Dubuque county neighbors left in the dust - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque county neighbors left in the dust

A sign warns drivers of loose gravel on Humke Road in Dubuque County A sign warns drivers of loose gravel on Humke Road in Dubuque County

Road work is kicking up some controversy in Dubuque County this month.

Some Dubuque County roads got re-paved for RAGBRAI riders in 2010. The county is doing what's called seal-coating on those roads now. It's not a matter of fixing the infrastructure but preserving it.

However, it's a little messier than laying asphalt.

When Tracy Klinkner and her husband built a home on Graf Road nearly a decade ago, the surface was paved.

"Then, when you come home one day and it's gravel and you have to deal with that and you've just cleaned your house, all your windows, everything like that and it's caked with dirt-- it's just frustrating," Klinkner said.

Just weeks ago, the county seal-coated Graf Road, which had been re-paved in 2010 for RAGBRAI.

"Since then, it's been living under a cloud of dust daily," Klinkner said.

County crews coat the road with a thin layer of gravel and then spread gravel on top of that, Dubuque County engineer Bret Wilkinson explained.

"When we do the seal coat, immediately after, there is some loose rock on the surface. There is some dust involved when it's dry," he said. "We have had several complaints over the last few weeks about our seal coat operations."

However, Wilkinson said, seal-coating preserves a road's life five to 10 years, meaning the county spends less money on repairs in the long run.

While seal-coating comes with some mess, laying asphalt is much more expensive.

"Three inches of asphalt is running us around $150,000 a mile plus, and the seal coat, with our own crews, the materials alone are costing about $12,000 a mile," Wilkinson said.

Within weeks, traffic smooth the seal coat surface. In the meantime, however, neighbors deal with the mess.

"Living with the dust and all the rocks flying up onto our driveways or on our cars as other cars come past, we didn't sign on to live on a gravel road and we're just kind of wondering when is it going to be over," Klinkner said.

"We'd like the public just to be patient with us," Wilkinson said. "That rock will work down in and it will become a hard surface road again."

It's a matter of saving county roads and dollars at the cost of quality of life for some Dubuque County neighbors.

"I would like to prolong the life of the road, but I wish there was a better way for all of us because I know everybody who lives along here has had concerns since the beginning," Klinkner said.

The county comes back after a few weeks to sweep the excess gravel off the newly-seal-coated roads, "but we can't do that right away because we do need some loose rock on the surface to work into the oil while it's fresh," Wilkinson said.

Four more Dubuque County roads are still set for seal-coating this summer, including Old Highway 20.

Wilkinson said there are three to four major road projects that are already passed the point of being preserved or fixed by seal-coating. Those, including Swiss Valley Road, will need the more expensive asphalt and concrete re-paving process, Wilkinson said.

The completion of each of those roads depends on the budget year by year. Wilkinson said he has a budget of $10-15 million, depending on the road projects that year.

There is a difference between seal-coating and returning a road to gravel. At this point, the county is not returning any of its paved or seal-coated roads to gravel.

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