Finances constrain, but don’t stop, road projects

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published September 27, 2013

 A crew continues work on Stephens Road in Eastpointe Sept. 26. Work on the stretch of road, which runs between Kelly Road and Gratiot Avenue, is expected to continue through the end of October.

A crew continues work on Stephens Road in Eastpointe Sept. 26. Work on the stretch of road, which runs between Kelly Road and Gratiot Avenue, is expected to continue through the end of October.

Photo by Kevin Bunch


EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — While the cost of materials and reduced revenues have limited the kind of roadwork municipalities can do, Eastpointe and Roseville have made inroads where they can.

Mary Van Haaren, director of development, public works and services at Eastpointe, said the city recently has finished a pavement reconstruction project on Almond Avenue from Nine Mile to Norton Road: an 800-foot stretch.

The city is also on track to complete a reconstruction project on Stephens Road, from Gratiot Avenue to Kelly Road, Van Haaren said, which includes a new water main being installed alongside the road reconstruction.

“It’s been going on since the early spring and should be done by the end of October,” Van Haaren said.

The city also is replacing a water main on Gratiot Avenue, between Eight Mile and Toepfer roads, which is scheduled to finish within six weeks, she said.

Roseville has been limited to reconstructing or patching small stretches of roads throughout the city, due to a dwindling capital projects fund, City Controller Robert Cady said. Federal grants have allowed the city to work on some other projects in limited areas.

“Money dictates what projects we get done,” Cady said. “For the local roads, we’ve been dedicating most of our (federal) block grant funds to repair roads in areas where they can be spent.”

The city has been unable to budget new money for its capital projects fund, and Cady said the city has been pulling money from the fund for pavement projects that have the greatest need.

He said Michigan Department of Transportation projects, such as work being done on Interstate 94, also are partially paid for by the city — up to a maximum of 20 percent of the project cost — which further limits money the city has for major streets.

“We get a portion of the gas tax back to put into our local roads, but when you divide it by the number of roads in the city, it precludes you from doing whole streets,” Cady said. “You just do sections and joint sealing to get a couple more years out of a road before it needs to be replaced. With the economy the way it is, that’s just the way it’s become.”

Van Haaren said Eastpointe also faces constraints on what it can do and tries to keep roads patched as long as possible to stretch road dollars.

“Patching only lasts so long, so it’s really a Band-Aid rather than replacing (the road) entirely, but that’s the result when you don’t have the funding,” she said.

Similarly, she pointed out that sewer lines get repaired rather than replaced when they get old and worn out more often, which can lead to more frequent line breaks.

Both cities have methods of rating their roads to see which ones are in the worst shape. Cady said the Roseville city engineers develop a pavement-assessment document to help the city decide where to spend its dollars, while Eastpointe uses a mix of city engineers and supervisors with the administration to select upcoming projects.

Going forward, Cady said the big 2014 project will be repairing Calahan Road between Common and 13 Mile roads. The 2015 project is Little Mack, from 13 Mile to Masonic Road; and in 2016, the city will be working on Masonic, from Kelly to Gratiot. He acknowledged all of those plans are dependent on funding levels.

Eastpointe has a five-year capital improvement projection, Van Haaren said, with the projects depending on annual conditions and funding from the state, the federal government and grants. So far, the only project planned for 2014 is northbound Kelly, from Nine Mile Road to Toepfer.