BEATRICE – Some residents and landowners in southeast Gage County are imploring county officials to support paving three miles of South 162nd Road near Virginia. The stretch extends south from Nebraska Highway Four, to where paving begins. Steve Knoche, who lives a mile east of the road…said the group cites safety concerns, flat tires, broken windshields, larger truck traffic….and failure to follow through on commitments years ago to pave that section.

"The road requires continual maintenance. When wet conditions are present, the road ruts and deep potholes appear, causing safety concerns. The response from the county is to send out the road grader and grade the white rock back into the ruts and potholes, slowing traffic down to a minimum...and starting a whole new cycle of flat tires and broken windshields."

About a half-dozen residents spoke with the county board of supervisors Wednesday, during the board’s public forum. Knoche said the group was asking that the county consider a bond issue to do the work.  Steve Fulton, who lives in Lincoln….has farm ground in the area of the road.  "For the people that live around Liberty and Barneston, the quickest way to get to business or employment....from Liberty to Lincoln or this road. Going from the Liberty area to Lincoln, you save fifteen minutes as opposed to going through Wymore and Beatrice, to get to Lincoln. Believe it or not, there's a lot of people in that area that make the daily commute to Beatrice and Lincoln for shaving fifteen minutes one-way off your time for commute, is kind of a big deal."

Trevor Husa, who lives near Liberty….spoke to the board on behalf of his father. Although traffic counts aren’t as high as they are on other roads in the county, Husa said it may be that people are avoiding the gravel part of South 162nd because of safety.  "The southeastern end of Gage County has needed a proper all-weather road connecting Liberty area with Highway 136, for as long as I can remember."

Rebecca Snyder, who lives along East Oak Road, said the gravel three miles frequently is in bad condition during wet or snowy weather. She says paving it would create an 18-mile stretch of improved road from Liberty to Beatrice.  "Since it is not....we then have to choose to take 162nd Road south to Plum into Wymore, hit 77 and come into Beatrice...which is 28 miles."

County Board member Emily Haxby, who chairs the road and bridge committee… says the Virginia gravel section carries a lower traffic count than many others roads which were surveyed at the same time.  "We also have a lot of mill-overlays where we're reaching 20-plus years on, where if we don't take care of soon...that will cost us more than it will be to repair. The Odell Road has 11.5 miles....the Clatonia DeWitt road is 10 miles, Christ Lutheran Road is six miles.....and that's at an average of $350,000 a mile."

Two board members said the cost for new asphalt paving is at least one million dollars per-mile.

Last year, County Board member Don Schuller initially brought up the idea of doing something with the gravel section near Virginia, largely because of a dust problem along that roadway affecting nearby Virginia.