Rules of the road: Road Commission keeps eye on conditions for weight restrictions

The Manistee County Road Commission will be keeping a close eye on the weather and conditions of the county roads in order to implement its seasonal weight restrictions. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

The Manistee County Road Commission will be keeping a close eye on the weather and conditions of the county roads in order to implement its seasonal weight restrictions. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE COUNTY — From summer construction projects to winter plowing, and all of the year-round maintenance in between, the Manistee County Road Commission is charged with providing a safe and efficient system of county roads and streets.

Around this time of year, the MCRC utilizes another method in this pursuit: Seasonal Weight Restrictions.

“We take a close look at weather forecasts, the actual weather and how they are impacting the roads,” said MCRC manager Mark Sohlden. “A lot of times, when it really starts to warm up, you can actually see the frost coming out of the cracks of the road.

“The road base starts to thaw and the water comes to the surface,” he said. “We coordinate and communicate with other road commissions in the area, especially Mason, Wexford and Benzie counties when implementing or lifting seasonal weight restrictions.”

According to the County Road Association of Michigan, concrete and asphalt roads can become spongy and fragile in late winter as sunlight hits its surface and frost comes out of the ground.

Moisture gets trapped between the pavement and the remaining ice layer beneath, making the road vulnerable to permanent cracks as trucks with heaving equipment travel on them.

To protect roads from this occurring, road commissions enact weight restrictions on any county certified road not designated as an “all season” road.

These seasonal weight restrictions lower load limits and reduce maximum speeds for certain vehicles. “All season” roads are designed to allow year-round trucking at Michigan’s typical legal weights. These roads are labeled as exceptions when the seasonal weight restrictions are announced.

The MCRC has yet to implement its annual restrictions this season.

“We’re looking at possibly later this month,” Sohlden said, “but we’re not at that point yet.”

Since the weight restrictions are dependent on the weather, the time frame of these implementations fluctuate.

“The start and end dates and duration of restrictions vary each year based on the weather and road conditions,” Sohlden said. “There’s been times when weight restrictions were on for just two or three weeks because everything had warmed up so much that it was in the 60s by March or April and stayed consistent.

“Generally, though, it will be implemented for four to five weeks.”

Last year, MCRC’s weigh restrictions ran from Feb. 29 to April 4. Over the past 13 years, the average duration for the restriction has been nearly five weeks. The shortest duration recorded since 1981 was 11 days in 1998 and the longest was 58 days in 1996.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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