What is the difference between a county road and any other road?
In Richland County we have three types of roads: State, County, Township (or local).
The County Roads are named with a letter or a combination of two letters. Some examples would be: A, G, E, BR, MM, etc. County Roads connect smaller communities to a State Route, another community, or another County highway.
The State Roads are named with numbers. Some examples are: 58, 130, 14, etc. These are the roads with the most traffic on them. State highways are the major routes connecting larger cities and other major routes.
The Town Roads are named with names. Some examples are: Grim Road, Oak Ridge Drive, Happy Hollow Drive, etc. The township roads are the rural, local, usually less traveled, roads that connect the residents to the other systems.
In Richland County, all the State roads are either blacktop or concrete. The County roads are all blacktop. The Town roads can be blacktop, sealcoat, or gravel.
Who is responsible for the culvert underneath my driveway?
The agency that has jurisdiction of the road that the driveway is on has control over the driveway and the culvert. On a county-maintained roadway, this means that the property owner must obtain a permit to have an entrance onto the county road and is responsible for the installation of the driveway and the cost of the culvert. The only exception is if the County is working on a project and the driveway is part of the project. Once the driveway is established, it becomes the responsibility of the land owner to maintain the culvert. For a driveway on a County Road, please call the Richland County Highway Department at (608) 647-4707. For a driveway on a State Highway, please call (608) 647-4707 and ask for the State Patrol Superintendent.
What is a right-of-way?
The right-of-way is defined by state statutes as “the land, interest therein, acquired for devoted to a highway.” What this means is that the highway authority has the sole responsibility to determine what gets built within this designated area.
Right-of-way can consist of privately owned property that is designated for right-of-way purposes, which is often called a “right-of-way easement”. In this situation, the landowner does legally own the property but basically transfers the authority over that property to the highway authority for as long as it remains a public road. The highway authority then determines what can or can’t be done within this area.
One exception to this is the installation of utilities. A utility company must get approval from both the highway authority and the landowner in order to install utilities within the right-of-way.
If the land within the right-of-way has been given to the highway authority by quick claim deed or similar fashion, then the public body is, in fact, the landowner for that property.
Irregardless of the type of right-of-way that exists for a given road, the highway authority must approve of any work performed within the right-of-way. Nothing should be installed, placed or built within the right-of-way without the prior approval of the appropriate highway authority.
For Township Roads, the Town Board gives the approval. For County roads the Richland County Highway Commissioner gives that approval and for State roads the State gives the approval. It is very important to contact the appropriate authority before a person installs anything within the right-of-way and it is, in fact, illegal to do so. Entrance culverts, mailboxes, signs, etc. can all impose obstacles that could make it difficult for the highway authority to perform services associated with the maintenance of roads.
If you don’t know exactly where the right-of-way line is, contact the appropriate highway authority. Before doing anything within the right-of-way, please contact the appropriate highway authority!
How do I obtain permission to have a driveway installed?
For a driveway on a County Road, please call the Richland County Highway Department at (608) 647-4707. For a driveway on a State Highway, please call (608) 647-4707 and ask for the State Patrol Superintendent.
Who maintains my driveway surface?
The landowner is responsible for maintaining the driveway surface as long as the driveway exists.
Why do these roads keep falling apart?
A road, much like a building, is a structure that needs maintenance and repair. In our climate, water damage, freeze-thaw cycles and frost cause damage to the road surface in the form of cracks, potholes, and broken pavement. The increasing number of heavy machinery and vehicles driven in our county also damages the roads and highways. Richland County uses techniques of road reconstruction and resurfacing to prolong the life of roads and bridges.
Who’s responsibility is it to maintain a given road?
Maintenance responsibilities include all activities necessary to keep the road to an acceptable level of service including, but not limited to, snow plowing, repairing roads, and reconstruction.
There are basically four different highway authorities who have maintenance responsibilities with in Richland County which are listed:
- State: Responsible for all marked and unmarked state routes and interstates. State roads can exist within the corporate limits of a city or village. Example: USH 14 through Richland Center.
- County: Responsible for all county roads.
- Township: Responsible for all township roads within a given township.
- City or Village: Responsible for all public streets within the corporate limits except any State or county roads within the corporate limits.
How do you decide which projects to undertake?
This process is based on “transportation need” which takes into account factors such as a poor surface condition, high-accident location, a bridge deemed unsafe, roads with poor bases or inadequate drainage systems, or roads with heavy traffic counts.
