Road projects ongoing as Alpena County awaits funding

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Employees from the Alpena County Road Commission work to install a new culvert on Friday.

ALPENA — Money for roads from the state government and funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have been slow to arrive in Alpena County.

The red tape connected to the funding also provides challenges for local road commissions and often delays projects, Ryan Brege, managing director of the Alpena County Road Commission, said.

A portion of the money the county Road Commission does receive and the work performed is often determined by the state’s Rural Task Force Nine, of which Alpena County is a part, along with Alcona, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Otsego counties.

Brege said each county submits project plans to the task force for a five-year period and money is sent to the task force and then distributed to counties that have projects approved.

The money requires matching funds from the local road commission, so there are times when money goes unused because a county can’t commit to the match and another county can take advantage of that to get a project of their own done.

Brege said there are two pots of money the Road Commission usually utilizes. He said Michigan Transportation Funds are used for winter maintenance like plowing, salting, and grading gravel roads. He said the other source of money comes from the Surface Transportation Program, which is sent to the task force. That money is from the federal government but distributed by the state.

“The task force has a running list of projects that we spend that money on,” he said. “There has gotten to be a lot of strings attached to that money, and, now, it takes a really hard time to get a project through.”

Brege said the Legislature has compromised with local governments, and, now, a large portion of the money can be released and counties can do whatever they want with it without the state looking over its shoulder as much.

“Basically, they give us 90 cents on the dollar, but we don’t have to go through any of the red tape,” he said. “We bid the project ourselves and choose what we want to do with the money. It is going to be a much easier system.”

Brege said the state’s bridge program is underfunded and there are a lot of bridges in the state that need repairs and not enough money to throw at the problem. He said Alpena County has been successful at getting money to repair bridges and, in 2025, the bridge on Long Rapids Road, which goes over the north branch of the Thunder Bay River, will be rehabilitated. The county is slated to receive $1.8 million for that project.

“It is rated structurally deficient and we began applying for funding for that,” he said. “That is a pretty major thoroughfare.”

Brege said money from the infrastructure bill in Washington was crafted to help large cities from its inception.

“Really, nothing in those grants, in the act, that they tout, is applicable to rural regions,” he said. “There are a lot of grant programs in it, but, really, it’s geared toward urban and metropolitan areas, so there is really nothing in it for us.”

Brege said the county has several large projects submitted to the task force that could be done soon. He said that, in 2024, Airport Road will be resurfaced and plans are afoot to redo Hamilton Road from U.S.-23 to French Road. Bagley Street is also slated to be resurfaced.

“We are really seeing some rapid deterioration on the north end of the street,” Brege said. “It is in pretty rough shape. Given the fact the bridge is new and the bridge approaches are new, we decided that, as important as a thoroughfare as that is, let’s resurface that bugger and not wait until four or five years from now.”

Projects in 2025 and 2026 include a resurfacing of Wolf Creek Road.

Brege said his team is doing the best it can to maintain the roads so they last longer, but there are some areas that need addressing. He said Long Lake Road needs significant work, as does Werth Road.

“We’re doing pretty well, but we definitely could stand to have more funding,” he said. “We have stuff coming up that is going to need to get done.”


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