Road Management & Engineering Journal
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If someone told you that they could show you a way of doubling the work you could do with highway funds--while at the same time improving public image and support--would you be interested? That is basically what Parke County, Indiana, has done with at least a small portion of their annual highway distribution. The program is known locally as the 50/50 Cost-Sharing Plan and has been used successfully for about the last 10 years.
The program works like this: A resident approaches the highway department or commissioners and requests some improvement to a specific section of road. If the road in question is not on the list to be improved this year, an offer is made to allow the resident to join with his or her neighbors to participate in the cost sharing program.
The highway supervisor will survey the road and provide a representative of the citizens with an estimate to do the work. If the citizens decide to go ahead with the project, the supervisor will coordinate the work.
The program is based on the residents paying for 50 percent of the materials to complete the work, with the county paying the other 50 percent, as well as furnishing all labor and equipment required for the work. Since Parke County does all its own paving and sealing work, the costs for labor and equipment are considerably more "bearable" than direct out-of-pocket costs such as asphalt and stone.
"Low Priority" Projects Given a Chance
Proponents of the plan claim the contributed funds allow the county to work on certain roads that would not otherwise be done. Many of these roads are not a high priority for the county because of low vehicle counts or travel speed, but are a high priority for the people who travel them every day. This gives the residents a way to influence the selection of projects and to see work done on their road in the very near future.
There are some minimum requirements that go along with the program. First, the road must be a county road. If it does not appear on the county's road inventory, then it is up to the residents to research the commissioners' records to determine when the road was taken over by the county, the length of the road, right-of-way, etc.
Second, the project must be at least a half-mile long. The intent of this program is not to pave a 300-foot long stretch in front of every home in the county. Rather, it is to try to repair a short section of road that will benefit several residents at a cost that the county and the citizens can afford.
Third, a limited amount of funds are allocated to the project each year, generally about $25,000. The funds are approved on a first-come-first-served basis until the dedicated cost sharing budget is expended. The residents' share of the cost must be turned into the highway department in the form of a certified check before the work is started.
Randy Norman, the highway supervisor for Parke County, says the program is most successful for subdivisions and other short sections of road that have a high density of homes, where the costs can be divided among a larger number of residents.
Cost sharing does not obligate the residents to perform any further maintenance. By the same token, the fact that there are private dollars involved in the improvement does not give the road any higher priority for minor maintenance such as surface treatments for pothole repair when the county does this in the future.
Randy estimates that the county has spent about $40,000 on at least 14 different projects since the program began a few years ago. A significantly higher amount could be spent if the county had additional funds available for their share.
For additional information on this innovative idea, contact Paula Peterson, Administrative Assistant, at the Parke County Highway Department in Rockville, Indiana, (765) 569-3521.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Pothole Gazette, a publication of the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), May 1999 issue.