City navigates through road repair plans

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 23, 2018

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — As residents have no doubt noticed during recent thaws following frigid periods this winter, the roads are in rough shape. And while work to fix them isn’t slated to start for months, Grosse Pointe City officials are already gearing up for another year of road repairs.

As part of the City’s five-year road improvement program, the community will be using money from its voter-approved 15-year, 2.5-mill road levy to make some needed improvements.

Roads slated for work this summer include Notre Dame Street from Kercheval Avenue to Waterloo Street, Charlevoix Street from Neff to Fisher roads, Neff Road from Maumee Avenue to St. Paul Street and Lakeland Street from Charlevoix, going 110 feet north.

The first fiscal year of the road millage was 2015-16. For the 2018-19 fiscal year — which begins July 1 — the millage is expected to generate $867,781, City Manager Pete Dame said. The cost of this year’s planned roadwork is $1,140,401, he said. Dame said the City will be able to use up to $285,000 in state fuel taxes to the road program this year, because Notre Dame and Charlevoix are classified as major roads by state officials and therefore are eligible for state funds. Dame noted that the availability of the state funds means that the City has been able to add to this year’s road project list, moving the Neff work up by a year.

City Engineer Stephen Pangori, of Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick Inc., updated officials on the condition of the community’s roads during a Jan. 8 City Council meeting. The City has 1.745 miles of minor arterial streets — Kercheval Avenue and Cadieux Road — plus 1.838 miles in major collector streets — Waterloo Street and St. Clair Road — and these types of streets are eligible for federal aid, according to an AEW report. But the majority of roads in the City are classified as local streets, and these account for 14.84 miles, the report states.

Streets are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10 using the PASER rating system, with good equaling a rating of 8 to 10, fair receiving a rating of 5 to 7, and poor encompassing a rating of 1 to 4. The City’s local streets had an average PASER rating of 5.96 in 2017 — a slight improvement from the average of 5.8 in 2016.

The latest road condition survey shows that the total miles of streets rated good increased from 22.09 percent in 2016 to 24.8 percent in 2017. Streets rated fair decreased slightly, from 48.63 percent in 2016 to 46.9 percent in 2017. And streets in the poor category decreased from 29.22 percent in 2016 to 28.4 percent in 2017.

Over the last three years, Pangori said, the City has seen an increase in the percentage of miles in the good category.

“We are making some progress over the past three years,” he said.

City Councilman John Stempfle asked about Goethe Avenue, which is slated for work between University Place and Washington Road in the 2020-21 fiscal year. As of 2017, it had a rating of 2, which puts it in the “very poor” category. Streets rated 1 — the lowest rating — are classified as “failed.”

“I think Goethe between Washington and University is the worst, followed by Rivard,” Stempfle said.

He asked if Goethe could be moved up the list because it’s in such bad condition.

“Unfortunately, it’s a big cost,” said Pangori, noting that roads that have gotten to the point Goethe is in are much more expensive to fix. The section of Goethe slated for work in 2020-21 is estimated now to cost more than $415,000, which would be almost half of the total roadwork budget for that fiscal year.

Because Goethe has deteriorated so much, Pangori said it’s likely to stay at that level for the next few years, while some of the roads in somewhat better shape could end up in a lower quality category if they aren’t addressed sooner. The City has adopted the state’s policy of trying to fix roads that haven’t yet fallen into such disrepair first, because they’re cheaper to repair at that point.

“It’s better to save what you’ve got,” City Councilman Donald Parthum Jr. said.

Dame said a portion of work left over from 2017 on Kercheval Place will be done this spring. That project was delayed last year because of utility work, he said.

On Jan. 8, the council voted unanimously in favor of the proposed 2018 road improvement plan.

As for Rivard Boulevard — whose condition as of 2017 ranged from 3 to 4, putting it in the “poor” category — it has actually been scheduled for repair at a later time. The latest road plan calls for it to be fixed between Jefferson and Maumee avenues, and between Kercheval Avenue and Waterloo Street, in the 2021-22 fiscal year; those sections of Rivard had previously been slated for work in 2020-21.

Pangori said roads will continue to move up and down the schedule each year, depending on their condition and available funding. For example, since there are only limited funds each year, the City might move up one of the less expensive street projects and move another street to the following year based solely on the amount of money available.

Pangori said the City has been rating its streets annually based on their condition from an engineering standpoint since December 2006. The most recent evaluation was conducted in November 2017, he said.