Stephens Road construction underway through October

Plans to repair, replace major roads continue in Eastpointe

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 12, 2013

 Construction replacing Stephens Road, from Gratiot to Kelly, began July 3 and is expected to last until October.

Construction replacing Stephens Road, from Gratiot to Kelly, began July 3 and is expected to last until October.

Photo by Sara Kandel

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EASTPOINTE — The section of Stephens Road east of Gratiot might be a mess now, but come fall, the transformation from one of the worst roads in Eastpointe to one of the best will be complete.

Construction on Stephens Road, from Gratiot to Kelly, is under way, closing the road to eastbound traffic through October, when the project is slated to be complete.

Stephens has been closed to eastbound traffic since the start of the summer, when construction began on the aged water main beneath the road. With that complete, a full replacement of the roadway began July 3.

“(Stephens) was identified as one of the worst roads in the city,” said Mary Van Haaren, the director of building, public works and economic development in Eastpointe.

“It was in bad shape and we identified it as one of the roads that definitely need to be replaced. It was also identified that the water main needed to be replaced and it’s the ideal situation to do both at the same time so you only have to rip the road up once.”

When the work wraps up in the fall, it will complete the project the city started last summer when it rebuilt the section of Stephens between Gratiot and Hayes. The project on the whole — for both sides of Stephens and the water main replacement —cost approximately $2.8 million, of which the city is responsible for 18.15 percent or $515,661.54, which will come from the major streets fund.

“This isn’t just a resurfacing project; this is a full rebuild. It goes all the way down to the base,” said City Manager Steve Duchane. “When you do a complete rebuild, you’re looking at 15-20 years-plus before it starts to crumble or be in need of repair.

“When you can start at the base, everything is about the base, with an understanding of Michigan soils, because we have some interesting soils in this area, because it used to be all under the lake, so it is spongy underneath. But if you dig down far enough for the base and do it right, you should get 20 years out of these projects.”

Revenue from the state supports the major streets fund.

“There is no general fund money going to this,” Duchane said. “Act 51 is the revenue system just for transportation in Michigan. You pay a state tax at the pump, that in Michigan goes to the Department of Transportation and then is given to each city based on a formula where you receive a per-mile allocation based on the total mileage of local streets and the total mileage of major streets.”

But even with Act 51 funding from the state, Duchane said the project was only possible by sectioning the work and spreading it out over multiple years, and that’s what the city plans to do with the next big project to follow.

With revenues from Act 51 expected to help replenish the major streets fund by about $1.8 million in 2014, bringing it from about $806,118 to approximately $2.6 million, funding will be available to begin phase one of the Kelly Road project.

Just like with Stephens, the Kelly Road project will be completed in sections, with construction on northbound Kelly, between Toepfer and Nine Mile Road, slated to begin sometime in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The project will continue the following year with construction on southbound Kelly, between Stephens and 10 Mile Road. Construction on the final section of the project, southbound Kelly from Nine Mile to Toepfer, is expected to begin in 2017.

“Kelly has some miserable parts,” Duchane said. “It’s been around for a long time — it’s a 30-year-plus surface and it’s failed now in some stops, and when I say ‘failed,’ I mean there is no longer a short-term repair to fix the surface.”

The city’s five-year fiscal plan estimates the cost of the Kelly project, which will be paid for with major streets fund monies, at around $2 million.

Duchane said repairs to the aging infrastructure are vital to safety and quality of life in the city, and when the work is done on projects like this, it is well worth the wait for construction.

“You have a safe, clear roadway that is easy to operate and comfortable and preferably built for years, unless something unseen happens, but generally, it won’t be disturbed again for decades,” Duchane said. “It will be nice and open with plenty of room for parking, and it’s smooth and safe to travel without having to maneuver around potholes.

“All of those things tend to make it more attractive for businesses to have people come to their place because they aren’t avoiding having to navigate the poor roads to their business, and for residents, it increases the quality of life in the community.”

Eastbound Stephens will remain closed throughout the duration of construction, but businesses along the road remain open.

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