Drivers who use our county roads and bridges likely do so without giving it any thought. So who is in charge of making sure the county’s infrastructure is safe for everyone? That is where Faribault County engineer Mark Daly and the Public Works Department steps up to the plate. Daly says ensuring the safety of county roads and the 255 bridges within Faribault County is his department’s top priority. Additionally, the public works director explains meeting 10 ton load requirements for roads and bridges is another crucial element in his job description. “Farming is big in this community, and the farmers need 10 ton roads to get their crops to where they need to be sold,” Daly says. With their main oﬃce located on 5th and North Walnut Street in Blue Earth, the department consists of 22 employees. In order to ensure the safety of our roads and bridges, Daly and his department keeps track of the condition of the county’s infrastructure with the help of analytical data. With a rating system ranging from 0-100, each bridge and road in the county is given a structural suﬃciency score. Structures with lower scores, such as County Road 4, which has a score of 40, are given priority over structures with higher scores. In his regular visits with the Faribault County Board of Commissioners, Daly says being prepared with analytics allows him to instantly ﬁeld questions about the condition of any road or bridge. “The goal is to present the information as objectively as possible,” Daly says. “Whenever they ask me about the roads or bridges, I can tell them exactly what the scores are.” To help determine these structural suﬃciency scores, a van from Pathway Services Incorporated is used to calculate the pavement condition, and how well each surface rides. The van is equipped with a total of eight mounted cameras located on the front and back of the vehicle, as well as several sensors which will detect signs of rutting, or a depression in the surface. While this vehicle is extremely valuable in tabulating the structural suﬃciency score of county roads and bridges, Daly also relies on his engineering instincts when formulating a ﬁnal score. “I physically drive these roads also because I know there’s some inherent problems with the van. Once I get the new data, I go out and I review the road to see if I agree with it,” Daly explains. “I adjust some of these scores to make them more realistic.” So where does the department store all of its heavy duty equipment? The department has a total of four storage sheds, one of those sheds happens to be located near the main oﬃce. With several trucks, skid loaders and other machinery, Daly estimates over $2 million worth of equipment is stored at the North Walnut Street site alone.
One of the Public Works Department’s most recent challenges occurred during this past extended winter season. With snowfall continuing well into April, Daly reveals that getting a head start on spring and summer road work was a tricky proposition. “It’s hard to go out and patch holes in the pavement when it’s snowing,” Daly laughs. “But we actually did some patching in between some of those snow storms because we had no other choice. Of course, the danger is that once you’ve patched the pothole, there is a possibility of scraping it oﬀ with one of the snowplows.” When dealing with adverse winter weather, the Public Works Department also must carefully choose when to utilize snow plows on gravel roads. Plowing these roads could result in large gravel deposits ending up in an oﬀ-road ditch. Daly admits the decision to snow plow, or not to snow plow a gravel road, can be a tough call for the department’s general foreman, Dennis Wick. Being that the county only has one gravel pit, which is located in Kiester Township, the Public Works Department makes sure to keep close tabs on the valuable natural resource. “Anytime we crush gravel, it costs money. And hauling it after we crush it is a challenge as well,” Daly says. “Having it in the pit doesn’t help us a lot if we’re graveling roads on the west side of the county. We’re trying to save money and be more eﬃcient with everything that we do.” In dealing with the myriad of challenges while ﬁghting the unforgiving Minnesota elements, Daly gains satisfaction in the successful completion of an assignment. He says seeing his construction plans come to fruition is the most rewarding aspect of his job. “Trying out new methods and technologies and having them work is a fun experience,” Daly states. “We tried micro surfacing for the ﬁrst time two years ago on County Road 2, and when it worked, I felt like a hero.”
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