Harsh winter took its toll on city streets, repair crews out now

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The damage done to roads in Alpena this winter is becoming apparent as snow and ice slowly melt, as is seen in this recent photo of 11th Avenue. Large cracks and potholes are scattered around the city, but crews are already working to patch them.

ALPENA — Winter has taken a toll on local streets in Alpena and although crews have begun doing some minor repairs, it will likely be some time before all the potholes and cracks are fixed.

A mixed bag of winter weather this year that featured arctic temperatures, snow, freezing rain and brief thaws has led to moisture building up in small cracks in the road, expanding as it turns to ice, and causing road seams to upheave.

For drivers, the number and size of potholes has become a test of agility as they try to avoid damage to their cars or trucks.

Alpena City Engineer Rich Sullenger said this year has been more severe than past years, in terms of the damage done to the street system in Alpena. He said there are some roads on which large chunks of pavement were ripped up, but crews will work hard to correct the issues in the coming weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of potholes out there,” Sullenger said. “Our city crews have been out patching, as they are able to, but, right now, there are times we just can’t do it. I know the citizens don’t like hitting them — we don’t like them hitting them — and it would be nice if we didn’t have any, but it is just a fact of living in northern Michigan.”

Water main breaks have also required city crews to dig up some roads this season and temporarily cover them. Sullenger said more extensive repairs will be done to those places when the weather warms and asphalt becomes available.

As warmer temperatures become more common in the coming weeks, Sullenger said the threat of minor flooding on streets is possible. He said the the city’s Department of Public Works has worked to clear some of the storm drains that are covered with debris or iced over, but Sullenger said there are probably many that crews haven’t been able to clean, yet.

“We have 70-plus miles of streets, four catch basins at intersections and more mid-block, so there are a lot to clear,” he said. “We just aren’t able to be at every one on of them. Our crews check the ones where we know we have had issues in the past and we do what we can.”

Sullenger said residents can check and clear snow and ice from the catch basins when they shovel or snowblow and that can save the headache of flooding, too.

Sullenger said some of the newer road work that was done over the last few years seemed to handle winter’s abuse well. He said Grant Street and Miller Street held up well, so far.

As far as road projects in the city this year, Sullenger said money allocated for some of them may have to be shifted around to cover the cost of snow removal. That makes the list of projects shorter, he said.

“I may have to use some of that money from projects to cover snow plowing activities, because we are probably going to get more snow,” he said. “It has been a heavy snowfall year, so, in the end, there might be less money available for resurfacing projects.”

Sullenger said people can report large potholes to city hall by emailing him at richs@alpena.mi.us.

Meanwhile, several communities in Northeast Michigan have implementd spring weight restriction on roads. In Presque Isle County the restriction applies to all county roads except all-season roads, while seasonal road restriction in Alcona County begin Thursday.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.