There is no shortage of issues facing Michigan’s roadways.
Falling gas tax revenues have crippled maintenance budgets. A highest-in-the-country vehicle weight limit pulverizes main arteries. And the annual pavement-eating slurry of snow and salt, followed by a hyperactive freeze-thaw cycle, combine to make for a never-ending game of maintenance catch-up.
So as governments struggle to figure out how best to bandage the bullet wounds that are our roads, the last thing needed is a shoddy job once those scarce funds finally are located. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case.
Nowhere is this more evident than on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn’s west business district. In September, the notoriously bad stretch of road received a $456,000 patch job. The long-overdue work was intended to serve as a stopgap until a complete rebuild could be scheduled to coincide with combined sewage overflow drain replacements later this year.
But with winter only halfway through, the repairs already have begun to fail, reopening deep craters and treacherous potholes. Driving the stretch has reverted to its old, familiar feel of slalom skiing, with motorists veering back and forth in an effort to avoid hundreds of dollars in mechanics’ bills.
And while it seemingly defies logic that a $456,000 repair job to a little over a mile of pavement would prove useful for only five months, the quickly deteriorating repairs came as no surprise to Mayor John O’Reilly Jr.
In October he sent a formal complaint to the Michigan Department of Transportation, saying that several of the patches didn’t appear to be properly sealed. MDOT reinspected the road, acknowledged the concerns and then shifted their focus to the tentatively planned rebuild.
Certainly MDOT has its hands full, and the hot asphalt patches were meant only as a temporary measure. But when a mayor with no construction background can spot the problem before the patches have seen even a month of Michelins … well, there’s a problem.
It’s one thing for road work to disintegrate after it has taken the full brunt of pounding it is supposed to endure. But when repairs fall apart due to poor workmanship, it is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with — especially at a time when funding is on a steep descent.
Just as any homeowner would demand that a contractor come and fix the driveway that heaves after a few months, so, too, should the city and MDOT with the contractors that work on our roads. If these failed obligations are not addressed, it sets a bad precedent of easy money for easy work.
We already need to stretch our tax dollars as far as they can go, and paying top-dollar prices for bargain-basement quality is a surefire way to further stress an already-burdened balance sheet.