Lenawee County wrestles with fewer road dollars

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Capital News Service
LANSING – Road funds in Lenawee County may be stretched a little thinner this coming year.
Spending for state and county roads would be cut again in the latest state transportation budget. Townships and cities also face a cut in funding because of less revenue from the gasoline tax.
John Niemela, the director of the County Roads Association of Michigan, said that the state has trimmed about 5 percent from county road spending for the past few years.
County road commissions would receive $29.2 million less under the new transportation budget. Cities and villages would receive $16.3 million less. State trunkline roads, which consist of freeways, interstates and U.S. highways, would receive $63.4 million less.
Orrin Gregg, managing director of the Lenawee County Road Commission, said the county has only enough money to maintain existing roads and is doing mostly heavy maintenance on bridges and other infrastructure.
Gregg said that the agency has been able to avoid layoffs by not replacing retirees and cutting back on extras like roadside mowing.
The county does not have the money to match federal funding for eligible roads, he said, including those that lead traffic from local roads into urban areas.
Blissfield Township has six roads that are eligible for federal aid. They are Blissfield Highway, Benner Road, Carroll Road, Gorman Road, Lane Street and Walnut Street.
Gregg said that within the past year, the agency had to turn five miles of paved roads in Raisin Township into gravel, including portions of Raisin Center Highway.
“The roads had turned upside down on us,” due to what Gregg called “cold spotting.” Roads that develop cold spots are usually in poorly drained areas where water in potholes continually thaws and refreezes in the spring.
The township eventually found the necessary money to repave the roads.
Gregg said that was a temporary fix. Not all of the repaved sections received a sealing coat of asphalt, and each repaved segment was patched in with roads that date back 20 years or earlier.
“Hopefully we’ll be lucky and we won’t have a nasty spring,” he said, “but I don’t feel lucky today.”
Lenawee County has two factors that soften the blow of decreased state funding. About half of the county’s 22 townships have a road millage, Gregg said.
Blissfield Township Treasurer Karen Baldwin said that a road millage was enacted in 2008 and is up for renewal in 2010.
The county is one of the few that owns its own asphalt factory, said Gregg. That means that the county can pave roads at a considerably lower cost than a county that buys asphalt from a private manufacturer.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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