4 U.P. counties receive $6.9 million in grants to repair roads

MUNISING – As part of $6.9 million granted to four Upper Peninsula counties – and $115 million granted statewide – the Alger County Road Commission will receive $700,000 for two road improvement projects.

The Alger projects include $400,000 to upgrade 1.5 miles of Lehnen Road to Alger County Highway 58 and $300,000 to improve Highway 44 over 1.5 miles.

“The road commission is very excited to have the opportunity to move these projects forward,” said Doug Miron, chairman of the Alger County Road Commission.

Additional recipients of the Roads and Risk Reserve Fund allocations included Schoolcraft County, which received $4.9 million for two projects; Dickinson County, which got $775,000 for one project; and Menominee County, which was granted a total of $525,000 for two projects.

Marquette County had hoped for some of the money, but did not receive a grant. Statewide, 103 projects received funding.

The Roads and Risk Reserve Fund was created during the past budget year from savings in the state’s general fund, providing one-time general fund revenue for infrastructure investment.

One-half of the funds were available for appropriation Oct. 1 and the other half will be appropriated for road projects on Feb. 1, if the money is not dedicated by the Legislature to other purposes.

The grant funding augments $121 million from the state’s General Fund used to fully match available federal transportation funds.

“The roads and infrastructure of Michigan are vital in connecting residents as well as businesses,” said state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “I was happy to hear that these funds, which we strategically set aside, are being used for such a good purpose. As is evident by the roads that this money is directed to, there is a real need for this investment as many roads and highways in the Upper Peninsula are in a state of disrepair.”

Alger County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Robert Lindbeck said: “The list of Michigan’s county roads that require reconstruction is monumental.

“My logic in selecting projects for the Road and Risk Reserve Program was to simply advance road segments from our county’s publicly-approved 5-Year plan for road funding. Each county is required to have a Surface Transportation Improvement Plan. With these projects pulled forward, we will re-evaluate our five-year program to fill the two years that have been advanced.”

On Lehnen Road, the project will include trenching, aggregate base, base crushing and shaping, paving, drainage improvements and pavement marking. Existing 11-foot lanes and 5-foot gravel shoulders will be replaced with new 11-foot lanes, 3 feet of paved shoulder and 2 feet of gravel shoulder.

The H-44 project would begin 1.3 miles west of Coaster Road and extend east. The road work will include trenching, aggregate base, base crushing and shaping, paving, drainage improvements and pavement marking. Lindbeck said preliminary soil boring revealed poor subsoils, which will require excavation and backfill.

“It was my goal to have projects ready, in the event that funding became available,” Lindbeck said. “Senator Casperson informed our agency of the targeted funding amounts and we have been waiting for the outcome of the statewide selection process.”

Casperson praised the work Michigan Department of Transportation engineers put into identifying and selecting projects, and reaffirmed his commitment to working with Gov. Rick Snyder’s office to identify long-term solutions to improving infrastructure.

Casperson singled out the work of his district’s 13 road commissions.

“We had 13 road commission agencies come together and selflessly decide on what the priority projects for this funding should be in the Upper Peninsula,” Casperson said. “It is an incredible testament to their professional commitment to serve our transportation needs in the Upper Peninsula in very challenging times and I am, as each constituent in the 38th District should be, sincerely grateful for their efforts.”

Snyder said he was encouraged by the Legislature’s willingness to devote greater investment in the state’s transportation system.

“The Roads and Risks Reserve Fund is a terrific start, and we’ll carry that momentum forward to our goal of fully funding the needs of Michigan’s roads, bridges, rails, airports and public transit,” Snyder said. “The longer we wait, the more difficult the solution will be.”

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is jpepin@miningjournal.net