You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Washtenaw County Road Commission plan includes $36 million in projects over 5 years

By Amy Biolchini

About $36 million worth of road construction projects are on the draft version of the Washtenaw County Road Commission’s updated five-year capital improvement plan.

The Road Commission reviewed the 2013-2017 plan and its potential effects on the commission's 2013 and 2014 budgets in a working session Tuesday afternoon. Worst-case scenarios put the Road Commission’s 2014 ending fund balance extremely close to the $4.5 million floor that the department previously set as the minimum balance.


File photo |

The 2012-2016 plan included $28.7 million in capital improvement projects. Several of those look like they will get some action in 2013, according to the updated plan.

Replacement of the Ford Boulevard Bridge over the Norfolk-Southern rail lines in Ypsilanti Township, a projected $3.15 million project, will likely be on the books in 2013. The project is slated to receive about $150,000 from the Michigan Transportation Fund.

Officials decided it will be best to close the roadway for four months to complete the project, rather than extend the project for a longer period of time and keep a lane of traffic open over the bridge, said Roy Townsend, managing director of the Road Commission.

Construction of the Border to Border non-motorized trail from Hudson Mills to Dexter, a $2.1 million project, will go out to bid in November for construction in 2013.

A number of safety upgrades to several high-traffic roads are also in the works for 2013, including signal timing improvements along the Washtenaw Avenue corridor in Pittsfield Township. The potential $300,000 project will include input from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The biggest safety upgrades in 2013 will likely be in Pittsfield Township, with a $2.5 million installation of a roundabout at State and Ellsworth roads, as well as a $60,000 project to control traffic movement at the high-crash intersection of Carpenter and Packard roads.

Still on the capital improvement plan from last year are two Textile Road intersections in Ypsilanti Township, one at Stony Creek Road and the other at Hitchingham Road. Road commissioners and planners are still unsure about what would be the best solution for those intersections, which have stop signs.

A section of 40-year-old Carpenter Road from Packard to Washtenaw in Pittsfield Township is slated for $1.75 million worth of reconstruction in 2014. The Road Commission has marked that one as a high priority.

New construction of Seven Mile Road from Main to Donna Lane, a $1.8 million project, remains on the Road Commission’s wish list for 2016.

The capital improvement draft plans for the next five years also include $81.9 million in unfunded projects that have been requested by townships in Washtenaw County. That's about $15.6 million less than what was requested in the 2012-2016 plan.

Among those unfunded projects are four requests from Ann Arbor Township, three of which are on roads leading in to the city limits of Ann Arbor:

  • Reconstruction of Pontiac Trail from Wild Oak to the city limits
  • Resurfacing of Huron River Drive from Foster to the city limits
  • Reconstruction of Newport Road from Maple to the city limits

Capital improvement plans are typically approved by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in late fall or early winter.

The Road Commission also reviewed budget projections for the next two years during its Tuesday working session. At the end of 2012, the commission’s fund balance is projected to be about $9.3 million - an increase from 2011, when the fund balance was $8.88 million.

The projections, presented to the three road commissioners by Townsend, are dependent upon a number of factors, including how much employees will have to pay for their health care through Blue Cross Blue Shield, so the projections will likely change.

Road Commission Vice Chairman Fred Veigel seemed skeptical about some of the predicted financial outcomes.

“Do you take your Ouija board home with you at night?” he said to Townsend, who responded with a smile.

The Road Commission is unsure about how much money to expect from the Michigan Transportation Fund in 2013 and 2014. Should the rate stay the same, the county would get $16.55 million in 2013.

Though the Road Commission will be reducing spending in the administration, operations and engineering departments, Townsend said the commission will still be overspending its budget by $2 million in 2013, leading to a predicted $7.3 million fund balance at the end of that year.

Should the county shell out additional funds for several projects, including a Ridge Road culvert over Fowler Creek in Superior Township, the fund balance could end up even lower, at $6.543 million at the end of 2013.

Estimates for 2014 also put the Road Commission’s ending fund balance at about $5 million - near the $4.5 million floor that road commissioners set years ago as the lowest amount the entity should have in its coffers.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Patrick Maurer

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 8:39 a.m.

How about doing some repair work on Willis Road from Whittaker to Stoney Creek. That road is in terrible shape and the traffic volume is increasing, including large semi trucks. That traffic will further bust up an already deteriorating surface.

