Workers keep busy along  Schoenherr Road Nov. 3.

Workers keep busy along Schoenherr Road Nov. 3.

Photo by Deb Jacques


City manager: Sterling ‘winding down’ road season

Labor shortages, wet weather slow Schoenherr progress

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 10, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Orange barrels will soon be taking a winter break in Sterling Heights, according to city officials.

During an Oct. 19 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool said the city is “winding down” a long 2021 road construction season.

In terms of repairing the streets, he said, the city conducted repair work at around 30 different areas in the city, such as Ajanta Court, Independence Drive and Elmcrest Drive. According to the city, that amounted to around “4.7 miles of full-width improvement.”

Vanderpool said neighborhood appearances often get better after road improvements.

“I like to always highlight these local road projects because you can see how the neighborhoods are vastly improved,” he said. “And what’s most noteworthy here is we often get a lot of residents who take advantage of replacing their drive approaches or do something to improve their property once the road project goes through.”

In terms of major roads, Vanderpool said, a resurfacing project on 19 Mile Road between Dequindre and Ryan roads smoothly wrapped up a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. He added that “those of you who live up there would agree it’s a big improvement.”

“In fact, all of our city projects are on schedule or ahead of schedule. Let me emphasize: city projects,” he said.

In terms of projects not run by the city, the over $200 million Innovate Mound project to reconstruct Mound Road began in Sterling Heights in August. Although Vanderpool said construction will continue “for at least two years” — until the spring or summer of 2024 — the final product will be one of the Midwest’s “most state-of-the-art roadways.”

“It’s going to be something that everyone in Sterling Heights can be very proud of, and certainly it’s going to improve the experience for not only driving down the roadway, but the aesthetic appearance of that corridor, as well.”

Vanderpool also compared Mound’s ongoing construction to completed road projects at M-59 and Van Dyke over the past several years.

“These are all major corridors now through Sterling Heights that have been vastly improved,” he said.

However, Vanderpool sympathized with people who have been frustrated over the slower-than-expected progress involving Schoenherr Road. But he said the project is nearing an end — he predicted in November — with a final paving, followed by some concrete bridge approach work that needs to be done.

“It is going to be completed this year. It will be done, but it has been painstakingly slow,” he said. “The major challenge with Schoenherr has been the bridges. There have been four major bridge reconstructions on that section of roadway. It’s a $6 million project. It’s been a very complicated project.

“Throw in there a very wet construction season, also labor shortages and so on, and thus we’re well over a month and a half behind on Schoenherr. When I say ‘we,’ it is a county road project.”

Vanderpool said the cost of this road construction season, not including Mound, is around $16 million, and he said another big construction year is planned for next year.

“Thankfully, we don’t have any projects like Schoenherr queued up, so they should go much smoother,” he said. “So, all in all, your driving around the city will improve greatly over the next couple of weeks.”

Mayor Michael Taylor also expressed his empathy with those who are frustrated by county road construction and feel like their complaints fall on deaf ears.

“When I’m sitting on Hayes Road, and Hayes is backed up from Utica to north of Clinton River Road, darn near backed up past 17 Mile, and I sit in that because I can’t go south on Schoenherr, I can’t get to City Hall without going a mile and a half out of my way,” he said.

But Taylor said the council is made up of public servants who are accessible and responsive to residents’ concerns.

“If you can find people out there that are in elected office that are more accessible than my colleagues and me ... point them out to us, and we’ll emulate them,” he said. “Because we go above and beyond to listen to every complaint, every concern, every compliment, any issue, and work our butts off to make sure that they’re addressed.”

In a Nov. 4 email, Sterling Heights City Engineer Brent Bashaw said this year’s $16 million of roads spending is happening while the city is in the last two years of a decade-long plan that invests $450 million into roadway improvements.

Bashaw said this year’s repairs will positively affect major and local road conditions, and also improve Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scores that judge road quality.

“As a result of these investments, we expect the amount of roads rated in good condition to triple from the number (of) roads rated in good condition at the onset of the voter-approved Safe Streets initiative started in 2013,” he said.

Learn more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

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