Stettler county council debates ‘washboard’ signs and their value

·3 min read

Stettler county council discussed the benefits of signs advising motorists to slow down to prevent damage to gravel roads. The issue was discussed at the Aug. 10 regular meeting of council.

Coun. Ernie Gendre asked that council discuss “washboarding” signs that had recently been placed in certain areas by the county’s Public Works department.

Readers unfamiliar with gravel roads may not know that certain factors such as lack of moisture and excessive speed can cause a series of rippling bumps to grow on gravel or dirt roads, called “washboards,” because they appear similar to antique appliances used for washing clothes.

Gendre stated about a week ago he observed a sign placed at the bottom of a hill that stated, “Washboard You! have control Slow down light acceleration and deceleration.”

Gendre stated that was the first time he’s ever seen this sign in the county, observing it has Stettler County’s logo on it, and that it caught his attention very well.

“I was very impressed with it,” said Gendre, who was curious if it helps reduce washboard on county gravel roads, which would then result in less grader work and less expense to the municipality.

Reeve Larry Clarke noted that washboard is found around Stettler County and was skeptical that these signs would have any long-lasting effect on preventing or reducing washboard.

Coun. Justin Stevens agreed, noting he admired the intent behind them but questioned their effectiveness.

Coun. Dave Grover reminisced that Stettler County has posted signs before that stated “Slow down” that motorists then ran over with their vehicles.

Director of Operations Rick Green explained Stettler County’s Public Works department had been getting a lot of complaints about washboard in specific places, including the Buffalo Lake region; he decided to order a few of these signs with two different designs.

Green noted the county placed the signs as part of a trial project and waited for feedback. He stated Public Works didn’t receive much feedback about the signs although they did attract the attention of vandals.

He noted the county has more of the signs which haven’t been erected yet and they can be placed if so desired.

Green added that certain motorists may ignore road signs so those people will likely ignore these ones too, which are meant as a form of public education.

Coun. Gendre asked if the signs have an effect on reducing maintenance costs.

Coun. James Nibourg stated he felt it was impossible to answer that question.

Green responded that the signs don’t appear to reduce the amount of maintenance certain gravel roads need but based on conversations he’s had with the public the signs have educated some people in certain areas.

During discussion councillors mused that a public notice along with these signs could be placed on Stettler County’s website to educate motorists about reducing washboard on gravel roads.

Coun. Nibourg noted he felt the signs wouldn’t have a tangible effect other than a bit of public education but suggested moving the signs around to different locations to spread the word.

Nibourg added there are some motorists who, when they see a sign asking them to slow down, actually speed up because they have a poor disposition to authority.

Coun. Grover stated the signs have value but he would prefer the road be graded.

Councillors unanimously accepted the discussion as information.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review