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County has no plans to chip seal Clay Street

Clay Street between Siskiyou Boulevard and Ashland Street in south Ashland is the worst paved street in this area. Clay Street is a Jackson County street inside city limits but neither the city or the county wants to own it. Now that Jackson County is participating in road maintenance again this summer is there any chance Clay Street will be chip sealed? If chip sealing can last 10 years, this resurfacing type would extend the usefulness of Clay Street and put off the larger decision to integrate Clay Street into the city’s list of responsibilities. The Siskiyou School at the Ashland Street end of Clay Street, as well as the residents along the whole section between Siskiyou and Ashland Street, would certainly appreciate this direly needed improvement.

— Sarah, Ashland

Jackson County Parks and Road Director John Vial says the county has no plans to chip seal Clay Street.

Chip sealing involves spreading a thin layer of asphalt and gravel over existing pavement. It’s a cost-effective way to keep roads in decent shape rather than completely redoing the road.

Unfortunately, Vial says, Clay Street is in such bad condition and has so many potholes that a chip seal would fail.

“Clay Street needs a whole bunch of repair work. Then maybe it could be chip sealed,” he says.

The bad news for people who live and travel along Clay Street is that neither the county nor the city want it.

Clay Street still belongs to the county, but it’s been swallowed up by Ashland. Under state law, cities don’t have to accept county roads as their responsibility until a county brings a road up to city standards. Cities get to set those standards, Vial says.

“We have old county roads in cities in numerous locations,” he says.

Jackson County and Ashland have had discussions about Clay Street, but Ashland doesn’t want the street in its current condition, Vial says.

With limited maintenance dollars and 965 miles of county roads to maintain, the county can’t afford to bring county roads inside cities up to city street standards, Vial says.

“I could spend my whole budget fixing a small number of city streets,” he says.

The county’s policy is to do minimal maintenance on its roads inside cities — only enough to keep those roads safe, Vial said.

“We understand the frustration that residents on the street have. They’re caught in a debate between city and county policies,” he says.

Vial said the county will try to seek grants to help pay for Clay Street improvements.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.