Nobles County assesses its paved roads, from 'good' to 'very poor'

Roads rated “very poor” show up as deep red on the highway map, and there were only two of them — one of which has already been microsurfaced.

A highway map shows the assessed pavement condition of every paved road in Nobles County.
A highway map shows the assessed pavement condition of every paved road in Nobles County.
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WORTHINGTON — In Minnesota, the question “How are the roads?” usually refers to weather conditions, but what Nobles County Engineer and Public Works Director Aaron Holmbeck is looking for is a lot more specific, he explained to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

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Holmbeck and his staff are evaluating the entire paved road system for the county, using a detailed numerical pavement evaluation rating system.

“What you’re looking at in all these sheets is kind of a summary of all the different roadway segments,” Holmbeck said, handing out a color-coded map. “We’re giving comments and remarks on them. And we’re determining what we think we should do to that road to improve its condition, or improve its level of service.”

The evaluations for each road segment distinguish between potholes and patching, drainage deficiencies, and at least seven different kinds of cracking, and then assign numeric values to each problem the road has. The values of each deficiency are added together and then subtracted from 100, giving the road a numerical score and a corresponding condition index.

If a road received a full score of 100, it would be marked “good,” and it would show as a deep green on the map. The more cracks and problems a paved road has, the more points would be taken away, and the road could then be rated satisfactory, fair, poor, or very poor, depending on the severity of its issues.


Roads rated “very poor” show up as deep red on the highway map, and there were only two of them: One is a stretch of Nobles County 4 between Nobles County 5 and Nobles County 3, and the other is .8 miles of Nobles County 37 between Park Lane and Nobles County 2, near Bigelow.

That portion of Nobles County 37 has already been microsurfaced since it was observed and evaluated on May 12, and would no longer be considered in very poor condition if it were reexamined now, Holmbeck noted.

The red segment of Nobles County 4 has already had some shouldering work done too, and currently, the plan is to patch it until there are enough funds to rehabilitate it.

The assessments will be used to update the county’s five-year road maintenance program.

Throughout his presentation, Holmbeck emphasized the importance of maintaining good and fair roads rather than waiting until the roads are “dropping off that orange cliff” and need far more costly fixes, right up to total reconstruction.

Early preservation tactics are the cheapest way to extend the life of the road, and some roads can be maintained almost perpetually that way, Holmbeck said.

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In other news Tuesday, the county board:

  • Received an update from Community and Economic Development Associates consultant Joshua Schuetz, who is working on the development of additional affordable child care options for people in Nobles County, as well as supporting existing child care facilities. Schuetz said he has been contacting stakeholders to determine what needs are in various parts of the county and investigating options.
  • Discussed potential changes to the Nobles Home Initiative guidelines.
  • Considered how to spend the county’s $4.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, which they had already designated as lost revenue. That allows the board more options for spending the money, such as using it for the county’s own capital improvement projects. Other potential uses of the funds have been floated, including distributing some of the money to local governments for infrastructure projects, putting it toward the short-term crisis center and starting a “grow your own” program to ease the workforce issues in Nobles County. The commissioners hope to decide whether to distribute money to the local governments at their next meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioner board room.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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