Wednesday, 4/22/20 was probably the best day I’ve had during my tenure as Supervisor of this budding little metropolis and there have been some really good days in the last 4 years.  I thought of sharing the news with all of you then, but restrained myself until I had a chance to satisfy myself that things were, indeed, looking up.  And they are!  So I thought I’d start this little missive off with a bit of music to help set the mood, as it were….if you like Gaelic inspired rock, you may like this.  It’s called “Better Days Ahead!” and it’s by the Elders.

Now that you’re suitably prepped for some good news, let me tell you why I’m happy.  I’m going to do this in sort of a bullet text format, then I’m going to share with you an email from one of our Administrators at Jackson County.  Here you go:

First, a short time ago, knowing we had some funds left on the maintenance millage we passed a few years ago, I asked our most competent Treasurer, Judy Clark, how much was still in the kitty.  She came to me and told me that we had about $200,000.00 left to be collected.  That was indeed good news as we have some roads that are in deplorable condition.  We all know $200K isn’t going to be a cure all for what ails us, but it’s way better than a sharp stick in the eye.  So I will begin discussions with JCDOT on where that money could be put to most advantageous use.  Stay tuned for better days ahead!

Second, during my meanderings around the Township I happened down Warner Rd. and was surprised to see someone had spread some very heavy (railroad type) stone in a few bad areas.  It was a pain in the can to drive over and I found myself wondering if that had been done by a local resident.  So I asked.  I was pleased to find it was done by JCDOT and why.  I’m posting the entire email between myself and Jim Cole of JCDOT below so you can read it for yourselves and I won’t have to repeat it.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty happy with it.  Again, Better Days Ahead!

Third, as I indicated in my last “news” letter, I spent some time with one of the engineering Inspectors who was working on the Albion Rd., Behling Rd., bridge over the Kalamazoo.  I was immediately concerned for the future of our Township transportation architecture, so I asked about it.  I was both pleased and surprised to find that JCDOT had already began the fund finding process for that bridge.  Read on….

Fourth, as a kind of “Hail Mary” pass, I inquired about the Cornell Rd., bridge, having already been told that when a bridge like that goes down, it usually stays down for several years.  That was the case with Warner Rd., Pope Church, and many others and Pulaski Twp. has been without a bridge on Hanover Rd. for more than a year already.  So you can imagine my utter shock to find out that JCDOT has already addressed this issue and has ordered us a NEW BRIDGE!!!!!  CORNELL RD. IS GETTING A NEW BRIDGE!!!  How cool is that?

Having said all of that, “it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings” as they say, so I am going to make an attempt to curb my enthusiasm and not go bounding down the streets of Concord doing back flips and yodeling until these things actually take shape, here.  But I am, and will remain, measurably happier for having heard and now shared this news!

So, there you have it, folks!  Here is the entire communication between Jim Cole at JCDOT and myself for your edification and reading pleasure.  And one last thing:   I need your help with something.  I am making a concerted effort to expand our base of communication here in Concord Township and the quickest and most cost effective way to communicate is by email.  PLEASE forward this email and/or encourage all residents you know to sign up for our email newsletter.  It’s free, it’s fast and it’s the best way to learn what is happening in Concord Township.  Just go to: https://concordtownshipmi.org/ and sign up in the “Stay in the Know” box on the lower right hand side.  If you decide you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe any time.

Here you go:

Al,

JCDOT understands and appreciates the concerns you have in Concord Township. I will try to address these concerns in this email (in italics)but also would like to schedule a Zoom meeting as soon as possible to explain or answer any additional questions that may arise.

I have a figure on the funds we’ll have available for road repairs for the foreseeable future and I’d like to meet with you to discuss priorities, etc.  The sooner the better, OK?  But then again, isn’t that always the way it is?

Al this is great news, I look forward to meeting with you do discuss priorities and options. Do you have any particular roads in mind? I can have our team get a head start and do some field surveying.

