A vehicle kicks up a spray of water as it hits potholes on the Interstate 75 service drive north of 11 Mile Road.

A vehicle kicks up a spray of water as it hits potholes on the Interstate 75 service drive north of 11 Mile Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques

City officials explain approach to potholes in Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 26, 2018

 The service drive of Interstate 696 shows crumbling conditions.

The service drive of Interstate 696 shows crumbling conditions.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MADISON HEIGHTS — The freeze-thaw cycle is taking its toll on roads, with potholes popping up in every community. Madison Heights is no exception — although addressing the potholes there can be tricky due to the multiple jurisdictions involved. 

“Madison Heights is in a unique situation where we sit on the border of two counties, as well as an MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) right of way,” said Sean Ballantine, Madison Heights public services analyst and planner. “As such, not all roads in or around the city are under our jurisdiction.”

He explained that the Road Commission for Oakland County maintains 10 Mile, 12 Mile and 14 Mile roads, as well as John R Road north of Dartmouth Street. The Macomb County Department of Roads maintains Dequindre Road from 10 Mile to 14 Mile roads. MDOT maintains the Interstate 696 service drive from Dequindre Road to Couzens Avenue. And the city of Royal Oak is responsible for the Interstate 75 service drive from Lincoln Street north to 12 Mile Road. 

“Just because a road is in or bordering the city doesn’t necessarily mean that we maintain it,” Ballantine said. “The roads under Madison Heights’ jurisdiction are maintained in-house by the Department of Public Services with materials purchased from local suppliers.” 

For the roads under its control, and new roads in particular, the city has been trying to reduce the impact of salt on concrete and concrete joints. The city only applies sand to new streets for snow and ice control for five years after they’ve been built, which reduces the corrosive effects of salt. 

“We also use hand-tooled joints wherever possible to reduce saw-cut joints, which are more susceptible to deterioration,” said Jim Schafer, Madison Heights community development director. “We also do far more sectional concrete repairs, where sections of deteriorated concrete road are removed and replaced without reconstructing the entire road.”

The result, Schafer said, is that larger areas of the road network are maintained at less expense than full-scale reconstruction. 

Of course, potholes still occur all around the city. Madison Heights has a two-year warranty on all new roadwork. It’s not a reimbursement, but the contractor is responsible for repairs if inspectors note deficiencies in the two years following construction. This is done at no cost to the city. 

Madison Heights also uses a contractor each year to perform a “spray patch” tar-and-chip fill on significantly deteriorated stretches of road — an approach that has greatly extended the life span of the roads, Ballantine said. He said that, ideally, damaged roads would be fully replaced, but the reality is that there’s just not enough funding to do that. 

He also said that this year’s freeze-thaw cycle has “been about normal” compared to the unseasonably mild winters of 2017 and 2016. 

“Due to the continued investment in our road network, Madison Heights really does not have any specific stretches of road which are in particularly poor shape,” Ballantine said. “But as the saying goes, at this time of the year, if we’re not plowing snow, we’re filling potholes.” 

The most severe potholes are addressed right away, he said. The city also informs neighboring jurisdictions of current conditions on the roads it maintains. During the winter, a cold-mix asphalt is placed in the holes and smoothed, and then compacted by the normal flow of traffic. In the summer, a hot-mix asphalt is used instead. 

The city also has a program in which motorists can snap photographs of potholes on the roads and post them to the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages, at which point the DPS resolves to fill the potholes within a short period of time. 

“People generally prefer to call the DPS main office” — (248) 589-2294 — “to let us know of a stretch of road or area which needs attention,” Ballantine said. “While our eyes and ears can’t be everywhere, we make every effort to be proactive.”