Sterling, county announce plan to expedite Mound fix

Road shutdown ‘not off the table’

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 22, 2018

 Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel discuss a new Mound Road fix Feb. 21.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel discuss a new Mound Road fix Feb. 21.

Photo by Deb Jacques

The path to fixing Mound Road — at least temporarily — took a shortcut, thanks to coordination from Sterling Heights officials, Macomb County and the governor, according to a Feb. 21 press conference.

Outside Srodek’s Quality Polish Food, along Mound, south of 18 Mile Road, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor joined Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel to announce a joint effort to resurface a few miles of the road in Sterling Heights.

While Mound Road reconstruction has long been on officials’ radar, recent icy and rainy weather have further eroded roads. So Sterling Heights and Macomb County worked together in recent weeks to find an expedited, emergency fix to Mound’s pothole-laden surface.

Hackel said Mound’s condition has grown so poor that officials have considered shutting it down.

“It’s not off the table,” he said at the press conference. “If it continues to get bad, we can’t keep up on it like we’re doing right now — we may have to close a lane or two or maybe even the whole road. … We don’t know for sure, but it is that bad.”

Taylor noted that the Mound Road corridor is home to automakers, the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, and tens of thousands of jobs.

“It’s time to act now,” Taylor said. “You drive down this road, you got to slow down to about 5 mph in some spots.”

Both officials said the short-term resurfacing fix is separate from the grand ambitions of the Innovate Mound project, which seeks to reconstruct Mound from Interstate 696 to M-59, and to add high-tech infrastructure, pedestrian bridges and landscaping to the thoroughfare. 

Innovate Mound is projected to cost around $217 million to enact, so city and county officials recently have been lobbying Washington and seeking grants, including one for $130 million called Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA.

In the meantime, Sterling Heights officials said this Mound Road resurfacing project will cost $10.2 million and will resurface Mound from 14 Mile to 18 Mile Road. Hackel said the repairs will span from about 14 ½ Mile Road to 18 Mile Road.

Officials say 80 percent of the bill will eventually be funded federally. Sterling Heights will pay 10 percent, and Macomb County the other 10 percent. To move without delay, the county and Sterling Heights plan to put the money up front and expect some reimbursement from the federal government later.

When the city and county agreed to fix Mound, one hindrance stood in the way. According to Hackel, the Michigan Department of Transportation put up closures because of work being done on I-696, and that would cripple the logistics of doing rapid Mound repairs. So Hackel called Gov. Rick Snyder, and Snyder agreed to make alternative arrangements. 

“The governor, without hesitation, to his credit, said, ‘I will work on it,” Hackel said. 

The Mound resurfacing project is expected to be completed before the end of this year. Hackel said the work will last around five or six years.

“This is not a complete reconstruction of the road,” Hackel said.

 

Funding criticism

Hackel and Taylor also used the press conference to blame state lawmakers for inadequate road repair funding.

Hackel said roads are rated green, yellow and red in descending quality, and over 780 of Macomb County’s 1,500 lane miles are rated red, or poor. Fixing all those would cost around $1.2 billion, he said.

But Hackel said the state has only allocated around $1.2 billion, according to its tabulations, for road funding statewide. He said lawmakers are in the process of voting for another $175 million in statewide road funding, but he called the situation “woefully inadequate” and doubted that the county would see much of the money.

“That $175 million that they’re talking about putting into this budget, by the way, means peanuts. That $175 million is about $106 million that they’re going to allocate to counties and local municipalities,” Hackel said, estimating that only $4.5 million would go to Macomb County.

Taylor also criticized lawmakers for not doing enough, and he invited them to drive down Mound to see for themselves what it’s like. He added that there are other roads besides Mound that need to be fixed in Sterling Heights, like Metropolitan Parkway, Ryan Road and Schoenherr Road. 

Taylor said he wants to have the gas tax increased further in Michigan, adding that other nearby states — like Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania — have higher taxes to keep their roads in better shape. Both Hackel and Taylor said they receive plenty of calls from the public inquiring about ways to receive compensation for the costs of pothole-related vehicle damage, but they said that no such program exists.

“The reality is, people are already paying for the bad roads — they’re paying in bent rims and flat tires and damage to their cars,” Taylor said. “So why aren’t we being more strategic about this? Why aren’t we being smarter and putting the money into actually fixing the roads?”

The action on Mound comes as state Rep. Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights, voted in favor Feb. 21 of amending House Bill 4321 to increase the $175 million in additional road funding by another $75 million. The amendment failed. 

In a statement, Yanez called the roads “broken” and referenced stories of vehicles damaged by them.

“While I’m glad to see an additional $175 million in resources to fix our roads, the people in my district know we need more than stop-gap proposals that kick the can down the road,” he said. 

“The proposal that made its way out of committee today is a start, but it isn’t a solution. I will continue to fight to ensure our counties, cities and towns have the resources they need to fix local roads as the budget process moves forward.”

For more information about Sterling Heights, visit www.sterling-heights.net. For the Macomb County Department of Roads, visit www.macombgov.org/roads. Find out more about Innovate Mound by visiting www.innovatemound.org.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.