Second, I took a drive (of necessity) down Warner Rd. between Albion and Mann Rds.  Apparently someone spread some gravel in the rough spots and I’m wondering if that was JCDOT or one of the residents?  It did not seem like your quality of work.  Let’s be kind and say that the quality of gravel is not what I’d expect on a county road.  Please call me and advise.  I’m certain I’ll be getting complaints.

There have been some very heavy rains lately, this adversely effects our gravel road system. Operations has been trying to locate and address some of the soft spots and/or areas where water is unable to escape on the gravel roads. Some of these areas were located on Warner Road by the area foreman. However, we were unable to address these areas with traditional maintenance by adding gravel and grading.  Instead we worked on correcting these areas the right way, requiring 6A or “railroad stone” to fortify the road base. On March 27, there was 132 yards placed on Warner Road. I assume this is what you saw while driving the area. After the road was able to dry out, our crews placed and graded an additional 80 yards of 23A over the 6A. This treatment will improve the fortitude of the road and eliminate the soft spot in these areas.    

I had an impromptu meeting with one of your engineering staff this morning, he was inspecting the Bridge at Albion and Behling Roads.  Suffice it to say the prognosis was not good.  Unlike Cornell Rd., that is a pretty critical part of our transportation infrastructure and I can’t afford to wait until it’s closed to get moving on it.  So let’s plan on talking about that at your earliest possible convenience, OK

The Albion Road bridge is currently under study. JCDOT has applied for funding for this bridge in both 2019 and 2020. Each year we apply for the maximum of 5 bridges for rehabilitation/reconstruction (see the map in the attachment for our current bridge applications).  Unfortunately, we generally only receive funding on average for one bridge every three years – the local bridge grant program is severely underfunded, and there simply isn’t enough money for bridges throughout Michigan.  We are working with bridge design experts to prepare a feasibility study that provides us with options to prolong the life span of the existing structure. We agree that Albion Road is a vital artery for Concord Township, and rest assured that we here at JCDOT are doing our best to be proactive in ensuring that this corridor is minimally impacted. Once we have the feasibility study completed we will provide you with a plan moving forward.

Speaking of Cornell Rd., I need to know where you folks are on remediation efforts.  What avenues have you researched, what grant applications have been made, what assistance has been sought and from whom.  Have you decided between wooden plank and steel and concrete replacement?  Kindly keep me informed as inquiring minds want to know…Always.

Foremost, please know that we share your concerns.  As we discussed on the phone a couple of weeks ago, the emergency closure last month was based on discovery of some very serious substructure problems by our inspectors.  We discovered that the bridge is no longer safe for traffic, and we ordered immediate closure.   The inspector discovered accelerated deterioration of the substructure, particularly excessive corrosion of the steel beams (see attached photos of the bridge).   Beams can fail suddenly and catastrophically when they reach this condition. 

Please know that closing a road or a bridge is not a decision that we take lightly.  However, we must do so to protect the safety and welfare of our motoring public.  It is an ethical and moral obligation that we take very seriously.  Our registered professional engineers, our director of engineering, and our managing director are all champions, guardians, and stewards of maintaining a safe transportation infrastructure for all residents and visitors of Jackson County.  Rest assured that we are working hard to (1) proactively discover problems with our structures, and to (2) expedite repairs/replacements upon discovery.  As such, I humbly ask for your full support in this matter as we continue working together to discover and solve these problems.

As for a path forward on this structure, our Board of Commissioners has approved a proposal that we swiftly prepared a couple of weeks ago to purchase a new timber deck superstructure.  The proposed replacement structure will be ordered immediately, and we expect to receive the structure in approximately 12 weeks.  The bridge will be very similar to the Pope Church Road structure, of which photos are attached for your review.  Our plan is to install the new bridge immediately upon receipt from the manufacturer (likely in August). Our recommendation to the Board was that JCDOT covers 100% of the cost of the project.

Thank you, and please know that I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

I hope this helps!

Jim Cole

Project Manager

Jackson County Department of Transportation

jcole@mijackson.org

 

More Photos:

 

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