Road repair might take until next year

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette With the clock racing to line up repair funding in time to complete projects before winter, some roads may not be finished until next year, Road Engineer Kevin Harju said Tuesday.

HOUGHTON — Some county roads will probably have to wait until next year for repairs to damage incurred by the June 17 flood, Houghton County Road Engineer Kevin Harju said at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

One hundred-and-five county roads were impacted by the flood, Harju said.

Fifteen roads in the county remain impassable.

Seventeen roads that sustained damage were federal aid routes, allowing the county to seek assistance through the Federal Highway Association (FHA). The remainder are local roads, where aid would come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Monday requested a federal disaster declaration for Houghton, Gogebic and Menominee counties, which would open up the funding.

Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette file photo Flooding is seen on Paradise Road on June 17. The road is among 15 county roads that still have impassable sections.

A declaration will take at least 30 days, Harju said.

“We’re in recovery mode, so we have to sit back and wait for that funding to come to aid us in the final repairs. We were going really fast. A lot of equipment was flying around,” he said. “Now we’re in ‘Here’s all our submittals. This is the damage.'”

The package submitted to FEMA included $16 million for local roads.

There was about $14 million of damage to federal aid roads. Six engineers from Michigan Department of Transportation arrived yesterday and are working with Road Commission staff. They are making detailed inspection reports of the estimate submitted for damage to trunk lines. Priorities include Houghton Canal Road, Salo Road and Paradise Road where it crosses the Pilgrim River.

The hope is to get a detailed inspection report to Lansing on those this week, Harju said.

“We’re really pushing hard to fast-track a few of those projects, especially, because they’re very large drainage structures that we’d like to have back in before winter,” Harju said.

Harju said the road commission is working with the state on trying to secure other funds to finance the recovery while waiting on approval for FHA and FEMA funds.

Harju urged patience while the road commission works to bring the last county roads into service. Of the 15 impassable roads, the majority have large structures, Harju said.

“We have some that are going to be 28-foot spans now, across,” he said. “It’s just not something we can call up a supplier and say, ‘We need this structure yesterday.'”

In preliminary talks with suppliers, an order placed last week could result in work around September, Harju said.

“There’s a good possibility some of the roads won’t be fully repaired by winter,” he said. “We’ll have to come up with alternatives as the summer goes along, if we can get a better timeline as funding comes in. We’re trying to address the high traffic and the large structures, at least get a structure on it with a gravel surface before winter.”