On April 28, road workers from across southwestern North Dakota gathered in Dickinson for an workshop geared toward building and maintaining gravel roads more effectively. The Dickinson Press reports that the instructor, Montana Local Technical Assistance Program Director Steve Jenkins, said the region’s gravel roads have “really taken a beating” in the last few years from heavy vehicles, especially from oil-related traffic.
“Our agricultural units that drive on these roads have changed significantly in our lifetimes, and the equipment that drives these roads is much heavier,” Jenkins said, according to the report. “We see things like rutting, dust and washboards more than we’ve seen them before.”
He added that Stark County has been “on the cutting edge” in its response to wear-and-tear on its gravel roadways and is responding to the challenges “better than most counties I’ve seen.”
Workshop attendees came from Stark, Billings, Grant, Hettinger and Sioux counties, as well as from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program Director Dale Heglund told the news agency that the event was part of the Gravel Roads Academy series put on by Compass Minerals and Roadworx to “help operators understand how to build a good roadway. (The operators) are learning how to build a roadway with the right shape and how to inspect the right gravel so the roadway holds and can handle truck travel. The third component is what kind of stabilizing agents — dust-control agents—can help make the road last.”
According to the news agency, Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said finding the right gravel locally can be a challenge. “In the county, we don’t have really good gravel, so the last number of years we’ve been blending two types of gravel to try and make gravel that stands up to moisture,” he said.
Stark County blade operators Gary Schaff and Gary Mayer both said they found the Thursday program to be helpful. Schaff said he participates in such workshops annually. “It’s a little repeat, but a good refresher—pretty informative,” he told the news agency.
Mayer said the gathering of road workers from across the area was a good learning opportunity. “You can learn from their regions, and it’s kind of fun, in a way,” he told the news agency. “ … Every road is different.”