Matt Moul, the Assistant District Engineer, for ADOT’s Northeast District – White Mountains, was the featured guest at the December 5, 2017 meeting. Moul (pronounced like mall), who drove over from his Show Low office, is an amicable guy who’s been with ADOT since 1995. He’d planned on discussing winter driving even though so far there’s not been any of the white stuff falling as yet.
Since the group was small we were able to have more of a Q & A session which was great. Seems the resources for this agency are also spread thin which was an issue last month’s DPS representative mentioned. When asked about who decides when to repair which roads, seems there is competition state wide for fund allocations. “We are trying our best to keep up, but with scarcity of funds, we repair the worst places and don’t have the budget to redo a complete portion of road even though many places need it,” Moul explained. He went on to explain that the cost of materials continues to increase throughout the years but the available funds stay pretty much the same. “When I started with ADOT in 1995,” Moul said, “The cost of asphalt was $55 a ton. Now it’s $900 a ton.” The state is responsible for repairing the federal highways such as I-40 and the state highways like SR 260 and 277/377 in our neck of the woods. They do get reimbursed by the feds based on a percentage of each dollar spent. A recent road project to our east was paid for with a federal grant.
Winter conditions normally require snow plows to keep the roads open. In the White Mountain area which runs from Holbrook to Sunrise including Heber-Overgaard on the west side, these communities all share the same snowplows. Usually a storm will affect only certain portions of that area so the plows are sent to wherever the snow is. In a wide spread snow storm, extra man power is pulled into this area from Tucson. Phoenix helps support the area north of them up to Flagstaff.
The best resource ADOT has to keep roads clear of ice is sunlight. (Remember light is heat?) But, in many areas, that entails other government agencies who have jurisdiction over the trees! There was a project last year on SR 260 near Sunrise where ADOT worked in conjunction with the reservation to thin trees so the sunlight would shine on the roadway. Most of the time they use “brine”, a salt water mixture, to melt the ice on bridges or other roadways located in cold zones.
Roads are listed in order of priority from one to five. State Routes 260, 277 to the 377 “Y” and then 377 to I-40 are all Priority 1. SR 277 from the Y into Snowflake is Priority 2, although Moul explained there’s not much difference between 1 and 2. Some remote roads are simply closed in the winter as there’s not enough traffic to merit keeping them plowed.
Timing for mowing grass along the roadways is governed by environmental issues such as when butterflies may be present they’re not allowed to mow. So, if you drive a low to the ground car (ahem) and cannot see over the high grass if traffic is coming on SR 277, guess the butterfly gets the right of way. I love butterflies and admire the monarch, but seems it would be preferable to keep the public safe.
Which brings me to the next subject and that is how to contact the ADOT people responsible for our area. Moel said they’d prefer you call in your complaints directly to their office in Show Low so that they can respond in a timely manner. That number is 928-532-2315.
Thank you to Matt Moel for taking time to visit with us. Thanks also to the Rim Country Community Center and Dee and Teressa McCluske for making these meetings possible.
I cannot attend every Tuesday Talks because most times it falls upon my deadline. I really am digging these meetings though, because I’m learning some interesting things on a face to face basis! In our wireless and online society, this is a wonderful reprieve.
February Tuesday Talks
Be sure to be at the February 6th meeting which features Northland Pioneer College’s Learning Adventure Excursions presented by Katharine Olsen. The purpose of this program is to offer adults hands-on experience to continuing education through day trips exploring different locations in Northern Arizona that cover local history, culture, scenic sights, and new experiences. All travel logistics are done by NPC staff making the experience easy, convenient and beneficial to participants. All trips leave from one of the NPC campuses. Places visited this past fall included Green’s Peak, Homolovi State Park, the Petrified Forest as well as a dinner theatre presentation. Sound like fun? Come and listen to Ms. Olsen’s plans for 2018.