Roads were in the spotlight during the April meeting of the Fabius Township Board – and a badly-deteriorated, two-mile stretch of Harder Road received a good deal of the attention.
Louis Csokasy, manager of the St. Joseph County Road Commission, and Rick Jackson, superintendent of operations, were featured guests at the meeting Wednesday evening (April 13).
Jackson began the Road Commission presentation by highlighting key points in a packet of information about the agency, roads in St. Joseph County, and roads in Fabius Township, in particular. Csokasy joined in as the focus shifted to the Harder Road issue.
Csokasy provided an overview regarding the section of Harder Road at issue – between Youngs Prairie Road and the Cass County line – including its history as part of the old M-60. He shared traffic count data showing that the volume of vehicles using the roadway has dropped from 500 to 600 per day in 2002 to a current range of 250 to 300 per day. And he reported that only eight percent of the present traffic flow is commercial.
Csokasy said, “The rule of thumb is that, if a road has a volume of 200 cars or less, it really ought to be left as gravel.” He said the cost for doing a mile of asphalt with an inch-and-a-half overlay is “about $80,000” compared to about $16,000 for chip and seal.
Csokasy indicated that – based on current and projected volume – double chip and seal is the appropriate surface for the road, not asphalt, and he outlined a proposal for creating such a surface at a cost of $239,200. Twenty percent of the amount would be paid by the Road Commission with local authorities contributing 80 percent. In this case, the Road Commission portion would be $47,800 and the local amount would be $191,400. (Louis_Csokasy_audio clip – 1:24)
Csokasy identified the following components within the proposal:
• Mill the current overlay
• Pulverize the road
• Overlay with gravel 3 to 5 inches thick
• Shape the road
• Double chip and seal the road
• Add another chip and seal the following year.
Csokasy advocated doing the entire project in one year and suggested there may be a way to come up with “payment terms” so the cost could be spread over two years.
Rebecca Shank, a Fabius Township resident, said, “I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of going to the county and asking that they do a better job of supporting their infrastructure and maybe they could add to some of the share.” Csokasy said he would follow up on the suggestion and noted that St. Joseph County is one of only 12 counties in Michigan that have a bridge fund that contributes to the Road Commission.
In commenting on the Road Commission proposal, Supervisor John Kroggel said, “I think we all recognize that Harder Road’s a big issue. The county’s come to us tonight with some different ways of approaching the problem that might be more cost effective.”
When quizzed about a timeline for township board action on the Harder Road matter, Kroggel said, “I’m not going to give you a timeline. We just got this information tonight. I don’t think the board is interested in voting on this tonight. We need to take a look at the information. Mrs. Shank pointed out to Louis that, perhaps, the county might want to get more involved with the cost of it. I think there’s more issues that need to be addressed before I say I’ll get it done next week. I’m not in the business of making promises I can’t keep.”
Kroggel indicated the decision would be made by the board and added, “We’re going to try to make a good decision working with our partners over there and, if the county can come up with more money, or if we can work out some sort of payment plan so that we don’t destroy our budget. We hear you. We know it needs to be worked on.” (John_Kroggel_audio clip – :51)