As road maintenance continues to consistently rank among Arapahoe County residents’ top priorities, County officials held a virtual public meeting this week with members of the Box Elder Creek Ranch community to address their concerns about road conditions in their neighborhood. View a recording of the meeting and presentation.
On July 6, District 3 Commissioner Jeff Baker joined the County’s Public Works and Development (PWD) Road & Bridge Division for a public forum with Box Elder residents to discuss possible road solutions, the budget challenges inherent to this and all road maintenance projects, and the property tax dynamics within the 116 five-acre properties that make up the community.
The Road & Bridge Division has been working to identify options and associated costs for road maintenance within Box Elder Creek Ranches for some time, and no decisions have been made about how to address the current conditions. Hearing feedback from residents during this meeting is a first step toward seeking viable solutions. Unfortunately, Countywide budgetary restrictions mean no work will likely start until 2022, and County officials hosted this meeting as a first step in hearing feedback from residents.
The Box Elder roads were originally constructed as gravel roadways with the development of the subdivision more than 20 years ago, when its roads were constructed with what is called a roto-pave. This process uses millings—recycled asphalt—that is placed on the ground using a motor grader. A chip seal was placed on top of the millings approximately 6 months later. A portion of the roadways, about 1.5 miles, were also sealed with a hot-mix asphalt. These portions of the roads have stayed in better condition, and the Road & Bridge Division is in favor of leaving these stretches of road alone.
For the portion of the roads that need repairs, the options the County has examined range from continuing to patch the roadways, total reconstruction and paving, at a cost between $4 million to $5 million, to rebuilding the roadways with the County’s Arapa-Blend material at an estimated cost of $370,500.
In Fall 2020, the five-member Board of County Commissioners agreed with the Road & Bridge Division that the best solution for the neighborhood’s roads would be to use Arapa-Blend, which is similar to a gravel road but performs much better, to resurface the roadways. This would be the $370,500 option. The BOCC’s direction at the time was to set up a meeting with the residents to obtain feedback about that approach.
Arapa-Blend uses two parts recycled asphalt millings to one part gravel/clay mixture. The surface looks similar to a traditional gravel road but requires much less maintenance, which is done by routine grading. The division has widely used this process to improve and maintain roads throughout unincorporated Arapahoe County.
However, the several dozen Box Elder residents who tuned into the event were generally not supportive of the Arapa-Blend approach. Road & Bridge is examining another option that would use the existing millings in the roads, along with additional recycled asphalt where needed. This option would not use the clay/gravel mixture found in Arapa-Blend, and its cost has not been determined.
This option—which has not been used before in the County—would require testing to determine the thickness of the asphalt in the current roads. The roadways’ roto-pave surface would be churned up, compacted and regraded with additional recycled asphalt where needed to achieve the desired surface density, which would be similar to the roto-pave surface that was placed years ago. A stabilizing additive would be used to bind the surface together, and then Road & Bridge officials would observe the roads’ “behavior” over an undetermined period to gauge its effectiveness.
Both the Board and Road & Bridge wanted to get public input from Box Elder residents prior to making any decisions, which was the impetus for the July 6 meeting, and there will be further opportunities for these residents to ask questions and get feedback from County officials before any work starts.
For the past 20 years, the budget for the Road & Bridge Division has remained flat, partly due to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which dictates that any increase to the mill levy must be approved by voters. The entire PWD budget for 2021 is about $16.7 million, which is made up of property taxes and Highway User Tax Funds (HUTF – gas tax/vehicle registration). Approximately $3 million of this budget is shared back with the 13 cities and towns in Arapahoe County. The average home in Box Elder Creek Ranches provides about $2,000 in annual taxes, less than $17 of which goes toward the Road & Bridge budget. The remaining amount of property taxes is distributed to other taxing entities, which include law enforcement and school, fire and water districts, among others.