Increased traffic from Wood County dairy farms is taking its toll on county and township roads.
“I’ve counted as many as 30 trucks in one day,” Portage Township Trustee Don Zeigler said. “In our township, the problem we’re having is 80,000 pounds is heavy, but it’s legal. It’s the constant repetitiveness of the trucks. Then when they’re hauling their silage, and they are going on and off the edges of the roads, I guess these roads just aren’t built for it.”
Jason Sisco, with the Wood County Engineer’s office, has seen the same thing on some county roads, but said the worst of the damage is being done in the southern townships, like Portage.
“Cygnet Road, (Custar) right in front of Reyskens, is a county road that we’ve been fixing for 15 years,” Sisco said.
Zeigler explained the situation. He said that the barns hold thousands of head of cattle, and the facilities are growing. The BB Land LLC dairy in Portage was recently allowed to expand from approximately 3,000 head to more than 5,000.
With that growth has come the building of new facilities, most recently he said that BB Land Dairy is working on getting a new methane gas burner.
“We’ve been in discussion with the gas line company. As far as I know, right now, they have not decided on an actual route they want to take, as far as running a gas line to the dairy,” Zeigler said.
All that construction has meant concrete and other trucks have also been using the roads with the manure and silage haulers traveling to and from the dairy.
Zeigler explained that regardless what is being hauled, the primary concern for the township is with the road repairs.
Trustees have applied for a grant from the state that would cover 50% of the cost of the repairs.
“So whatever the costs of the road happen to be, we’re responsible for half of that,” Zeigler said.
With that grant, trustees would like to repair approximately 2 miles of Portage Road from Huffman Road to Bloomdale Road.
They’ve been awarded the grant two years in a row, as a repaving project, but were advised by the Wood County Engineer’s office to get an extension on the grant. The extensions have also been awarded.
“We’ve applied for this grant for two consecutive years and we haven’t been able to complete any work because the dairy keeps expanding. By about the time we want to start the project they’ve got dump trucks, whatever, going up and down the road,” Zeigler said. “We’re trying to find an opening where we can get the work completed, before they have a chance to tear it up.”
He said the first delay came about with a “huge silage pad,” which is made of concrete. The following year the dairy began the methane distributor building, which would have a gas line running along Portage Road.
“It’s been a struggle trying to get things started the last couple years,” he added. “Portage Road still has asphalt. The edges of the road are gone. It’s basically one of the main arteries for Portage Township. It’s a heavily traveled road. Unfortunately, it’s the main route for the milk trucks.
“The pavement was breaking up and we had potholes big enough to swallow a car,” Ziegler said. “We have 3 miles of road that we turned to stone, because the pavement got busted up so bad. We ground the road up and laid it back down.”
It cost $46,000 to do that change. Meanwhile, the township’s entire annual road budget is about $180,000 to cover 59 miles of roads.
Zeigler has 29 years of excavation experience in his other job. He said there is not enough base under the asphalt. One 40-foot intersection repair was estimated to cost $9,000.
“I’m not against anyone making a dime. There’s not much the township can do to make the roads passable and safe for the public. But, ultimately they are coming back to us. They are not going after the dairy,” Zeigler said. “But, hey, we need milk, right?”
He would like to see the dairy farms contribute to the repair of the roads, because they need to use them as well.
Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn has been contacted by residents about the road problems. He has forwarded the complaints on to weight enforcement deputy Nate Murphy.
Murphy points out a couple of facts: the road load limit is 80,000 pounds plus a 6,000 pound variance, and the fines have not increased since the 1950s.
He’s the only deputy working on weight enforcement for the county, covering freight, construction and agricultural concerns. There are also four different large dairy operations he watches. From a cost and safety perspective, that means he has to focus on bridges.
In the spring he caught a manure hauler, coming from BB Land, crossing a 40,000 pound weight limit bridge with 84,000 pounds. It’s the only one he has caught doing that.
Last month he also caught two overweight trucks from other dairies hauling silage. They weren’t on bridges.
“The problem is, everyone thinks that trucks hauling silage are automatically overweight. It’s just like any other traffic stop. For the police officer, you can’t just go off … there are several things you’ve got to look for to make a legal stop on the vehicle,” Murphy said.