The relentless freeze-and-thaw cycle this winter has turned Dequindre and the eastbound I-696 service drive into a rough patch of road.

The relentless freeze-and-thaw cycle this winter has turned Dequindre and the eastbound I-696 service drive into a rough patch of road.

Photo by Brian Louwers

Obliterated roads a nightmare for drivers, repair crews

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 16, 2018

WARREN — One by one, the cars and trucks lumbered at slow speeds across a minefield of bone-jarring craters. The corner of Dequindre Road and the eastbound Interstate 696 service drive had become a veritable moonscape before lunch on Valentine’s Day.  

It was a familiar scene, one that played out all over metro Detroit, as the brutal freeze-and-thaw cycle of an indecisive Michigan winter continued to leave streets maintained by city and county crews cracked and shattered and, in some cases, barely passable.

Dequindre is one of several main roads in Warren that falls under the responsibility of the Macomb County Department of Roads, where Road Maintenance Superintendent Leo Ciavatta said the situation is “pretty rough,” even when viewed through the prism of his 34 years with the county.

“Every year it’s bad,” Ciavatta said. “The main thing about this year, this condition started in January, the first time we went through this bad pothole cycle. Usually it starts in March, because it stays cold throughout the winter. Then when you start getting the warmer temps around March and April, that’s when the roads kind of explode. But this year, they’ve exploded a lot sooner because of the mild temps we had in January.”

Ciavatta said the county has 12-15 crews, a total of about 65 employees, working 10-hour days Mondays through Saturdays, even sometimes on Sundays, patching roads in between any weather events that require snow plowing. He said the department has pulled crews from northern service centers in New Haven and Washington Township to assist with repairs in the Clinton Township area, which includes Warren.

“I know there’s so many holes out there. What our intention is, what our mission is, is to try to take care of some of the big holes first, some of the ones that will cause tire damage or front-end damage. We try to patch those and move on, and then after those get plugged up, we swing back around again and get the smaller ones,” Ciavatta said. “We patched everything, and we got that 10-inch snowfall last week. Now it’s warming up. All the patch is coming out and the pavement is failing because the frost is moving the loose pavement, as well.”

Ciavatta said crews can repair roads with a more durable hot asphalt mix that will last throughout the spring, summer and fall once the weather breaks for good.

Other county roads in Warren include Mound Road, Schoenherr Road and Groesbeck Highway, and all of the even-numbered “mile” roads, with the exception of Eight Mile, which, along with Van Dyke Avenue, falls under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said he recently met with staff members to plan emergency construction along troubled sections of Ryan Road, where potholes have become a scourge for drivers this winter.

“Ryan is one of the worst roads in the city. It’s bad and it needs to be replaced,” Fouts said. “We’re going to probably do the whole thing between 12 (Mile Road) and 13 (Mile Road), and then we’re going to do various other areas of Ryan. We have the money and we’re going to spend several million dollars to take care of Ryan Road. This is a high priority that will be done.”

Fouts said 13 Mile and Hoover roads will also be examined for possible construction repairs.

Work to temporarily fix problem roads by patching potholes remains ongoing, Fouts said, with “all hands on deck.”

“As the mayor, I want to insist that we do the roads that need it. The highest priority is Ryan Road, 13 Mile, Hoover and a few others,” Fouts said.

Those charged with ensuring the safety of road maintenance crews have called on drivers to exercise caution and patience while repairs are underway across the area.

“Please give your undivided attention when you’re driving your vehicle,” Ciavatta said. “Posted speed limits are for ideal weather and road conditions. Obviously, right now, they’re not ideal road conditions.

“If you give yourself some extra space between the vehicle in front of you, that will help you avoid some of the potholes. And just be patient. We’ll be out there patching them. We will. We’re aware of the holes, and we’re out there with everything we have.”