Basic Bob

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

I don't understand why Pittsfield would build a roundabout before fixing Carpenter Road, one of the busiest roads in the entire county. You can bet that next year, they will delay rebuilding Carpenter Road until 2015 and widen State Road down to Textile - narrowing abruptly at the supervisor's neighborhood instead of continuing to its natural conclusion at US-12. Of course that will conveniently require a westward shift of the airport runway.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

Why the Round About @ State & Ellsworth. Things are fine in that area. Why waste the $$$$$$?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Gotta be cool! These gizmos are really in these days. Getting rid of excess lanes for cars and building roundabouts. That's about it.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

And why are we waiting a year to do the 1.75 M badly needed Carpenter road repaving, a road used by probably thousands of people a day, in favor of a 2.1 M bike path that at best maybe a hundred people a day will use?

Elizabeth Jahn

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

"A section of 40-year-old Carpenter Road from Packard to Washtenaw in Pittsfield Township is slated for $1.75 million worth of reconstruction in 2014. The Road Commission has marked that one as a high priority." This road is a disaster zone. It should have been torn up and repaved years ago. The right lane is so torn up that cars can't even use it. There are no plans to fix it until 2014?!? So much for a high priority.

music to my ear

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

"oh goodie"I love the orange barrels it is a pain but the end results are rewarding. but in Mi there never seems to be an end.but the plus is people are working and we are grateful for anything we have to take the good with the bad now on to the new bridge to Canada.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

I feel quite safe navigating the existing customary intersection at State and Ellsworth twice a day. Supposedly roundabouts reduce accidents -- once the public learns how to navigate them. Best to find another route while the bloody training occurs.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

They are called "roundabouts" because they are home to roundabout six accidents a day. BTW, unless there is a way to limit use of these things to locals, then not everyone will learn how to navigate them, and folks off I-94 will continue drive right into the roundabout without yielding to traffic already there. Crunch.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Going to agree with you here, I have never had a problem simply using the intersection as-is.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

State and Ellsworth round about may help with traffic flow during none rush hours, but from 5pm to 6:30pm everyone who can should avoid this area. And if there is an accident on East bound I-94 at any time of the day stay off of Ellsworth and State. If the city of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township and Washtenaw County to come togethere and make Ellsworth at least 4 lanes from Lorh Rd. to connect at Platt Rd and Ellsworth Rd 4 lanes it would be great. BUT they cannot seem to understand how bad (traffic) this road has gotten in the last 20 years.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Wonderful idea, that might take some traffic off of I-94 It also might help if I-94 were 3 lanes from State St. east to US 23 for just the east bound side. Doing so for the west bound side would not help since the traffic back up is from State St and Ann Arbor Saline road traffic trying to go to downtown Ann Arbor.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

A section of 40-year-old Carpenter Road from Packard to Washtenaw will get repaved. I'm dissappointed. Since so much of this stretch has been single lane all summer, with such bad traffic that I avoid it, I though that it was being repaved. A few years ago, I watched a crew repave a section of I-94 one lane at a time over night. The next day the other lane was done. Why must we neglect the roads for so long that we then close roads for an entire summer, tear them dowm to the dirt? Then as an added insult, usually there are few to no workers present. Instead of that sign "..kill a worker…7 years or $15,000…" that cry wolf and eventually get ignored, other states place a "Men at Work" sign only when workers are present, removing them each evening when they are gone.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

The $2.5 million installation of a roundabout at State and Ellsworth roads will have capacity problems. It is designed to have 2 lanes, yet all other roundabouts in Washtenaw County such as the ones by Skyline High School (M-14 and Maple) quickly had traffic wear off the lane markers and they effectively became one lane roundabouts. Far too many drivers now drive in the center, where the lane markers once were, to safely carry two lanes. What this means for the very busy intersection at at State and Ellsworth roads is that once they effectively become single lane roundabouts, unable to carry their expected traffic volumes, is massive rush hour backups, similar to when the intersection experiences a power outage and everyone must stop. Other examples where the Washtenaw Road Commission fails to repaint lane lines are the left turn lanes from Ann Arbor Saline to Lohr, as traffic flows from I-94 to the Meijers and Best Buy. Far too often somone in th right-side left turn lane will swing over to the left side. Ditto fro exiting the freeway at Ann Arbor Saline.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Also, it was noted in a previous article that the two lane roundabouts are intended to become one lane when there is a semi truck or a school bus in it. Many semis and school buses use that intersection. I also hope that they will fix the lights on Ellsworth East of State. There is constant backup from Ellsworth to Platt at rush hour. Longer greens on Ellsworth could help that. Finally, bus stops need to be given cut outs along Ellsworth. Often people are backed up waiting for a bus to make their stop. Essentially, Ellsworth needs to be widened, but round abouts are the pet project of the hour so the funding gets diverted away from where it could really help.


Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

I agree completely. Re-painting lane lines is a relatively very cheap part of road maintenance that is almost completely ignored by the WRC. And as you point out, there are definite implications for traffic flow and safety when it is not done.