Road plans see financial obstacles ahead in Southfield

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published June 18, 2024

 Santa Barbara Street, just south of 10 Mile Road, in the Washington Heights neighborhood, is undergoing a $16.5 million investment funded by Southfield’s local street fund and water and sewer bond money.

Santa Barbara Street, just south of 10 Mile Road, in the Washington Heights neighborhood, is undergoing a $16.5 million investment funded by Southfield’s local street fund and water and sewer bond money.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


SOUTHFIELD — For the past several months, Larry Barnett, who has lived in Southfield since 1975, has had local road repairs on his mind.

“Right outside of my door, Evergreen Road, between Winchester and 12 Mile Road — they didn’t have enough funds when they did it. So they kind of did a cheap fix, and they said that at the time; they weren’t dishonest about it. And now it’s starting to crumble. It’s actually because the underlay of the road isn’t substantial. So the road is just kind of caving in. So there’s no real stopgap measure, and it has to be redone,” Barnett said.

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver explained.

“We have what’s called the PASER rating that rates the condition of the road, and so we go by the condition according to the Engineering Department of the road and then the amount of dollars we have. So we’re spending about $21 million this year, which, honestly, with the cost of road construction, doesn’t go very far.”

Leigh Schultz, a city engineer for Southfield, expanded on the PASER rating, which stands for Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating. She explained that the city completes a pavement condition assessment for all city jurisdiction roads every two years, which results in a PASER rating on a 1-10 scale, 10 being a newly constructed surface and 1 being a failed surface. The PASER scores are grouped into Southfield definition categories of good (6-10), fair (4-5), and poor (1-3). This scale is used in decision-making alongside water main age and other data in Southfield neighborhoods.

The most recent round of PASER data was gathered in 2022. However, ratings for 2023 were computer generated based on 2023 road projects, which take into account annual depreciation.

Southfield has 249 miles of road, 70 miles of which are classified as city major roads and 179 miles of which are classified as city local roads. Southfield has only 1.5 miles of unpaved roads.

According to the data collected from Southfield’s Engineering Department, from 2023, 60% of the city’s major roads are in good condition, 17% are in fair condition and 23% are in poor condition. The data from 2023 reveals that 53% of the city local roads are in good condition, 27% are in fair condition and 21% are in poor condition.

Schultz stated that Southfield’s fiscal year budget for 2024-25 includes a $10.9 million investment in neighborhood infrastructure.

“The local streets Southfield has planned for water main replacement and road rehabilitation are in the northwest quadrant of Section 35, which is south of Nine Mile and east of Evergreen, plus Mahon, east of Lahser. Additional streets are programmed for just road rehabilitation, including Frazer and Wallace in the Nine Mile and Lahser area, plus Gleneyrie and Edgemont south of 10 Mile and east of Inkster,” Schultz said.

Schultz added that the land improvements expenditure account in both local street and major street budgets includes the neighborhood capital projects, and five other expenditure categories cover administrative costs, equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, staff costs, operating supplies, contractual/professional services, snow control, traffic services, road maintenance, etc.

In 2014, voters approved a $99 million bond for improving Southfield’s road network over a 10-year period. Following the approval of the bond, the city used PASER modeling to create a comprehensive list of projects to direct infrastructure investment. This modeling approach integrated water/sewer replacement requirements with a road repair strategy to ensure that Southfield’s road funding was used cost-effectively.

Now, a decade later, thanks to the $99 million and federal funds that allowed for major road repairs, data from the city shows that Southfield is positioned to not only meet its major city road goal that was set in 2014 but to exceed its PASER goal. The city’s local road network is trending slightly below its PASER goal but is matching the projections from 2014 and meeting the city’s current goal.

According to projected data for the years to come, after 2026, the projected PASER rating will start to trend downward as Southfield runs out of funding. This is due to the capital improvements program funded by the 2014 bond sale being targeted at larger, more expensive reconstruction projects. As Southfield reaches the end of its authorized funding, the improvements seen by the final few projects cannot keep up with the natural degradation of the pavement.

“We can’t wait around for Michigan to figure out road funding; Southfield needs to develop their own plan, whether it be through bonds or other means,” Schultz said.

Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, believes the solution to the issue is revenue sharing.

Senate Bills 182-3, sponsored by Sens. Mike Webber, R-Rochester Hills, and Moss, and House Bills 4274-5, sponsored by Reps. Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, and Mark Tisdel, R-Rochester Hills, would establish a “Revenue Sharing Trust Fund” in the Michigan Department of Treasury.

“The state Legislature has really under-bonded state-shared revenue. So that’s tax dollars that you and I pay to Lansing, and there is an expectation that it is supposed to be delivered back to our local communities to provide for essential services. But Michigan has been a standout in the nation in that we have been underfunding our communities,” Moss stated.

Moss expressed that when he was on the Southfield City Council, the two major funding concerns were public safety and road repairs.

“This expectation of what is going to come from the state to local communities has been broken for a very long time. That’s one of the reasons that compelled me to run for state Legislature to begin with. I was watching our city budgeting process, and we budgeted at the time for an expectation in less revenues from the state, and when the state may have overperformed that, we put in that extra money from revenue sharing into really two buckets: police and public safety, and local roads. So by increasing revenue sharing from the state, the city would be able to provide more local road infrastructure support,” he said.

In addition to local road repairs, the Road Commission for Oakland County is hard at work in Southfield and Lathrup Village with the three projects.

Craig Bryson, the senior communications manager for the Road Commission for Oakland County, explained that, as a general rule, every other mile road is a county road, with city roads wedged in between.

Southfield Road between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads is currently undergoing a major resurfacing project, with estimated completion in July.

“It’s not a complete reconstruction, but it’s just shy of a complete reconstruction, where we remove the existing pavement, do base repair, put down all new pavement, mostly new curbs and stuff like that. So it’s about a $5.3 million project,” Bryson said.

He added that on July 8, 10 Mile Road, between Evergreen Road and Greenfield Road, will undergo concrete pavement repairs and traffic signal improvements, expected to be completed by the fall. This project is $5.25 million.

Bryson said that this is everything the Road Commission “didn’t do in 2019.”

“Five years ago, we came in and took out some of the worst sections of concrete and replaced just those bad slabs, but we didn’t have money to do the rest of the road,” he said.

Lastly, starting sometime this summer, 12 Mile Road, from Northwestern Highway to Telegraph Road, will be resurfaced. Federal funds and the Road Commission will pay for the $4.4 million project. The work will include replacing two culverts under the road, upgrading bus stops, installing new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant pedestrian crosswalks, and modernizing four traffic signals. The road will be open during the week but closed on weekends for culvert replacement work.

Bryson explained that for residents trying to determine which jurisdiction a road is in, the Road Commission has developed jurisdiction maps that can be found at under “Road Commission for Oakland County Road-Jurisdiction Maps.”

To report any potholes or other road issues in Southfield, call the city’s hotline at (248) 796-4000.