A portion of M-119 state highway between Petoskey and Harbor Springs will undergo a much-needed resurfacing this spring. Winter plowing and deep freezes each season often leave area roads in pothole-pocked condition by spring, and a short construction season often means some projects get left undone. With additional funds now coming to the Emmet County Road Commission thanks to an increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, the county will be able to spend additional dollars on maintaining area roads. (Harbor Light Photo by Mark Flemming).
"Avoid the pothole" could be considered a spring motto for motorists in northern Michigan, when the end-of-winter thaw oftens exposes less than stellar road conditions. Anyone driving M-119 between Petoskey and Harbor Springs in the past few weeks has probably played the pothole avoidance game; Emmet County road crews were already out in early march patching sections of the road on a warm morning.
"M-119 is a state highway," said Emmet County Road Commission engineer-manager, Brian Gutowski. "The Michigan Department of Transportation says the road was resurfaced more than 10 years ago. The repair they made was a micro-surface, which is designed to last five-seven years. The surface has performed very well, but it is time for it to be redone."
Gutowski said the state plans to resurface M-119 this year with a 1.5-inch layer of asphalt (between Beach Road, just north of Vernales, and East Lake Street). The project will begin in the spring and will include daytime lane closures during the week. Work will move to night hours during the month of June, when the project is expected to be completed.
The main thoroughfare between Harbor Springs and Petoskey is not the only road in rough shape come springtime. The engineer-manager said in a place with weather like northern Michigan's, it's a never ending battle of winter care creating too much summer work.
"The biggest challenge we have here is the amount of money we spend on winter maintenance, as well as our short construction season. Unlike our counterparts downstate, our winter lasts five months where we are spending money removing snow. And we are actually damaging the surface of our roads with our plows."
Gutowski said if Emmet County Road Commission could use "the funds spent clearing snow to repair roads," the condition of county roads would be "much better than what they are right now."
Deep frosts also play a role in damaging roads in northern Michigan, he noted.
"We have an extended time where frost is coming out of the pavement from our long winters. We have had frost measurements at more than 90-inches in the past. As the frost thaws, the roads heave. This causes cracking on the surface of many roads."
While motorists may not love seeing gas prices rise, Gutowski said the additional 7.3-cents per gallon for gasoline/11.3-cents for diesel (and 20-percent increase in vehicle registration fees) will increase the road commission's state funding in a significant way.
"We just received our first monthly check in March showing that increase (which started January 1, 2017). Funds for roads statewide will increase by $450 million in 2017, $600 million in 2018, $750 million in 2019, $900 million in 2020 and $1.2 billion in 2021. This funding increase will definitely allow for many, if not most, of our county roads to be improved over the next five years," he said.
In 2017, work will be focused on State Road north of Harbor Springs (from LaCount Road to Stutsmanville Road), thanks to funds from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, via the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"We will also be performing asphalt wedging on State Road from M-119 south for approximately six miles to provide a smoother surface. We also will be performing asphalt wedging on Brutus Road from US-31 to the Cheboygan County line. We also hope to replace the bridge on Middle Road over Greenbriar Drive at Birchwood in the fall," Gutowski said. "In addition, all 16 townships will be making improvements to local roads this year, spending more than $3 million on improvements."
Additional township work includes widening a mile stretch of Osborne Road in Readmond Township; portions of Atkins Road and Ecker Road in Petoskey, as well as an ultra-thin asphalt treatment on almost seven miles of township roads; Resort Pike Road in Resort Township will have reconstruction work done. The township will also have six miles of ultra-thin asphalt treatment; in Springvale Township, some of Channel Road will be reconstructed.