During the Jackson County Highway Committee meeting last Thursday, American Transmission Company requested the county to sign a road repair reimbursement agreement to allow overweight trucks from ATC to haul on Hwy. P while they are constructing the Badger Coulee Transmission Line in the area.

ATC is working with Xcel Energy Corp. to build a transmission line that stretches 180 miles from Holmen to Blair and then across to Black River Falls and then follows Interstate 94 to Dane County. The line is expected to be operational in the fall of 2018.

Jackson County Highway Commissioner Randy Anderson had been hesitant to sign the agreement because the county is currently working on a deal with Gerke Excavating to fix the pavement issues with Hwy. P after it was reconstructed two years ago.

“We completely left Hwy. P, that segment that we just built, off intentionally because of the problems we have been having with the asphalt mix on there. We already know we have a problem and we didn’t want to compound the problem,” Anderson said.

ATC is planning on taking 20 loads larger than 80,000 pounds on Hwy. P, which Anderson is nervous would create a larger problem than is currently there.

Lee Lmeyerhofer, local relations consultant for ATC, doesn’t expect their trucks to cause any issues on Hwy. P because the work will be completed during winter months.

“It is showing that it is all in the pavement, and we are saying that in these types of temperatures and frozen road conditions to be honest with you, I don’t think we will add any damage to it,” Lmeyerhofer said. “They are all going to be within proper axle weights, so we are going to distribute the weight accordingly.”

Even though Lmeyerhofer doesn’t think the trucks will cause problems on Hwy. P during winter, he does admit the road has issues.

“It appears there are portions of the road that are rutting at a faster rate than they probably should be in the first 24 months of its life. We will see what happens after we are done with our overweight equipment,” Lmeyerhofer said.

A discussion was also had about other options, but Lmeyerhofer did not think any other route would work.

“Hwy. P, or that section there, runs fairly parallel with the transmission line and it actually crosses. For a part of it the transmission line is on the south side of Hwy. P and the different portion is on the north. That is the only route we can get there,” Lmeyerhofer said.

Lmeyerhofer said that ATC was already being held up on the project because of the delay in getting the agreement signed.

“Right now by you having your problem with Hwy. P, it is putting a lot of consternation on us. In fact right now we’ve got work that needs to be done, like there is a dozer that is being held up right now because we can’t get on Hwy. P to get where we need to go,” Lmeyerhofer said. “It is just a matter of you guys have a road that has an issue going on, and I get that, but we have an issue that we need to get this thing built.”

Anderson pointed to the fact that there was little time provided by ATC for the agreement to be signed by the Highway Department as to one of the reasons for the issues ATC was having with timing.

Acknowledging the issues

The main sticking point for Anderson was the fact that the agreement made no mention of the issues with the road.

“I still don’t see anything in this agreement that you are acknowledging that you are running on a pavement that may not be able to take that weight because it is already performing poorly,” Anderson said.

This issue was important to Anderson because if a mediator was involved, it could go poorly for Jackson County.

“If we are going to go to mediation, let’s start out with that mediator knowing that you agreed that you are going to hold Jackson County harmless because you are running down a road that you know can’t support that weight. You know that there is a problem with that asphalt,” Anderson said.

For Lmeyerhofer, he wanted to make sure that if ATC did cause damage, they would only be responsible for the damage they caused.

“If it means you are going to completely chew it up, grind it up and spit two inches on top, I don’t think that is a reasonable position to hold someone at,” Lmeyerhofer said.

Anderson agreed that would not be reasonable and both sides agreed that ATC should only be responsible for the change in deflection on the road caused over the time their trucks were running on Hwy. P.

To monitor that, ATC agreed to hire an independent contractor to calculate the amount of deflection on Hwy. P before and after they are done with the project.

After agreeing to these terms, Lmeyerhofer was also comfortable with adding in the language about the mediator holding Jackson County harmless for the current road conditions.

Despite the agreements, Anderson still plans to wait until the issues with Gerke Excavating are resolved.

“I don’t want this agreement at all to interfere with finalizing our agreement with Gerke. If it’s going to be a problem with that, then I won’t be signing this agreement until I’m done with Gerke,” Anderson said. “The last thing I want is to go in and have heavy equipment running on that road and getting Gerke off the hook.”

The committee also agreed that they would prefer ATC to come in from the west to get on Hwy. P because the other side of Hwy. P has not been reconstructed, which could cause problems with logging the conditions of the road.

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Jackson County Chronicle editor

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