There’s a few problems with River Road, the City of Atchison governing body heard from guest speakers on Monday evening, and they need to be addressed, pronto.
Gary Servaes, owner of Servaes Quarry south of Atchison, took issue with the state of maintenance of River Road, among other matters, saying the arrangement of curbs in city limits and the proliferation of “chuckholes” north of town makes the road nearly non-navigable to heavy vehicles. Servaes spoke during a public forum period that included multiple speakers, who each offered several minutes of commentary; most often, no one steps forward to speak forward during the forum.
In particular, Servaes said, the ongoing Riverfront Trail development project has changed conditions on River Road. As he sees it, maintenance has not been kept up on the passageway, and the trail has caused the road to be too narrow for heavy vehicles.
“I want to express my extreme displeasure with this project,” Servaes said. “I’m ashamed of the state of (River Road); it looks like a third world country ... Somebody is going to have to be accountable.”
Assistant City Manager Justin Pregont said on Tuesday that the public forum period on Monday evening was the first time city staff had heard complaints about the width of River Road.
He said Public Works Director Clinton McNemee and his staff have prepared measurements to show that heavy vehicles haven’t lost a significant amount of space amid ongoing work on the trail. He later provided measurements by McNemee, which indicate that at some sections, differences in the road's width, in comparison to other sections, varied at between 2 and 4 feet. The road remains wider than 20 feet in all “driven” sections of the road.
By comparison, state highways are designed to support 12 feet lanes, or 24 feet in total.
“I would certainly agree that there is a perception and a feeling that the road is narrower,” Pregont said. “That comes with having curbs and a 10-foot wide trail right next to it. The actual measurements tell a different story.”
Farmer Eric Niemann, adding to an unusually heavy slate of commentary for the governing body, said farmers and heavy truckers feel they’ve not been treated fairly.
“There’s no reason that agriculture drivers should be treated this way,” Niemann said. “Agriculture has made Atchison. I think you could add up all the revenue from every business in Atchison and it wouldn’t equal $2 million per day. We do. We’re right in the middle of the harvest. This should have been taken care of beforehand.
“River Road used to be a pretty nice road when they got done with it, but it just went to pot ... It seems like agriculture is not getting a fair shake here in Atchison.”
Mayor Shawn Rizza described the public forum period as “heated” in a narrative of the meeting that he regularly posts on social media. However, he said, there will be no easy solutions to bringing the entirety of River Road up to par, as the primary cause of potholes and other deformities relates to the road’s foundation.
Costs for a total replacement would exceed $500,000, Rizza said. A more affordable application of chipseal pavement would heal the damage but would do nothing to prevent the formation of new potholes, which would likely manifest within the next two years, Rizza said, citing conversations with city staff.
One of the guest speakers, farmer Tim Hegarty of Doniphan, said in a follow-up interview on Tuesday, the Riverfront Trail project remains an issue.
“They encroached onto the road; he said. “There’s hardly enough room for big trucks and stuff ...
“That’s fine for people to walk on and what have you, but it’s not good for people trying to get to and from Atchison to spend money and deliver goods and things like that. You’re putting people in harm’s way by tearing up that road.”
Clarification: This story has been clarified in reference to how some sections of River Road differ in width from others, with the differences measuring at between 2 and 4 feet.