IRON RIVER—Iron County road-building plans for the next several years were the focus of the annual task force meeting held by the Road Commission Feb. 11.
It involved two members of the commission’s board, Superintendent Doug Tomasoski, township officials and representatives of the Michigan Department of Transportation and WUPPDR.
Iron County is part of a task force with Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, and the meetings are held to get local input on the transportation system—they are required by the federal transportation bill passed by Congress.
Each county holds its local meeting. Officials of the three counties will meet later.
The funding that pays for road projects come from federal, state and local sources. The projects discussed for Iron County are mostly paid by STP and State D funds.
STP (Surface Transportation Program) dollars comes from the federal transportation bills that are approved by Congress. Local authorities have great flexibility on how they can be used. State Category D money can only be used for designated all-season routes. Local money comes from the Road Commission, townships and even private sources.
Road projects are planned long in advance, in coordination with funds being available for the work. In 2014, the big projects will be:
--County Road 424, resurfacing from Buck Lake Road to the Alpha village limits. A $140,000 project, it had been postponed from 2013. ($60,000 federal, $80,000 state).
--Gibbs City Road, restore and rehabilitate from East Siding Road north to Old Atkinson, about 1.4 miles, a $320,000 project ($190,000 federal, $130,000 state).
--Lind Road in Crystal Falls Township, resurfacing from New Bristol Road to U.S. 141, for 1.5 miles, a $352,000 project. ($282,000 federal, $70,000 local).
A list of projects for the next several years (through 2017) were also listed. They are:
--2015: Marinello Road, reconstruct from M-73 to Baumgartner Road, $137,500; County Road 424, first phase, resurface from Gaastra city limits to Two Mile Hill, $530,000; and Baumgartner Road, from Hiawatha Road to North Hill Road, $194,000.
--2016: Sunset Lake Road,, first phase, from U.S. 2 to Javoroski Road, $286,000; County Road 424, second phase, Two-Mile Hill to the old Caspian pit/Kolbas property, $330,000.
--2017: many projects are listed; 424 from M-189 to Gaastra city limits and Kolbas property to Pentoga Park; Bates-Gaastra Road from Maplewood to north Gaastra city limits; and Sunset Lake Road, from Javoroski Road to East Park Drive.
Tomasoski said Caspian officials want to delay its part of the 424 project due to lack of funds, but they want the project to stay on the list.
Another project listed for 2017 drew a lot of attention: a proposed re-routing of County Road 424 between Buck Lake Road and 11th Avenue on the east edge of Alpha. Roughly $400,000 has been set aside for it, but the project has been stuck in limbo for years.
Board Chairman Dan Germic said a public hearing about the proposed re-routing drew “a whole roomful of people who were pretty adamant against it.”
“That’s the reason it didn’t happen.”
The fate of the proposed bypass ultimately rests with the Road Commission, which has been pushing the project back in favor of other projects.
“Hopefully next year,” Tomasoski said, “we will make a final decision whether they’re even going to want to consider doing that again. That is holding up money, both in the state D and the STP [funds].”
Township officials in the audience were ready to offer more projects to the list. Frank Siewiorek, Mastodon Township supervisor, asked about a Camp 5 Road project. “It’s the only main artery for these people to go to work and go to school,” he said. “The gravel part on the southern section is getting rottener every year.”
Siewiorek noted that the township has more than 20 percent of the cost for such a project. “You have done plenty of other roads in phases. We’re just asking to get started on it.” So far, the project hasn’t made the list. Mastodon Township also asked about Buck Lake Road.
Richard Dryjanski, Mansfield Township supervisor, asked about getting Way Dam Road on the list. But Tomasoski said that road was last done about 20 years ago. “We don’t have the money.”
Tom Lesandrini, Crystal Falls Township supervisor, suggested Old 141, where, he said, nothing has been done since the highway was re-routed, along with Rock Crusher Road and WPA Road. Tomasoski pointed out that U.S. 141 is only a mile away.
Jeff Bal of GEI Consultants said Iron River is working on a Homer Road project from U.S. 2 to Buckholz Road. The city may have some matching money for the project, he said.
Tomasoski said the Road Commission has to be “real careful on spreading ourselves way too thin.” If the county had the money to repave its primary roads on a regular cycle, it would be OK to add extra projects to the list. “But we’re not able to keep up with what we already have.” Projects need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, he added.
Mike Premo of the Crystal Falls MDOT office outlined some of the state’s plans. This summer, MDOT plans to resurface M-189 from Hiawatha Road south to the Wisconsin state line.
In 2015, the state plans work on U.S. 2-141 between County Road 424 and Crystal Falls. Some will be a grade lift, and some will be a reconstruction.
In 2017, the state plans to mill and put in an overlay on U.S. 2 from the (former) S curves to Crystal Falls. “We’ll fill in that little gap of a passing lane across from Oss Road.”
As for the winter road “pop-outs” on U.S. 2-141 south of 424, Premo said he hopes to shuffle some other projects so that area can be milled and resurfaced this summer. When asked if the concrete under the road would be removed, Premo said no. “It would be about $10 million to do that.”
Premo also said MDOT is “keeping an eye” on the Michi-Aho and Chicaugon Slough bridges. Both are slated for replacement and are regularly inspected—no work will be done on them until they are replaced.
Despite its appearance, Premo said there are no structural issues with the Michi-Aho bridge. “That will get plugged in into the five-year plan. As of right now, it’s not.”
For now, MDOT is putting its bridge funding into the Escanaba River bridge, scheduled for replacement in 2017 at a cost of $20 million to $25 million. “We get $4 million each year for all bridges in the U.P., so we’re using four to five years’ worth on that one bridge.”