2018-02-11 / Front Page

Report: County’s roads bad, worsening

810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

A bridge over the Belle River on Capac Road was replaced last year as a part of ongoing infrastructure upgrades around the county. 
Photo by Phil Foley A bridge over the Belle River on Capac Road was replaced last year as a part of ongoing infrastructure upgrades around the county. Photo by Phil Foley MAYFIELD TWP. — Lapeer County roads are bad and getting worse, according to a new report rating almost 1,000 miles of roadway within its boundaries.

The 2017 Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating System (PASER) Survey of Lapeer County indicates about 627 miles of roads are rated “poor” — the lowest rating possible in the report.

That 627 miles represents about 65 percent of about 962 miles of roads eligible for federal funding.

It also represents a 20-percent increase compared with the same study conducted in 2013, meaning Lapeer County roads are deteriorating fast.

“The decline in PASER ratings between 2013 and 2016 occurred on roads under most jurisdictions, including MDOT, the Lapeer County Road Commission, and roads maintained by cities and villages,” the report states. “This was most likely due to a combination of particularly harsh winters in 2014 and 2015, and a lack of available funding to address the needs of the road system.”

The report continued:

“As less funding is available to make structural improvements, we have seen a shift toward treatments that focus on road preservation, rather than reconstruction,” it states.

Preparation of the report was led by the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission per the GLS Region V Planning & Development Commission (consisting of Genesee, Lapeer, and Shiawassee counties).

Gary Roy, chairman of the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners, and a board member of GLS Region V, said road conditions remain a problem.

“I watch the roads continue to deteriorate,” he said.

The Lapeer County Road Commission is a “component unit of (Lapeer County) and is used to control the expenditure of revenues from the State of Michigan distribution of gas and weight taxes, federal financial assistance, reimbursements from the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) for work performed by the county of state trunklines and contributions from other local units of government (townships) for work performed by the road commission workforce. The general fund is the operating fund of the road commission.”

The Lapeer County Road Commission operates under a three-member board, which establishes policies and reviews operations.

The structure means county officials like Roy don’t have any involvement in operations.

“As a county commissioner, you wish you could do more,” he told The County Press.

Produced in January, the PASER report is based on information gathered July 31-Aug. 2, 2017 by representatives of GLS Region V along with the Lapeer County Road Commission and MDOT.

The group collectively assessed the condition of Lapeer County federal aid eligible roads using PASER guidelines.

The Lapeer County Federal Aid network is comprised of approximately 961.52 lane miles. (There are a total of 1,602 road miles in the county.)

Federal aid eligible roads include those classified as interstates, other freeways, other principal arterials, minor arterials, major collectors, and urban minor collectors. Rural minor collectors are only eligible for limited federal funding, and are not included in the PASER survey.

Of the total, 602.94 (63 percent) of lane miles are within townships, which are under the jurisdiction of the LCRC, 63.32 lane miles (6 percent) are located within cities and villages, and about 295.26 lane miles (31 percent) of roadway are state trunklines, which are maintained by MDOT.

PASER was developed by the University of Wisconsin- Madison Transportation Information Center, and originally used as the state of Wisconsin’s standard road rating system.

The so-called “windshield road rating system” uses a 1 to 10 rating scale, with a 10 representing a new road and a “one” indicative of a failed road.

To earn a rating of 8-10, a road must be subject to routine maintenance on a day-to-day basis with activities scheduled, such as street sweeping, drainage clearing, gravel shoulder grading and sealing cracks to prevent standing water and water penetration.

Roads rated 5-7, or “fair,” require “capital preventive maintenance,” or a planned set of cost effective treatments that protect pavement structure, slow the rate of pavement deterioration, and/ or correct pavement surface deficiencies.

Those rated 1-4, or “poor,” require structural improvements to address the structural integrity of a road, such as full-depth repairs, or major overlay or reconstruction.

According to the report, “Condition ratings are assigned by monitoring the type and amount of visual defects along a road segment while driving the segment.”

Rick Pearson, managing director, Lapeer County Road Commission, admits that the results are disheartening.

“The truly frustrating part is trying to figure out how we’re going to get these roads fixed because we’re just falling farther and farther behind,” Pearson said.

That’s compounded by the fact the costs of getting things done keeps going up, he said.

“Although you’re getting more money, the prices are so that you really aren’t getting a whole lot more done,” Pearson said.

Still, Pearson said, Lapeer County Road Commission officials are not considering the possibility of pushing for a countywide road millage.

“That needs to come from my board,” Pearson said. (He did note that the recommendation would come from him and Destain Gingell, an engineer for the road commission.)

Voters rejected a road millage in 2014 that would have raised $17.6 million over a six-year period to repair and maintain local roads.

The primary reason for not considering it now, he said, is that officials want to get a better fix on how much money it will be receiving from the state. Among other things, Gov. Rick Snyder presented a proposed fiscal year 2019 budget Wednesday (see editorial on page 2C) that calls for $175 million in new money to repair Michigan roads.

That’s in addition to monies local road agencies started receiving in 2017 as a result of the 2015 gas tax increase.

Pearson said the Lapeer County Road Commission was able to take on several projects in 2017 because of the extra money, including some in Imlay City and near Columbiaville.

The projects had a relatively minor impact on the rating of Lapeer County roads from 2016 to 107.

The percent of roads rated “good” increased from 15 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2017. Roads rated “poor” decreased from 68 percent to 65 percent for the same yearover year period.

Still, Pearson said, the road commission needs a lot more money than it has coming in to adequately address roads with a “poor” rating in the PASER report.

That means that if Lapeer County residents want roads fixed faster than the amount of funding coming from the state can pay for, a millage will likely have to be considered.

“That’s really our only option, absolutely,” Pearson said, adding that the road commission applies for as many grants as possible to address the road problems.

“At this point in time, however, we’re at the mercy of the budget.”

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