livestock in the area, and we also have factories that run 24/7. We understand that if our residents can't get to work and the local producers can't transport their livestock, their livelihoods are on the line. They're the ones who pay our wages, so our county takes road maintenance very seriously." The task of maintaining Clayton County's roads, however, is not an easy one. Rural Iowa counties are often responsible for maintaining nearly four times the road miles of other state, city or town agencies. The vast territory combined with the rolling landscape make Clayton County a particularly challenging network of roads to maintain. "In this area, if you're not going downhill, you're going uphill – and probably around a curve at the same time," Koopman says. "So, keeping the roads maintained is a mat- ter of public safety, and doing so requires careful planning, a dedicated crew and an effi cient fl eet of motor graders." Equipment that makes the grade Clayton County generally runs its motor graders until they hit 10,000 hours, which equates to about 10 years of ser- vice. In 2012. The county was due to cycle two new motor graders into their fl eet and decided to add Volvo graders. After getting to know the local dealer – Scott Van Keppel in Cedar Rapids – throughout the course of several years and hearing positive feedback from engineers in neighboring ChallengingRoads Taking a look at how one Iowa engineer meets the challenge of maintaining a county with mostly gravel roads.