City amends budget for street repairs

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 24, 2013

 This stretch of Fortner Drive in Sterling Heights is riddled with cracks and damage. The city plans to repair part of the street, as well as sections of three others.

This stretch of Fortner Drive in Sterling Heights is riddled with cracks and damage. The city plans to repair part of the street, as well as sections of three others.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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Sterling Heights is on the path to fixing a few of its crummiest streets this year, after the Sterling Heights City Council agreed to amend the city budget.

At an April 15 meeting, the City Council voted 6-0 to conduct an estimated $1.15 million in asphalt resurfacing work on sections of four streets as part of the 2013-14 proposed budget. Councilman Paul Smith was absent at the time of the vote.

Councilwoman Maria Schmidt said she was “totally in favor” of considering the proposal. “It’s a stopgap, one-time deal that we’re able to do this,” she said.

In order to fund the repairs, the city may use about $396,000 of major road fund reserves to fix Amsterdam Drive from 15 Mile to the south.

It will also spend $400,000 in local fund reserves, and redirect $100,000 from a joint sealing fund and $256,000 for miscellaneous concrete sectional repairs to pay for the following repairs: Wheaton Drive from Fortner to Goldberg, Fortner Drive from Diehl to Waiteley, and Gainsley Drive from Delvin to Wheaton, as well as from Clinton River Road to the north. Officials did not specify the northern boundary of the latter Gainsley segment, though they listed the segment’s length at 1,050 linear feet.

The council learned about the asphalt repair plan, which will affect an estimated 1.6 miles of surface, at its April 9 meeting.

Department of Public Works Director Sal Conigliaro said road conditions are “near and dear” to residents. While he said the city has almost $3.3 million in road investments scheduled this season, thanks to federal matching grants, it’s getting harder to find sufficient funds to complete all identified needs.

He explained that Michigan road funding has fallen short, as crumbling thoroughfares have outpaced revenue from vehicle registration fees and gas taxes. Changing demographics and better vehicle fuel efficiency have contributed to that problem, he said.

“In summary, this is not just a Sterling Heights problem,” he said. “Communities across the state are struggling with the same issues.”

According to Conigliaro, the city rates street quality on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. He said that roads rated in the lower end of the “fair” category will become “poor” over time, and “band-aid fixes” like pothole patching are futile in stopping long-term damage.

For instance, charts show that, in 2012, 7 percent of city roads were deemed “good,” 82 percent were called “fair” and 11 percent were “poor.” By 2018, the city expects 5 percent to be “good,” 31 percent to be “poor” and 64 percent to be “fair.”

“Without adequate funding, overall pavement conditions will deteriorate at an accelerated rate,” Conigliaro said.

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