Road use agreements have always been a way of undoing damage created by overweight loads after construction projects. In Liberty County, commissioners have found a way to improve on the way road use agreements work, and the result is that some county roads are in much better condition than they were before.
“What the county has always done is charge a road use bond to the companies who want to use the roads, like ExxonMobil. Commissioners and their staff would go out and video the roads that were to be used by construction companies in that road use agreement and then video them again afterward. At that point, commissioners would just fix the holes in the roads created by the overweight trucks,” Karbowski said.
Change happened after Hurricane Harvey, said Karbowski, when it became more evident than ever how much damage water alone was doing to the roads, and how the county commissioners might not be getting a true picture of the damage to roads from overweight vehicles, particularly the pipeline companies and contractors performing work. Pct. 1 routinely has these road use agreements in place as much of the network of pipelines through Liberty County can be found there.
“I had the County’s engineering firm, LJA, do a hydrology study to the roads in my precinct, proving that overweight vehicles were causing damage that might not be seen until years down the road,” Karbowski said. “I discussed with David Douglas (with the County’s Engineering, Permits and Inspections Department) about how we could improve the road use bonds. We decided to change the way we allow overweight vehicles to use the roads.”
According to Karbowski, he and his crews make modest improvements to Pct. 1 county roads prior to the road use agreement going into effect in order to prevent additional damage to roads and bridges, and to make them capable of withstanding the anticipated overweight truck traffic.
In 2021, Pct. 1 obtained an estimated $993,000 from ExxonMobil through road use agreements that resulted in most of it being kept for Liberty County roads.
“This year, ExxonMobil is paying Liberty County $1.246 million. They will personally hand me the check that will be taken to the auditor’s office. As soon as it is deposited, the auditor will create an internal account from which funds can be drawn from to purchase supplies and road materials for the designated roads that were damaged by the pipeline company,” Karbowski said.
Road use bond funds must be used to repair the roads or returned to the company or contractor after a project ends. Karbowski says he makes an effort to keep as much as possible of that funding for Liberty County roads, which lessens the burden on taxpayer funding for road repairs.
For several of the county roads that are anticipated to see future road use agreements, Karbowski has moved from using a limestone chip-and-seal finish to a granite chip-and-seal finish.
“It’s more expensive but fortunately this expense is not being passed on to Liberty County taxpayers,” he said.
While the cost of doing business in Liberty County is expensive for ExxonMobil, the company, in a written statement from Project Manager Jorge Villarreal, said, “It is a privilege to work with our neighbors, first responders and local officials to safely complete these projects with minimal disruption to the community. Our neighbors in Liberty County play an outsized role in supporting the country’s domestic energy industry. Ongoing investments in critical energy infrastructure like pipelines are important for maintaining our regional and national energy security.”
Commissioner partnerships benefit all
In a recent slate of road repairs in Pct. 1, Karbowski and Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur shared resources in order to keep to a short timeline for the projects.
“The way it works is that Greg and I will have jobs, and I will send trucks and manpower to help him. When I have jobs, he sends trucks and manpower to help me,” Karbowski said. “We had to rent a chip spreader for some of the recent road projects at a cost of $19,000 per month, so we had to have everything ready to go before the project started and had to move quickly once it was rented.”
Karbowski said he stockpiled 5,000 tons of granite rocks for the projects, which was hard to come by.
“We started planning for these roads a year ago. I bought the rock through the winter so it would be available,” he said.
Last year’s projects funded by the $993,000 from ExxonMobil were for portions, not the entirety, of the following county roads:
- CR 443
- CR 444
- CR 133
- CR 142
- CR 428
- CR 429
- CR 4264
- CR 118
- CR 125
- CR 1250
- CR 411
- CR 404
- CR 410
- CR 408
- CR 4041
The $1.246 million in funding pays for repairs to these roads:
- CR 101
- CR 1050
- CR 105
- CR 1051
- CR 1052
- CR 117
- CR 1170
- CR 1125