Keeping on top of road maintenance

Alex Doty • Feb 1, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Ottawa County’s voter-approved road millage is said to provide millions of dollars for road projects in townships throughout the county over the next 10 years.

But local officials say there is plenty of work to be done above and beyond what the 10-year millage — and gas tax and registration fee revenue — can fund.

“Street and road maintenance is an ongoing, complicated and expensive issue for all communities,” Grand Haven Township Manager Bill Cargo said. 

While Michigan law states that road commissions are to maintain all public roads outside of incorporated cities and villages, a township board can appropriate general fund money for maintenance and improvements to a county road within a township. 

State law also allows a township board to make improvements to a county road through special assessments against benefited property owners, and townships can also implement a millage for road improvements with a vote of the electors.

Grand Haven Township

According to Cargo, the township has about 107 miles of roadways — 23 miles of primary roads, 24 miles of paved local roads, 19 miles of gravel local roads and 41 miles of subdivision roads. The township itself is financially responsible for maintenance of subdivision roads.

The township’s roads are rated on a 10-point Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) scale, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

“About 2.2 miles of the subdivision roads have a PASER rating of 4 (fair), but need a structural overlay of bituminous asphalt,” Cargo said. “The goal will be to resurface these roads during 2017 at a cost of about $472,000.”

The good news, officials say, is that none of the township’s subdivision roads have a PASER road rating of 1, 2 or 3.

“The problem is that there are about 10.9 miles of subdivision roads that have a PASER rating of 5,” Cargo said. “Although these streets do not immediately need a structural overlay of bituminous asphalt, this large ‘bubble’ of roads will need significant maintenance in the next couple of years.”

The estimated cost of performing this maintenance work? About $3 million, Grand Haven Township officials say.

Since 1990, the Ottawa County Road Commission has resurfaced 53.04 miles of paved streets and regraveled 18 miles of gravel roads.

The township has paved or resurfaced 50.53 miles of streets and regraveled 14.5 miles of roads. In 2011, crack sealing was added to the range of maintenance activities, with 49.27 miles of roadways crack sealed, which was funded mostly by the township.

Spring Lake Township

Officials in Spring Lake Township say that like other communities, they are working to deal with street maintenance.

“It’s a challenge,” Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said. “Our roads are maintained by the Ottawa County Road Commission, so they’re really the responsible agency.”

According to Gallagher, the Road Commission’s focus is on the primary road system, which is where the county’s road millage money is allocated.

“Over the next eight years, there are two roads that will be paid for with this millage,” Gallagher said of the Spring Lake Township road network.

Like Grand Haven Township, Gallagher said Spring Lake Township is doing its part to take care of the subdivision roads.

“What we focus on with subdivision streets is a top coat to seal the roads and keep the water out,” he explained. “What we’ve found is that it keeps our subdivision roads from getting worse.”

Gallagher said that the township tries to do each neighborhood street on an eight-year rotating basis. Funding for this preventative overlay comes out of the township’s general operating millage since the township doesn’t have a roads maintenance millage, Gallagher said.

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