Yes and no on thaw-related weight limits

The in basket: I recall from my early days as a reporter here (in the 1960s and ’70s) that a predictable story in the winter was the imposition of temporary weight limits on some county roads when a long hard freeze, such as we have just experienced, ends. 

As I recall, the restrictions were most common when heavy rain accompanied the thaw, and when the freeze hadn’t been preceded by a snowfall. 

It kept school buses, garbage trucks and other heavy vehicles from their usual routes, as the thaw, plus the rain, turned roadbeds on the less sturdy roads to mush, susceptible to breakup of the pavement.

I asked Kitsap and Mason County public works if we might see a return of the practice this weekend.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says Kitsap expects to escape any weight limits, as the thaw is predicted to be gradual. 

“Heavy vehicle traffic is lighter on weekends, and provided the thaw occurs as scheduled we don’t anticipate weight restrictions, he said.” They monitor the situation as thawing occurs and have measured the depth of the frozen ground. “If we do place weight restrictions, we will send a release and post those restrictions to the county’s Web site,” he said. That’s www.kitsapgov.com. 

Mason County Engineer Bob Thuring said they do expect to impose weight restrictions on some of their roads. which will require propane trucks and garbage trucks to travel those at half-load. School buses will not be restricted, he said. 

All the rain in November has added to need for limits, he said. “When you freeze,  water  expands and opens up the subgrade under the road,” he said, “so heavy traffic rolling over the road surface (push) soil grains apart, and you wind up with pavement damage.”

Snow is a two-edged sword, he said. It insulates the pavement so the frost doesn’t go as deep, but adds water during the thaw.

Newer county roads built to stricter standards won’t be restricted. State highways rarely if ever need the extra safeguard.

Information on Mason’s  limits will be posted on the county’s Web site, www.co.mason.wa.us. 

Weight limits aren’t rare in Mason, he said. They’ve had them the past two years and often before that. The difference from Kitsap, he said, is that more Mason County roads remain as they were built in the middle of the last century, without the rebuilt subgrades that can withstand heavy traffic during a thaw.

 

 

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