Road commission adapting for spring weather

As spring arrives, road crews are transitioning from plowing to filling potholes both within the city and around the county. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The sunny weather is a sure sign the spring is on the way, and although local road maintenance crews will hopefully be putting away the plows soon, they will continue to be hard at work.

Mark Sohlden, Manistee County Road Commission manager, said crews are already going out to start addressing potholes that formed over the winter.

“We worked on some last week, and that will continue in the coming week,” he said. “We definitely have a lot of issues with potholes this time of the year, we’ll have several two-person crews out taking care of them. When you switch from winter to spring, especially with the recent weather, they definitely become an issue.”

Although the overall approximate snowfall is lower than this time last year — 117 inches compared to 155 inches — Sohlden said there were several incidents of severe weather that made a dent in their salt and sand supply.

Mark Sohlden said that the icy road conditions over the past few months has utilized a lot of their salt, sand and 50/50 mix supply. (News Advocate File Photo)

“We’ve gone through quite a bit compared to other winters, and we’ve had a lot more events with ice, freezing rain and snow-rain mixes,” he said. “We still have a supply of salt, sand and our 50/50 mix, so we still have some in stock but we’ve used more than usual.”

Sohlden said the supply will depend on how the rest of the season pans out, and crews have been able to shift their focus from plowing to potholes.

“We’ve had the crews working quite a bit on weekends,” he said. “When we had the big wind situation in February we had pretty much a full crew, between the down trees and the blowing snow.”

With the recent flooding that occurred throughout the county, Sohlden said some roads were impacted but there were no significant issues.

“We had a few situations with erosion in areas with a steeper grade, along the edges of the payment,” he explained. “By Pierport out on 13 Mile Road, we had some flooding and erosion.  But compared to other counties, especially some of the southern counties, we didn’t have as many problems and nothing very major.”

Another change that has come into play with the spring weather is the annual implementation of weight restrictions to protect roadways as the ground warms up.

Effective Monday, the restrictions were expanded to cover all state trunkline highways for the entire state of Michigan. State routes typically carry M, I, or US designations.

In Manistee County, the restrictions were enforced beginning March 15 on all county certified roads, although certain stretches of roads will allow normal loading with a truck speed restriction of 35 mile per hour. The speed-restricted roads are listed at www.manisteecrc.org.

Sohlden said the duration of the weight restriction depends on the consistency of the weather.

“The fluctuation of temperatures is the big factor there, when we have consistent warmer temperatures it shortens that time frame,” he explained. “I think it will start to warm up this week and hopefully stay that way for a while.”

The amount of time that the weight restrictions are in effect have varied a lot over the years, and last year was a particularly long period for the restrictions.

“Last winter was a record for the period of time that we’ve had, it was around 10 weeks in duration,” he said. “Over the last 15 years or so the average duration was five and a half weeks, but it really depends on what we get. If we get a lot of warm temperatures and sunshine with some consistency, it gets the frost out of the ground quicker.”

Contact Jane Bond at (231) 398-3111 or email jane.bond@hearst.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MNA_Jane.

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