Floodwaters may be receding in areas of Mills County but dangers remain for motorists on the county’s many closed roads, said Mills County Engineer Kevin Mayberry.
Mayberry, speaking at a Flood Policy Group meeting at Glenwood Community High School earlier this month, said many of the county’s roads closed entirely or partially by floodwaters in evacuated portions of western Mills County could be months away from being passable due to damage caused by the water.
“Just because the water has left the surface, it’s been saturated for long enough that we need to make sure to take time to inspect the base condition of the road,” he said. “If it’s real sloppy and soggy underneath, and we put aggregate on top, it might look nice for a short time but any heavy traffic would just start forcing the mud (underneath) out the sides.”
Mayberry compared the condition of roads that have been saturated by floodwaters to “driving over a mud puddle and leaving a track with all that mud pushed out the sides.”
In all, more than a dozen roads in the county have been closed by the flooding, according to Mayberry. Before any of them are to be deemed passable and their closed road restrictions lifted, the road surfaces and base conditions will have to be thoroughly inspected. The county’s many culverts and bridges along the affected roads will also face inspection.
Persons who enter evacuated areas, including driving on closed roads, are subject to arrest and could face a fine up to $750.
Currently railroad crossings at 180th and 190th Streets in the county also remain closed. Burlington Northern Sante Fe, which owns the closed spurs in the county, spent nearly a month in June raising almost four miles of tracks and building its own earthen evee. This work, Mayberry said, altered “several miles” of Mills County road.
“They built that area up a lot,” Mayberry said. “We have quite a little hill to get over the tracks. We'll have to lay that slope all the way back. The road surface will have to raise to meet the tracks and doing that means we have to go out on the sides quite a ways.”
Raising the road five feet with necessary slide slopes and grading means the road will need 30 feet of extra right-of-way on each side the county will have to purchase before the road can even be put back together, Mayberry said.
BNSF has acknowledged damaging several roads during work to raise tracks and permanently altering several other roads. The railroad will share in the cost of that repair work, Mayberry said.
The railroad had made overtures about permanently closing the crossing at 180th Street but Mayberry said the county has rejected that proposal.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said counties will be reimbursed 75 percent of damages caused by the flooding with the state pitching in another 10 percent, leaving the county to pay for 15 percent of damages.
That may sound like a good deal for the county, said Mayberry, but with damages expected to be in the millions in Mills County alone, the county will need every bit of its current budget to shore up flood damage.
“The money will come, but when it’s not 100-percent reimbursement, it hurts because we have not planned to spend that kind of money on putting these things back together,” Mayberry said.
That shortfall and the flooding itself will likely delay projects planned in the previous budget round, including a large road paving project on 190th Street originally planned for this year.
“You have to prioritize,” Mayberry said. “We just have to figure out what is lower priority and push them off to another year while we fix these issues.”
* * * * *
Mills County Road Closings
Alcorn Avenue – west of Allis Road.
190th Street – south of the Interstate 29 and U.S. Highway 34 interchange.
Jardine Avenue – from 190th Street to 180th Street.
Jessup Avenue – from 190th Street to Pacific Junction.
Kane Avenue – from 190th to Karnes Avenue.
Karnes Avenue – entire stretch from Kane Avenue to the Plattsmouth Toll Bridge.
180th Street – from U.S. Highway 34 to north of Hammond Avenue.
Hammond Avenue – west of 180th Street.
195th Street – south of U.S. Highway 34 to the Fremont County line.
Nims Avenue – from 195th Street to the Missouri River.
Paddock Avenue, Quigg Avenue, Rist Avenue. 205th Street, 207th Street and 210th Street - all west of Painter Road.