Orange barrels approaching

Area road crews prepare for construction season

News Photo by Crystal Nelson A motorist drives on Friday on Wolf Creek Road near the intersection with Nicholson Hill Road, where the Alpena County Road Commission will be paving this summer.

ALPENA — As winter turns to spring and roads begin to thaw, county road projects are beginning to ramp up for the spring and summer.

Alpena County Road Commission Managing Director Larry Orcutt said a busy year is ahead for the road commission, with $4.2 million in primary road improvement projects and nearly $1.3 million in primary road maintenance planned this summer.

This year’s projects include the paving of Herron Road from M-32 north, the paving of Wolf Creek Road from Nicholson Hill Road to Scott Road, as well as the paving of Wolf Creek Road from Scott Road south to Hubert Road, at the Alcona County line.

Orcutt said they also plan to replace the Werth Road bridge just west of Hobbs Drive and complete the asphalt overlay of French Road from one-half mile south of Bloom Road to Lacomb Road.

Three subdivision improvement projects are also planned for this year, with work planned for Pohl Road, Elden Drive and the Burks Manor subdivision. Orcutt said those projects will be paid for by special assessment districts, where the property owners share the cost of the road improvements.

Additionally, there is a project in the works for both Lakewood Drive and Grand Lake Road. Orcutt said the road commission is working with officials from Alpena Township and hope to get the design underway and have the project completed by the end of construction season this year.

“Those will be the larger projects that entail paving,” Orcutt said. “We have several other maintenance projects in the works for this year. Every year, we budget to reapply gravel to both our primary road system and local road system, so we budgeted to re-gravel approximately six miles on our primary road system “

Orcutt said the county has been able to do more since former governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature raised the state’s gas tax by 26.4 cents per gallon and registration fees increased by 20% in 2016. He said the base Michigan Transportation Fund revenue the county receives from the state has increased by $1.5 million from what it was three years ago.

“We’re better off than we were two years ago,” Orcutt said. “We have a long ways to go before we can look at really being satisfied with our road system. I’m sure the public has different opinions than we do, but we can only do work with the funds we receive.”

MONTMORENCY COUNTY

In Montmorency County, roughly $2.5 million in road projects are expected to be completed this year, according to county Road Commission Managing Director Todd Behring, with about a dozen miles of asphalt overlay included in the planned projects.

Those projects will include four miles of Pleasant Valley Road, three miles of County Road 612 east out of Lewiston, two miles of County Road 482 south out of Lewiston, two miles of Meridian Line Road South of Vienna Corners, and one mile of County Road 491 south from M-32.

Behring said they are able to fund the projects with additional revenue coming from the gas tax and registration fee hikes from 2016, along with funds from a countywide property tax for roads.

Additionally, a couple of countywide road projects are planned, including the resealing of 15 miles of roadway and a guardrail project replacing existing guardrails, most of which are in Rust Township. The road commission also has a couple of cost-sharing projects — one with Montmorency Township and another with Briley Township — planned for this year.

PRESQUE ISLE COUNTY

In Presque Isle County, residents can expect to see work on 1.5 miles of County Road 451 from Noffze Highway north to 638 Highway and a quarter mile of Tonkey Highway from M-68 to Millersburg Road.

The county will also partner with some of the townships to help fund and complete a number of projects, including one mile of Klee Road from Quade Highway to Heythaler Highway and 0.7 miles of road in Aspen Estates in Rogers Township, 1.2 miles of roadway on Swan River Road from U.S.-23 to 638 Highway in Pulawski Township, and 0.8 miles of roadway on 638 Highway from M-33 west to the bridge.

Jerry Smigelski, superintendent and manager of the the Presque Isle County Road Commission, said a combination stagnant funding and budget cuts has taken a toll on the county’s roads over the years.

While he says some of the county’s roads — about 12 percent, or 37 miles — are rated in good condition, the majority of the county’s roads — about 61 percent, or 185 miles — are in poor condition.

Smigelski said the county has converted about three miles of roadway from paved roads back to gravel roads over the last couple of years, which he says has not been a popular decision with property owners.

He said about a quarter-mile of Hackett Lake Highway, just south of Onaway, will be converted back into a gravel road this summer, because the road is disintegrating and has met its useful life.

But increased funding from the gasoline tax and vehicle registrations has allowed the county to reinstate its sealcoat program to the point that a five-year plan has been put in place. Smigelski said the county was able to complete preventative maintenance to 20 miles of roadway last year and is planning to provide preventative sealcoat maintenance to 27 miles of county roadway this year.

While Smigelski has seen an uptick in funding in recent years, he said there are still $127.5 million in unfunded needs in the county, which include things like road resurfacing, upgrades to gravel roads, and new equipment and tools.

“I think we hit rock bottom a few years ago and we’re starting to climb back up to where we can start improving the road system better,” he said, saying the county is not quite there, yet. “It’s something that deteriorated over time and, in order to fix it, it’s got to be done over time.”

Alcona County road officials could not be reached for comment on this story.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

Area road projects

A look at Northeast Michigan projects planned for this construction season.

ALPENA COUNTY

Herron Road, from M-32 north

Wolf Creek Road, from Nicholson Hill Road to Scott Road

Wolf Creek Road, from Scott Road to Hubert Road

Werth Road Bridge replacement, just west of Hobbs Drive

French Road, from Bloom Road to Lacomb Road

MONTMORENCY COUNTY

Pleasant Valley Road

County Road 612, east out of Lewiston

County Road 482, south out of Lewiston

Meridian Line Road, south of Vienna Corners

County Road 491, south from M-32

PRESQUE ISLE COUNTY

County Road 451, from Noffze Highway north to 638 Highway

Klee Road, from Quade Highway to Heythaler Highway

Tonkey Highway Road, from M-68 to Millersburg Road

Swan River Road, from U.S.-23 to 638 Highway, from M-33 west to the bridge

Hacket Lake Highway, just south of Onaway