News and analysis from The Center for Michigan • http://thecenterformichigan.net
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at http://bridgemi.com

Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/02/in-west-michigan-evidence-mounts-of-statewide-road-crisis/

Economy & competitive position/Public sector

In West Michigan, evidence mounts of statewide road crisis

A few weeks ago, Grand Rapids TV station WZZM posted a request on its Facebook page: Tell us about about the worst roads in West Michigan.

Comments poured in.

An Ottawa County resident described James Street, a road near Holland, as “horrible, has been for a long time. Not only filled with potholes but way too much traffic for only 3 lanes.”

A woman grumbled that Old Grand Haven Road in Muskegon is “horrible and I have to take it every day to work.”

Then there was Sullivan Road in a rural area east of Muskegon.

“OMG,” wrote one of many to complain about this road. “I just went down Sullivan Road and the Township should be ashamed for how bad that road is … I am not proud to tell anyone I live here.”

CLICK TO ENLARGE

“Avoid this road at all costs, but we have family that lives on this road and it is not safe on my car,” wrote another.

And a third: “Sullivan Rd is by far one of the worst roads I have ever traveled on it is unsafe for any vehicle!!! (unless you drive a tank).”

A few days after the comments rolled in, a road crew was dispatched to fill potholes on Sullivan. But this fix was temporary; the circumstances reflect, in microcosm, what confronts statewide policy leaders and motorists all around Michigan.

The need can be especially acute in rural townships that lack funds to fix even the worst of the worst, where the solution sometimes is to grind up the road and call the resulting gravel surface good. Thirty-eight counties in Michigan pulverized 100 miles of roads in 2009 because they didn’t have money to maintain them, according to the County Road Association of Michigan.

Muskegon County Road Commission maintenance superintendent Laurie Peterson concedes that Sullivan Road is “bad. But it’s not the worst road in the county. We have some roads we can’t patch anymore.”

On a road-condition scale used across the state, Sullivan Road rates a 2 or 3, Peterson said. A 2 is “failed” and a 3 is “poor to fair and in need of structural renewal,” she said.

A 1 is “totally failed.”

That would be Brickyard Road northeast of Muskegon in rural Holton Township. It is a sketchy maze of potholes, fissures and crumbling shoulder.

“We patch it and it just gets kicked out. We just can’t patch it anymore. We do the best we can,” Peterson said.

But Township Treasurer Bill Halbower said there are worse than Brickyard.

A few years back, a two-mile asphalt stretch of adjacent Brunswick Road got so bad it couldn’t be fixed. The township didn’t have the $300,000 needed to fund a new surface. Three times, voters turned down a millage to improve township roads.

“They just tore it out,” Halbower said. “Ground it up and put it back on the road.”

Township resident Donna Frey lives at the intersection of the two. She considers Brickyard a virtual gem next to Brunswick.

Told of the rating system, Frey gives Brunswick Road a “minus 1. Honestly, we don’t classify it as a road. We call it a dirt trail. There’s no gravel. It’s just mud and potholes.”

Ted Roelofs worked for the Grand Rapids Press for 30 years, where he covered everything from politics to social services to military affairs. He has earned numerous awards, including for work in Albania during the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis.

3 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Lance Weyeneth

    I’ve seen the results of a former asphalt -blacktop road that was “pulverized”… It was an improvement!! The road required periodic grading due to an ongoing “wash-board” effect, but it was superior to the potholes and busted black-top resulting from winter, freezing, plowing and the use of salt to clear the roadway.

    I’m not suggesting that this would be the “cure” or solution in our urban centers but it certainly was an attractive alternative in the rural area of Crawford County near Grayling.

  2. dale westrick

    Our township has a different problem as of 8-2009 we had general fund reserves of $3 million or 170% of expenditures. Even thought we had gravel roads that should be upgraded the capital improvement plan includes a new township hall but not road upgrades. Watertown Township Clinton County.

  3. Anna LE

    I regularly drive through Muskegon Heights’ neighbourhoods on the way to the south side of the metro and some of those roads are just horrible- we dodged a pothole on one that would have damaged the actual wheel of the car had we hit it at the posted speed. It’s insane. Grinding up those roads would be a vast improvement to what they are like now.

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

In northern counties, workers and business find each other lacking

Hidden poverty stalks a Pure Michigan setting

Postcard: How a git-’er-done spirit helps one rural school district

Postcard: When elk is for dinner

Postcard: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy

Postcard: A roof and a bed

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.