The Richland County Highway Department maintains 297 miles of bituminous-paved county highways and 215 bridge structures on the county and township road system. These interconnect with over 680 miles of township roads.
The Richland County Commissioner, under the direction of the Highway Committee, makes improvements to and maintains the highway system. Some of these duties include maintaining the shoulders, ditches, drainage structures and pavement surfaces on county roads. The Department also provides inspection of all county and township bridges every year, reporting those findings to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Other duties are maintaining highway and construction equipment, snow and ice removal, signing, roadside mowing, and maintenance of the two boat landings. In conjunction with the Highway Committee of the Richland County Board, the Richland County Commissioner sets priorities for highway construction; administers the preparing and letting of contract proposals for bridge and road construction and directs the engineering and construction staff through contract completion.
Do I need a permit to move large loads?
If the load that you are moving is not easily divisible and exceeds any dimension or weight as allowed by Wisconsin statutes, you must obtain a written permit from each individual road jurisdiction upon which whose roads you will be traveling. That means that if you are traveling on a county road, a township road and a state highway, you are required to obtain three separate permits.
What happens if I do not obtain the proper permits?
If you fail to obtain the proper permits, you may be liable for fines.
What is the county highway spreading on the highway before a storm?
In addition to the removal of snow using plow trucks, the county also actively applies ice control materials to prevent the formation of ice on the road or to remove ice that has already formed. These ice control materials are salt or liquid brine that are applied to the road.
The county uses trucks equipped with a tank and liquid applicator unit, spray anti-icing agents onto roads and bridges to prevent frost from forming or to keep falling snow in a liquid state. Either liquid magnesium chloride or a salt-brine solution are used. It looks like the trucks are spraying water on the road, but they are spraying the anti-icing agents. The salt-brine material is made at the county shop using the same salt that is purchased for ice control. This is a very inexpensive material that is limited in effectiveness by the outside temperature. It can be used only at temperatures above about 15 degrees. This practice is used as a preventive to ice formation. The process of applying the liquid anti-icing material to a dry pavement a few hours before snowfall.
The liquid on the pavement melts the snow as it hits the pavement and prevents the snow from collecting on the road and thus prevents the formation of ice. The end result is that less precipitation collects on the road surface making the road much safer to drive on. Again this process has it’s limitations in that if more snow falls than expected the anti-icing agent will become diluted to the point that it will not prevent snow or ice from collecting. The procedure can also be applied to bridges to prevent the formation of frost on the surface. The liquid agent lasts for two to four days.
This new technology will not only create safer roadways but also help save money. Maintenance workers will be able to spray the roads during normal work hours to prevent the frost, rather than having to react to the frost once it happens.
Salt is applied to the roadways which make them safer during the winter. It lowers the freezing point of snow and ice and keeps the snow “workable” by preventing it from bonding to the pavement so it is more easily removed. Salt can be used for anti-icing, de-icing, or melting. Anti-icing is a technique where a chloride is applied to the roadway prior to a storm to prevent the snow/ice from bonding to the pavement. De-icing and melting is when a chloride is applied after the storm has begun in order to break up ice and snow pack or to melt glare/black ice. Overall, less salt is used making the practice economical as well as safety-conscious.
It is important to note that salt does not work at extremely low temperatures and there are times in which ice may be on the road where we do not apply salt for this very reason. The minimum practical application range for salt is a pavement temperature of 15-20°F and above. While salt will melt snow and ice down to a pavement temperature of -6°F, it can melt over five times as much ice at 30°F as at 20°F. Also, if high winds are present, often times ice control materials are not applied. When the wind is blowing hard and the temperature is cold enough snow will often times blow across the road rather than build up on the road. If ice control materials are on the road they tend to catch the snow and start the process of drifting. Thus the effectiveness of salt is sensitive to small differences in pavement temperature. Counties will attempt to apply only the amount required for temperature, time and use. Too little and the roadway will refreeze, too much is a waste of money and resources.
How do you decide how long the plows will be out plowing during a snowstorm?
Each driver’s plow route is approximately 50 miles long, and is traveled at the most efficient rate for applying materials: approximately 35 mph. In addition, the driver needs to come back to the county salt shed periodically and reload. These factors are critical in determining how fast a driver will complete their route and when they will be able to go over the route again.
In order to minimize overtime expenditures the county tries to perform snow plowing operations during normal business hours (7 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.) However, there are times when that is not feasible without compromising the safety to the public. When work outside normal business hours is required, the county uses the following general guidelines:
As a general rule, the county makes every attempt to keep all the county roads passable during the time when a majority of the public will be at or traveling to/from work (7A.M to 6 P.M.), Monday through Friday.
