Dust situation in north Nevada has one couple asking for pavement

Marlys Barker, Nevada Journal Editor
This photo shows the 11th Street gravel as it comes into Nevada from the north and runs along the back yards of this neighborhood at the north edge of Nevada. Ashly Lyon has asked the council to consider paving the road to help with dust issues in the neighborhood. She also is worried about the speed that people are traveling on this stretch of road, which is clearly marked 25 mph at the start of the city limits.

Ashly Lyon, who lives with her husband Steve at 2259 10th Street Place — the last house at the north end of the street on the east side — remembers that she and her husband were young and excited about buying their first home 12 years ago.

“Both of us, growing up in the city, didn’t know much about gravel roads (and the problems they could create),” she admits. She has learned over the past 12 years that buying a home at the very edge of the city limits, where a gravel road sits right next to her backyard, was not the best choice when it comes to health or enjoyment of property.

“The travel along 11th Street (at the time when they first moved in),” Ashly said, “was minimal and didn’t seem to be an issue.”

But as traffic has increased, which city officials agree that it has, Ashly and her husband have faced growing problems. This is why, after hearing that the city might be considering putting an east-west street to the north of her house, which is one of two streets that dead-ends at the north side of town there, she came before the council to see if the city might also consider paving the gravel road (11th Street) up to the end of that neighborhood.

“Our assumption (12 years ago),” she said, “was that that road would eventually be paved as this neighborhood grew.”

Ashly brought her concerns and hopes for paving to the City Council during the public forum time of the council’s regular meeting last week.

“Most of my neighborhood hangs out in front driveways and in the street, because dust blows in as a powder that covers (everything),” she told the council.

“Our primary concern is the dust coming off of 11th Street,” Ashley explained. But she is also concerned about the speed that vehicles are traveling along that county road as they come into city limits. “The speed plays a role because the faster the vehicles drive, the more dust is kicked up, especially by the large semis and large trucks that drive down that road. The dust envelops the entire neighborhood. In the summer months, the wind is out of the east a lot of the time and that just blows the dust across all the homes in the area,” she said.

Another resident in that area offered that the newspaper could come take a picture of the family minivan, which even though it doesn’t travel on gravel usually, is always covered by powdery dust from what is blowing in off that gravel road or being kicked up by the vehicles traveling on it.

Janet Jacques, who lives at 2212 10th St., commented, “The dust is terrible at times. It makes it difficult to go outside because I have asthma. I have yard work I can’t do.”

Lyon said she and her husband are convinced that the dust situation from that road has started to affect their health. “Neither of us have diagnosed allergies,” she said, but in the last few years, “come spring/summer/fall, we started to notice symptoms of respiratory-type illness — scratchy throat and eyes, asthma-like symptoms, runny nose and coughing. After being away from the home, these symptoms would clear up.” Ashly said her mother, who has COPD and other breathing concerns, can no longer come over to visit them.

“We have put a lot of work and effort into our backyard, but we can’t enjoy it because of the blanket of dust that comes into (it). We have to leave the entire north and east side of the house closed at all times to keep that dust powder out of the home,” Ashley said.

Karen Edgington, who lives at 2211 10th St. Place, said the dust doesn’t bother her, her husband or her children, and all of them suffer from seasonal allergies. “Knowing this is a farm area, we live with it. We have lived in Iowa our entire lives, being around a farming community. It is expected,” she said. Another resident, who didn’t wish to be quoted in the story, agreed with Edgington, saying the dust is to be expected.

Edgington said she does, however, share the concern about the speed that vehicles are traveling along 11th Street. “All hours, cars and trucks are racing up and down that gravel road.”

In answer to the concerns about speeding, the city has placed its police speed trailer along that stretch of road recently, where Ashly guesses that some cars are going at least 50, double the speed limit along the stretch that is still within city limits. She appreciates that the city has done this.

She also appreciated that city officials listened to her concerns when presented. But she is less than happy with the answer she got from the city — that it would be at least 10 years out before paving or a blacktop could happen along 11th Street.

“I found that completely unacceptable. I understand things have to be put into the budget, but you can’t put a price on the health of our community,” Ashley said.

The city’s consulting engineer, Larry Stevens of HR Green, said he did, earlier this year, prepare a concept for paving W Avenue and 11th with PCC and installing water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer. “However, I did not have good information to make a final determination on the feasibility of an urban cross-section (with curb and gutter and storm sewer),” he said, noting that those things appear to not be feasible in that area. His analysis now, of the area, he said, would be a rural cross-section with no curb and with ditches. However, he said any improvements in that area are not included at this time in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines projects that are coming in future years.

Stevens indicated at the council meeting that a 3-inch asphalt overlay, similar to what is done on some low-volume local streets, might be an answer. For the distance needing to be done along 11th Street in that neighborhood, that would be a $75,000 expense, he estimated, and there’s a problem. Due to the reported high amount of traffic along that road, which includes heavy farm equipment and trucks, a 3-inch asphalt surface “may not be appropriate for such loading. A thicker asphalt pavement or concrete pavement should be considered,” he said. Stevens presented at the council meeting that the cost of a hard surface pavement runs around $100,000 per city block, and that’s just the surface cost. The span of 11th Street that is being discussed, he said, is the equivalent of about two-and-a-half city blocks.

Public Works Director Mike Neal said that the 11th Street area is one of the gravel roads that the city maintains once a year, usually in mid to late June. The maintenance, he said, includes the street department crew using a motor grader to smooth and reshape the surface of the road, and then adding new rock if needed. Once that work is completed, a company the city contracts with applies calcium chloride to the road’s surface to control dust. This is done to a few gravel road areas, mostly in the north part of town, near city residences.

The length of the treatment, Neal said, is variable. “Heavy rains can cause the chemical to migrate away from the surface. Also frequent and heavy traffic, like truck-trailers and ag equipment, will shorten the life of the treatment. In addition, if the road surface is disturbed due to the need for re-grading or rock, because of potholes or wash boarding, the treatment is no longer effective,” he said.

Neal said at the council meeting that the city spends about $2,000 to $2,500 on all of its dust control once a year, and that maybe the city could consider doing this problem area along 11th Street more than once a year.

Lyon will continue to hold onto the hope that something can be done to improve the situation, sooner, not later. “Doing simple research on the Internet, we found another family in rural Iowa that had the same symptoms we had, and it ended up being attributed to the dust, dirt and microbial agents from living by the gravel roads in a rural area. The difference is, they live in rural Iowa and we live in the city and are dealing with the same issues.”