By Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
The annual Northwest Michigan Pavement ratings for 2012 are out and it appears Charlevoix County has some of the region’s better roads.
Mike Woods from the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NMCOG) gave the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners a report on their federal aid approved roads during the board’s regular Wednesday April 10 meeting.
“We look at these surface conditions by basically just utilizing on-site observations and incorporating those observations into additional inventory,” he said. “This past year, regionally, we collected just over 2,700 miles; that’s actually down from the previous year of 3,100 and that’s because the state cut out rural minor collecting roads as being federal aid eligible.”
Woods and a team of road experts evaluated the surface condition of all the federal aid roads in their 10-county region—a space roughly the size of Connecticut.
To qualify for federal aid, a road must meet a certain amount of traffic usage; and, it must be determined that it is a connector between two economically significant points in the county.
Roads are generally rated between May and September.
“We cannot rate when the weather is poor,” Woods said. “When the roads are wet you can’t really get a good read.”
Roads are rated thusly:
The roads rated 1-4 are typically failing road surfaces—they usually require rehabilitation, reconstruction or a complete structural overlay.
Those that are rated between 5-7 are usually considered “fair” roads—these usually only require crack seal or patch.
Those roads rated between 8-10, or “good,” don’t usually require a lot of maintenance—however, some preventative maintenance such as some minor patching or snow removal are definitely beneficial.
“Close to 50 percent of the roads regionally have a ‘fair’ pavement reading, over 20 percent are ‘good’ and the remaining 31 percent are ‘poor’ condition,” Woods said. “This is really no surprise and this is really on par with the rest of the state.”
He added, “In 2012, the number of roads in the ‘poor’ condition is the lowest it has been since 2009, and then the number of roads in the … ‘good’ condition is the highest it’s been since 2009.”
Woods said the absence of the minor roads from the report—which typically are in the worst condition—is likely to account for the change in numbers.
Woods said 60 percent of roads have maintained their present condition.
“Charlevoix County is our second highest county in the region where roads jumped two quality categories,” Woods said. “Eight percent of roads jumped from the ‘poor’ category to the ‘good’ category and also over 10 percent went up one quality category.”
Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joel Evans (R-District 4) asked if the rumble strips—grooves cut into the road to create loud noises when a driver goes off the road—will cause premature degradation of the road.
“That rumble strip does save lives,” said Charlevoix County Road Commission Manager Pat Harmon. “In this part of the country, where we have the freeze-thaw cycle, I foresee that being a huge issue.”
He added, “I think a couple more years down the road you’re going to see the rumble strip part of the road fall apart.”