If through the night there is substantial snowfall or if the wind causes substantial drifting of snow, plowing operations will begin usually around 4:00 A.M. so that at least one round can be completed on all roads. On weekends starting times may be a little later in the morning.
If snowfall is minimal or has quit completely and drifting is not significant, snow plowing operations will stop by 3:30 P.M. If however, there is significant snowfall or drifting anticipated the county will generally stay on the roads until 5 or 6 P.M. The county may stay out until as late at 8 P.M. or so, although this is rare.
The maintenance worker that is out until 8 P.M. is the same one that will be out the following morning at 4 A.M. Driving a snow plow truck, especially while it is dark and when there is little visibility, is a very exhausting job and rest for the driver is very important for the safety of the worker as well as for the general public. Rarely will the county ever be out between 8:00 P.M. and 4:00 A.M. For this reason, we suggest that traveling during this time period be kept to an absolute minimum during inclement roadway conditions.
How should I approach a snowplow or sander?
With caution and respect!
Remember, in the winter, plows and sanders must be on the roads, and must be anticipated.
In order to completely clear a lane, the plow needs to be as close to the centerline as possible. A snowplow may kick up a cloud of snow, It can also hit a ridge or drift of snow unexpectedly, causing a ‘whiteout.’ If a driver tries to overtake and pass a snowplow in these conditions, everything can disappear in the cloud, including oncoming traffic or the brake lights on the snowplow itself. The cloud of snow may also hide the snowplow blade. Give them the room they need to do the best job possible. In addition, never tailgate a snowplow or sander. The driver may have to stop or backup to clear a drift or open an intersection. Not only is it difficult to see when you’re close behind the plow, but you may be unable to stop in time when the plow stops or turns.
There are no state laws that prohibit you from passing a snowplow. However, it is illegal (State Statute 346.915) to follow a snowplow closer than 200 feet upon any highway having the posted speed limit of more than 35 mph if the snowplow is engaged in snow and ice removal. The majority of crashes involving snowplows and vehicles happen when a snowplow is rear ended or hit while being passed. Snowplows have wing plow blades that can extend anywhere between 2 and 10 feet beyond the width of the truck. This wing plow blade is often not seen because of the snow cloud being kicked up by the snowplow. These wing plows can often weigh as much as a compact car.
My vehicle is in the ditch, can you stop and pull me out?
Snowplow operators cannot stop to help motorists get vehicles out of the ditch or snowbank. Unless the situation is clearly an emergency, our operators remain focused on clearing the roadways safely and efficiently.
The plow smashed my mailbox! Will you replace it?
Only in very limited circumstances. If your mailbox is in the right-of-way, is in the way of the wing, or side blade of a snowplow, the wet heavy snow thrown from the wing can easily damage a mailbox. Make sure your mailbox is at least 18″ from the edge of the shoulder, has a minimum clearance of 42″ above the shoulder, and the front doesn’t extend beyond the edge of the shoulder. Richland County will consider replacing a mailbox if driver error clearly caused the damage to the mailbox assembly.
Why can’t I push the snow out of my driveway across the road?
Doing this creates a hazard and you could be held liable if the snow you pushed out onto the road causes an accident.
There is something laying in the middle of my road! Who do I call?
Dead animals on the roadway can often times be a hazard to the traveling public. Domestic and wild animals are often hit and killed by motor vehicles on state trunk highways. Large animals lying on or near highways may be hazards when left on the shoulder or in clear zones and are to be removed promptly. When dead animals are found out of the clear zone they are unsightly and may pose a health threat to adjacent residences. Timely removal and disposal of animal carcasses is required. Please contact the Richland County Highway Department (608) 647-4707 or the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (608) 647-2106.
Road Hazard Notification:
Often times hazardous conditions develop on public roads such as trees or limbs falling on the roadway, debris falling off of trucks, roads are washed out during heavy rainfall, water on the road, etc. If a potentially hazardous condition exists on a road you should contact the Richland County Highway Department (608) 647-4707 or the Richland County Sheriff’s Department at (608) 647-2106.
Why are you cutting down the trees on the side of the road/edge of my lawn?
Trees in the county highway right-of-way that are dead, dying or impeding visibility will be removed to protect the safety of the traveling public.
How do I contact the appropriate road authority?
Highway Commissioner: (608) 647-4707
State Patrol Superintendent: (608) 647-4707