August 19

Late night gravel grinding

As you might expect, road construction season in North Dakota is fairly intense — short but intense, and necessarily so.  Once the frost goes out and roadwork can begin, road crews go nearly non-stop to get as much done as they can before freeze up in the fall.  Cold fall weather shuts down asphalt batch plants about mid-October.  So, the gravel pits supplying the aggregate for asphalt stay busy — even at night.

This plant is about 20 miles north of where I live.  Belly dump semi trucks roll constantly past Wilton hauling mixed asphalt to road work.  I followed the trucks one evening to this site where the horizon was lit up with the overnight work.  A fast shutter speed froze action, and a wide aperture allowed enough light to enter my lens to make the image.

Though North Dakota’s road construction season is short, its roads are some of the best in the nation. Numerous studies, surveys and reports show that the state’s highway system is well-maintained for the population.   It doesn’t happen automatically.  Local road engineers keep monitoring road conditions and then prioritize projects.  A limited amount of tax money is available for projects, so some get put on hold.  But when they’re approved, they go quickly.  One of the basic tenants of the United States is commerce and facilitating commerce between the states. The nation’s road infrastructure is part of that fundamental effort of commerce between the states.

So the next time you eat a slice of bread, know this: it is because the farmers here raised the grain that was hauled to the mill and bakery on the roads that were maintained by men and women who work non-stop through the night.

May 6

Winters are brutal on North Dakota’s infrastructure, but it’s generally not until spring when the damage becomes apparent.   The pavement of this country road on the edge of Washburn took a hit, part of it sinking with the wet spongy soil below, leaving the large crack.

North Dakota’s road crews, state, county and city go non-stop through the summer to repair the damage left by the freeze-thaw cycle and the unpredictable spring rains.  In the winter cold everything shrinks.  In the summer with the heat, everything expands.  That kind of movement is tough on what is supposed to be a hard surface.  In this case, the grade below the pavement washed out with the spring rains.

It’s going to take a fair amount of money and time for the local municipality (Washburn) and McLean county to repair this break.