News Flash

Wright County News

Posted on: February 12, 2020

County To Change a Pair of Road Designations in Buffalo, Buffalo Township

Having nothing in the bank typically isn’t something positive, but when it is in the realm of the Wright County Highway Department, having nothing in the mileage bank is ideal and the department is going to be close to getting their balance down to zero miles left in the bank.

Wright County has 512 miles of roads in its jurisdictional system – 406 miles of County State Aid Highways (CSAH) and 106 miles of county roads. The easiest way to distinguish the difference is that CSAH highways are one- or two-digit roads and all county roads have three-digit designations.

As things currently stand, Wright County has 1.27 miles of banked miles, but, at the Feb. 18 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, approval is expected of a switch of road designations in the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Township.

The proposed changes in designation are to turn what is currently CSAH 41 into Co. Rd. 114 on the north side of Lake Pulaski to free up 0.8 miles. The other re-designation will change Co. Rd. 138 between Hwys. 55 and 25 on the west side of Buffalo into CSAH 83 – a 2.06 mile stretch of road.

In doing so, the county’s banked mileage will drop to 0.1 miles. Wright County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins said the change in route designations has a positive impact on the county system in attempting to get the banked miles down to nothing. 

“There are a couple of benefits,” Hawkins said. “Right now, Wright County has 406.4 miles of CSAH highways. Those miles we get gas tax dollars for. The mileage and the condition of the roads are two variables for getting gas tax dollars. It’s a complicated formula as to how much of the pie we get. We also have 1.27 miles of CSAH miles that have not been designated – banked miles from turnbacks over the years. We want to get all the miles we have available on a State Aid Highway route so we can draw more money.”

The driving force behind the change is the gas tax revenue. It may not seem like a big deal to change the total of CSAH miles from 406.44 to 407.70, but Hawkins said there is a very good reason for it.

“We don’t get gas tax money for county roads,” Hawkins said. “Maintenance of the 106 miles of county roads has to come from our budget and levy dollars from property taxes. In an ideal world, the goal is to get the banked miles total down to as close to zero as we can, so we can maximize our ability to get more gas tax funding. This route designation change will get us down to 0.1 miles left in the bank – as close to zero as we can possibly get.”

There may be some initial confusion when the route designation is made because the highway department couldn’t do the type of numbering change it would have preferred. When possible, the highway department has tried to make the changeover as simple as possible by adding a “1” to the exiting county road and taking the “1” away from a CSAH – turning the hypothetical CSAH 99 into Co. Rd. 199 for the sake of continuity for those familiar with the road. However, it couldn’t be done in this instance. There was already a Co. Rd. 141 in Cokato Township and a CSAH 38 in Albertville and Otsego, so they had to change the designation, but kept the numbers somewhat similar.

When it comes before the county board, there isn’t expected to be any opposition to the route change because of the benefit to the county to get the banked miles off the books.

“This seems like a no-brainer,” Commissioner Mike Potter said. “I can’t imagine that any of the commissioners will have a problem with it. Both roads fit the criteria for what we want and it gets rid of the small amount of banked miles we have. We also take a couple of miles of county road off the system that are funded through our property taxes instead of the gas tax. It’s a win-win.”

Once the route designation is approved, new signage will be placed on both roads to reflect their new designations.

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