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Winter toll on roads and budgets steep


A large coffee cup in a patch of former pavement on Roosevelt Drive in Grand Coulee lends perspective to the size of the problem of local streets degrading after a long winter. - Jacob Wagner photo

City officials in the four towns will be more than happy to see winter end, but they all fear what is going to happen to city streets in the region.

Ken Dexter, public works director for Electric City, summed it up last week when he stated, "It has been the worst winter I've seen in 20 years or so."

Dexter has been with Electric City for over 30 years and will be retiring at the end of March.

City streets there are showing signs of breaking up, with frost heaves just showing up. Typical of street problems, now visible, is the area between Sunset and Silver Avenues. Cracks in pavement can be seen throughout the city, with some edges of pavement chipping away on the sides of the street.

Dexter said budgets for snow removal and street repair are "tight."

Grand Coulee is pretty much the same.

City Clerk Carol Boyce said last Thursday that the city budget for streets is $144,000. Of this, $30,000 was earmarked for salaries and benefits, $30,000 for street lights, and $10,000 for street cleaning. Snow removal has exceeded its budget of $12,794, and street repairs are expected to go through the roof.

"We will be able to repair the worst spots, maybe, and the rest will remain," Boyce stated.

There already are two major frost heaves in the city. One is on Roosevelt Drive, where the street is coming apart, and on B Street, where a frost heave has torn up the roadway. Several streets are marked with cracks and could require major repair.

Boyce explained that it is very costly to repair roadways where stretches of pavement need replacing.

Both Electric City and Grand Coulee could get some help from Grant County. The county is petitioning the state for help for cities and towns so they can at least address the most serious street problems.

Public works director "Jimmer" Tillman in Elmer City said the cold winter sent frost as deep as 12 inches down, from two to three times normal. He stated that Williams Street looks "bad" and that cracks in pavement have allowed water to penetrate, which then froze below the surface. He expects major frost heaves on several streets.

The Elmer City budget allows only $17,000 for street repair. However, Tillman thinks he will have some "back door" funding to assist with some of his repairs. That could come from some help from the Department of Transportation's TIB (Transportation Improvement Board).

In Coulee Dam, the street in front of Columbia River Inn is already breaking up. Central Drive, Camas Street and Columbia Avenue, particularly in front of the entrance to the Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union, will all need repair.

The problem isn't unique to the four municipalities, but highways throughout Eastern Washington are showing signs of breaking up. And a Grant County road 12 miles east of Moses Lake was closed Sunday, with a sinkhole developing beneath the pavement some 3 feet wide and 15 feet deep.

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