Sterling Heights road projects highlight budget talks

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 19, 2019

 Construction takes place on the south side of Metropolitan Parkway April 18.

Construction takes place on the south side of Metropolitan Parkway April 18.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Motorists face construction on Metropolitan Parkway, near Van Dyke Avenue.

Motorists face construction on Metropolitan Parkway, near Van Dyke Avenue.

Photo by Deb Jacques


STERLING HEIGHTS — While new construction may pose a bump in the road for commuters, Sterling Heights officials recently had favorable things to say about the rollout of repairs in the years to come.

During an April 9 Sterling Heights City Council budget meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool said the roads issue “conjures up a lot of strong emotions with motorists across the state.” But he said the city has made significant road investments over the past several years.

“In fact, between 2014 and 2022, over $400 million in various road improvements will have been completed in Sterling Heights,” Vanderpool said. “Let me just repeat that number, because it’s, I think, an impressive number.”

City Engineer Brent Bashaw said that over $32 million was spent last year on major roads alone, focused on 15 projects.

Officials said that around $23.2 million in road investments will occur this construction season within the city.

Among major roadwork, resurfacing is scheduled for:

• 19 Mile Road from Hayes Road to Schoenherr Road.

• 14 Mile Road from Dequindre Road to Ryan Road.

• 18 Mile Road from Ryan to Mound Road.

• Utica Road from Dodge Park Road to Van Dyke Avenue.

• Schoenherr from the Plumbrook Drain to north of 18 Mile.

• Metropolitan Parkway from Van Dyke to east of the Home Depot entrance.

Resurfacing and reconstruction work will happen along Merrill Road, Bashaw said.

Officials are getting ready for preliminary engineering work for the Innovate Mound project, which will reconstruct that thoroughfare from Interstate 696 to M-59. The $217 million project will be made possible through a $98 million federal grant, and contributions of $43 million from Macomb County, $29 million from Sterling Heights, $14 million from Warren and $33 million from other sources, Finance and Budget Director Jennifer Varney said.

“2021 will see the reconstruction of Mound Road,” Bashaw added. “Although, as Jennifer said, we are pushing to try to get it to start in the late summer of 2020.”

During the meeting, officials discussed the impact of the Safe Streets millage on fixing local neighborhood roads.

The six-year millage, last passed by voters in 2013, devotes 1.7 mills to the Police and Fire departments’ personnel and 0.8 mill to local roads. According to officials, the millage produces over $3 million for local roads annually. Officials say voters will have the choice to renew the millage this November.

In the next proposed budget, 18 local street locations will get full replacements, 15 will get sectional replacements and four will be resurfaced. All of this culminates in more than 7 miles of improvements, Bashaw said.

Over the course of the six-year time span of Safe Streets, he said, about 252 city street locations, or 32 miles, will have been improved in some way. Bashaw said that if voters approve a renewal of the Safe Streets millage, the tax will fund another 32 miles of local road improvements in 260 locations by raising $20.5 million over that next millage period.

But without the millage, only 5.3 miles would be addressed in 60 locations, he added.

“The focus would go to more smaller, sectional repairs to address the worst of the worst pavement. Full road replacements would be minimal — probably looking at about 10 over that period,” he said.

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko pointed out the “terrible pictures” that Bashaw presented of some roads, and she said they need to be fixed. She added that it’s important for residents to get enough information, “so we can have a successful outcome in November.”

“And I think it’s important to say that without this Safe Streets millage passing this November, so much of what we want to do we won’t be able to do,” Ziarko said.

Councilman Henry Yanez asked Bashaw why the roads seem to deteriorate so quickly. Bashaw called the matter complicated, but he blamed it partially on clay or sandy subsoils, combined with the roads’ age.

“The water gets into the clay. The clay becomes kinda punky, then it leads to more freeze-thaw damage, more movement,” Bashaw said.

Councilwoman Deanna Koski said she is pleased with the roads’ progress and wants to see the Safe Streets millage pass again so more can continue.

“I would like to see 90% good roads and maybe 10% fair,” Koski said.

Mayor Michael Taylor said it’s “impressive to see” how many roads have been completed.

“It shows (that) despite Lansing not being able to get a realistic and a viable funding plan passed for our roads, we’re doing it here in Sterling Heights, and we’re making it work,” he said.

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