Winter maintenance costly

ESCANABA – After experiencing an expensive winter maintenance season, the Delta County Road Commission has various summer road construction projects in its sights.

According to Rob VanEffen, managing director of the road commission, $957,304 was spent on winter maintenance, which includes snow removal and plowing, of county primary and local roads this winter – the third highest amount since 1995-96. This year’s total is quite higher than the road commission’s $506,282 spent on winter maintenance last year.

“We budget based off our five-year average,” he explained. “This year it was $750,000 roughly, so we were easily $200,000 over our five-year average.”

VanEffen said due to this year’s winter and the slow transition to spring, it is difficult to predict when seasonal weight restrictions will be lifted. Though they are usually lifted in late April or early May, some years they have been in place until late May.

“I think everybody was tired of winter this year,” said VanEffen. “We’re in this mode now where we’ve got to get things to dry out before we can get the gravel roads back into shape. We’re trying on some – having success with some, but absolutely no success with others.”

The higher costs for winter maintenance means less money to spend on road projects this summer. More specifically, it equates to less match money for townships on local road projects.

The road commission does have approximately $2.6 million worth of road and bridge improvement projects planned for the summer. VanEffen said this amount is a little higher than average.

“Our state and federal funds are right around $700,000 a year and then whatever we can match or carry over from one year to the other,” he said.

Their big project is a total road reconstruction project on County Road 416, which has already started, said VanEffen. The project will span approximately four miles and costs $810,000, which includes federal and state dollars.

“We’re anticipating a contractor moving in probably the third week of May here and that project will be done mid-June, providing all goes well and the weather cooperates,” he said.

The road commission also has three bridge projects planned.

The first runs over the Reno Creek on M.5 Lane. The $300,000 project is a cost-sharing between the road commission and Escanaba Township. The goal is to begin work on the bridge in late June and have it completed before school starts.

A $600,000 bridge project on 29th Lane runs over the Tacoosh River in Baldwin Township. The project is a cost-sharing between the road commission and the local agency bridge program, which includes state and federal dollars.

The final bridge project costs $550,000 and runs over the Rapid River on 30th Road, just north of Rapid River. The project is also funded by road commission and local agency bridge program dollars.

VanEffen said the 29th Lane and 30th Road bridge projects will begin in late summer or early fall, though the goal is to get them done simultaneously.

In addition to the road project and the three bridge projects, an estimated $400,000 worth of additional work will be done on various roads in the county in cooperation with the road commission and the townships.