Commission seeks input on what roads to fix

Kurt Hauglie/ Daily Mining Gazette There will be a public meeting regarding possible primary road projects for Houghton County, which will be eligible for federal funding. Some of the Houghton County Road Commission vehicles are seen Monday in the agency’s garage.

RIPLEY — The Houghton County Road Commission receives federal funding for some of the roads in the county, but to receive it the county must submit a five-year development plan, according to Kevin Harju.

Harju, engineer for the HCRC, said there will a public meeting at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the agency’s offices on M-26 in Ripley to discuss possible projects to add to the five-year plan for 2017-20.

The discussions for the Surface Transportation Improvement Plan for federal transportation funding and state economic development funds will focus on the primary roads in the county, such as Airport Park Road, the Chassell-Painesdale Road and Bootjack Road. It doesn’t include M-26 or U.S. 41, which have their own funding sources.

Attendance at the annual meetings fluctuates depending on what issues may exist with certain roads, Harju said, but they’re usually well-attended.

“On the average we get a few dozen,” he said.

However, the roads which could receive funding are limited, so anyone attending the meeting should be aware of that, Harju said.

“Sometimes people have questions about local roads, but they aren’t eligible for this funding,” he said.

Harju said Houghton County receives $600,000 in federal funding annually, with a required 20 percent local match. However, it costs about $250,000 to reconstruct one mile of road, so that $600,000 covers slightly more than 2 miles.

The Michigan gasoline tax and vehicle registration costs just increased on Jan. 1, but Harju said it will be a while before county road commissions will receive any money they are allocated.

“We won’t see any of that money until after the first (fiscal) quarter is done,” he said.

The full allocation from the road-funding changes won’t be implemented until 2021, Harju said.

Pre-registration isn’t required to attend the Jan. 16 meeting, Harju said, but anyone with concerns about the roads should attend, if possible.

“We prioritize the roads, because it’s a five-year funding,” he said.