By Roz Kohls
DASSEL, MN Meeker County and Knife River of Sauk Rapids are negotiating the dollar amount of the damage to the second layer of bituminous in Meeker County State Aid Highway 18.
The most recent estimate is $250,000 for damage to the resurfacing of the 7.5-mile road south of Dassel.
The surface of the road slid off its base, causing cracks, some as long as a yard, in 25 percent of the second of three layers in the $2.2 million project, according to Meeker County Engineer Ron Mortensen.
It will be up to the county board of commissioners whether county residents will pay or what the county will do otherwise, he said.
The cause of the damage is unknown as well.
“Our tests passed. Their tests passed,” Mortensen said last Monday.
Meeker County Commissioner Amy Wilde, who was this year, elected chairperson of the board of commissioners, said she hopes the contractor will take responsibility for paying for the repair.
“We hired them to build the road,” she said.
The county bought bonds to pay for the resurfacing, but the bonds were not enough to cover the estimated $250,000 repair costs.
“We didn’t bond for a poor installation of the road,” Wilde added.
When officials from Knife River first discovered the road failure Aug. 28, they thought water had seeped between the first two layers of bituminous. However, the damaged areas were on tops or sides of hills, not low areas. Also, the Dassel area had less rainfall than average during the summer, Mortensen said
Next, Knife River officials surmised the water could have come from underground springs.
However, county engineers and MnDOT left nothing to chance. The oil, bituminous, tack, and all materials used, as well as operations used in the project, were tested.
Nothing in the tests showed what caused the problem, Mortensen said.
The strength of the roadbed was tested in 40 locations on the road. A road the size of CSAH 18 is supposed to have the strength of 18 to 20 inches of gravel. However, the four miles with 60 percent of the damage showed a strength of 20 inches of gravel or more.
In addition, density in CSAH 18 was supposed to be at least 91 percent, but tests showed it was between 92 to 96 percent.
The test showed the road’s subgrade was not weak, pointed out Paul Virnig, county administrator.
Also, Mortensen and other engineers were at the site every day, all day, when the replacement layer was done, watching how the Knife River operators put down the bituminous. Some engineers walked next to the paver for a close-up view as it moved down the road. No one noticed anything was done incorrectly, Mortensen said.
The replacement second layer was made of the same material as the original second layer, and so far, it has held.
Nothing is definite, Mortensen said.
Commissioners Wally Strand and Jim Swenson have been representing the county in negotiations with Knife River officials. The most recent negotiation session was in December in Litchfield, Strand said.
Strand declined to say where the negotiations stand now, but they are continuing.