Osterlund Road ‘needs work badly’
IRON RIVER—The road leading to a major Iron County tourist destination is crumbling, the Road Commission was told at its Sept. 10 monthly meeting.
It’s Osterlund Road, the main road linking M-189 to the Ski Brule resort. “Parts of that road are not far from being a real big problem,” Steve Polich of Ski Brule told the commission. “We can’t lose that road.”
In the early 1990s, Osterlund Road was extended west and now serves as the major link to the Ski Brule complex.
Superintendent Doug Tomasoski, who noted that some work had been down at a hill recently, said the Road Commission needs to do more work there, especially on drainage. “That’s our first thing.” Crews are using a rented ditching machine from the state.
“A lot of the ditching is there,” he said. “It’s just that the road is no longer—it’s washed out.” The plan is to use gravel to improve one section at a time, mostly in October. “It’s going to be longer term than this fall,” Tomasoski said.
“There’s just no drainage left there,” Polich said. “There’s a heck of a lot of gravel in the woods.”
Polich described some of the problems, mostly related to drainage and traffic. “Parts of Osterlund are in really rough shape,” he said. “It’s a Class A [all-season] road—it needs work badly.” Shoulders are a continual problem, with water getting inside the road.
“You can just look at the road and see what’s happening. It’s small pieces of pavement right now, held together by dark tar.”
Tomasoski said U.P. road task force money won’t be available for a full project for a while. He said the Road Commission can put hotmix patches in places to improve the road until a full project can be started.
Polich said he appreciates recent work. “But there needs to be a plan. Or else that road is going to be worse than gravel in parts.”
Another Osterlund Road problem is in the Ski Brule Village area, in front of Pioneer Lodge, where water accumulates every spring. “The whole drainage problem there is an issue. It’s been that way forever.” Polich said Ski Brule would cooperate “any way we can” to solve the problems with culverts and ditching.
Tomasoski said the county is scheduled to work on County Road 424 between 2015 and 2020—so 2020 may be the first year Category D funds becomes available for Osterlund.
“I hope the commission keeps in mind,” answered Polich, “that there’s huge traffic [on Osterlund Road] and a heavy economic impact on this area.” On one hill, “You’ll see a lot more tar than you will pavement.
“It’s scary to look at it. It won’t last till 2020.”
Besides attracting many visitors to Iron County during the winter months, the resort employs many county residents.
• Stambaugh Township Supervisor Gene Pellizzaro asked about East Brule Lake Road. Parts of the road that were graveled last year now have water puddles, and he is afraid the water will go into the roadbed, freezing and creating soft spots. He asked that the road be graded and crowned.
In other places, a berm on the north edge is sending down water that has washed out part of the road. Another place “needs some attention” with a ditch and gravel to handle water coming off a hill.
Tomasoski said reclaiming a hill is a process, since the road has to be recrowned. Why such a problem? The underslung snowplows on county trucks. “As much as you try to float the blade and soften the blade, you lose a lot of material.”
He said many roads are graded at 2 percent. “We’ve got to get away from 2 percent on gravel roads—you have to get to 3, 4, 5 percent.”
• Mastodon Township Trustee Ray Kudwa asked about putting up “No thru trucking” signs where local roads come off primary roads. Many logging trucks, he said, take short-cuts on the local roads—Kudwa wants to trucks to stay on Tobin-Alpha and Idlewild roads.
Tomasoski said the Road Commission has no authority to enforce “no trucking” signs. Townships can establish truck routes—he asked Kudwa to contact the Michigan Townships Association.
“My guess,” said Board Chairman Dan Germic, “is that nobody’s going to heed your signs. It’s going to be a waste of time.”
Kudwa said his township also feels short-changed on crack-filling this year, and he asked for a list of all the roads that were crack-sealed over the last five years. “From where to where and what roads.”
Tomasoski said he already compiled the list after Kudwa raised the issue in August and will send copies to township officials.
• Summer projects are mostly done: Old Beechwood and East Brule roads are both done. Monongahela, Bible Camp, Silverwood, Carney Dam and Rysberg have been graveled and will be paved in the next several weeks, in conjunction with the Idlewild Road project.