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.