A sign in Sterling Heights alerts drivers to an upcoming road project

A sign in Sterling Heights alerts drivers to an upcoming road project

Photo by Josh Gordon

County commissioners, city manager provide road updates

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 21, 2018

Macomb County is doing the best it can to manage the situation with poor-quality roads, but it needs more funding to help remedy the problem, according to two commissioners from the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

During public comment at a Feb. 6 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, Commissioner Joseph Romano, R-Sterling Heights, talked about the roads from both Sterling Heights’ and Macomb County’s perspectives.

Romano was a longtime member of the Sterling Heights City Council prior to being elected to the Board of Commissioners at the end of 2016.

Romano praised Sterling Heights’ attentiveness to roads, adding that more than $75 million in infrastructure spending is anticipated from the city over the next five years, and the city is collaborating with the county “side by side” to get work accomplished.

 “So if you go out on the roads and you see a county truck and a city truck working together to fix roads, it’s because Sterling Heights has offered the county help in fixing their roads, and we appreciate that,” Romano said.

Romano explained that Sterling Heights is responsible for all of the odd-numbered mile roads and Dodge Park Road, and the county covers the even-numbered mile roads as well as Van Dyke Avenue, Utica Road, Schoenherr Road, Mound Road and more.

“The county maintains over 1,700 miles of roads,” Romano said. “In addition to that, the county has 200 miles of state roads that they have to maintain … doing this all with about 120 or 130 strictly on-roads employees.”

Romano said both city and county officials are eager to see whether Mound Road can soon get its “fair share” of funding through a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA, grant.

But while local governments wait for the funds to be available, Romano cautioned drivers to slow down around potholes.

“Regardless of where we go, what we do, we all hear it: ‘When (are) they going to fix the roads?’” he said. “Guys, I think Sterling Heights is doing a heck of a job, and I think the county is doing the best that they can do.”

After Romano spoke, Commissioner Robert Mijac, D-Sterling Heights, called roads like Mound and Schoenherr “atrocious.” 

He said that while the state has raised the gas tax recently, that tax would need to be approximately doubled to effectively fund road repairs. He said 51 percent of Macomb County roads are currently in poor shape, compared to 31 percent being in poor shape 10 years ago.

Mijac said that while the City Council might feel lots of political pressure from voters about the road conditions, the state Legislature doesn’t feel the same sense of urgency. But as a local alternative, he said a 1-mill county tax proposal to fund around $25 million to $30 million in road repairs could be proposed on the November ballot.

“I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years now, and I’ve never heard residents talk literally about willing and wanting to pay more in taxes for anything, except for roads,” he said.

City Manager Mark Vanderpool offered a preview of Schoenherr construction this year, adding that it will involve a “complete milling of the concrete right now, fixing all the joints, the curbing, any sidewalk in disrepair, and then there will be an asphalt overlay of the project.”

City officials said the Schoenherr project will start at around 15 Mile Road and will go to just north of Metropolitan Parkway this year. Two years after that, more of Schoenherr will be done — northward to around 18 1/2 Mile Road, he added.

Other proposed projects include Mound Road, from 17 Mile to 18 Mile; and North Van Dyke, from 18 1/2 Mile to M-59. He said the projects this year will be staggered “to the extent possible.”

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko said she attended a workshop at the library around five years ago that invited state, local and county officials to discuss the roads. She said one cause behind insufficient road funding is that the gas tax is increasingly unreliable as automakers continue to make vehicles more fuel-efficient.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” she said. “But I do know that it’s very complex, and something needs to be done, and we need to do it quickly, because it’s becoming dangerous.”

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