Over time roadways deteriorate and develop cracks and other defects. Snow and moisture pass through the cracks and seep into the underlying gravel base and sub-soils. The cold weather causes freezing and expansion of the moist gravel and sub-soils. As a result, the asphalt surface rises up in places in the road. This is called frost heave.
In the spring, the temperature begins to rise, the ground thaws, and the gravel and sub-soils settle leaving air pockets under the pavement. Vehicles driving over the air pockets and weakened pavement force the asphalt surface to collapse, creating a pothole.
The Road Commission utilizes two methods to patch potholes.
The first, Cold Patch, also known as cold asphalt, is the most common method to fill potholes because it can be applied right from the truck without heating. Cold patch also does not require any special heavy rolling machines or special applicators as it can be shoveled into the pothole.
Cold patch is not dependent upon warm weather. Road crews like cold patch because it retains its pliable properties when the temperature drops, so it can be used year round.
The second, Dura Patch, is a method that utilizes specialized equipment to patch potholes instead of workers with shovels, tampers and cold patch. The Dura Patch system cleans the area with compressed air, applies a tack coat, sprays the emulsion/ aggregate mix into the pothole with sufficient force to compact the material as it is applied, and then follows with dry aggregate to prevent lifting.
Dura patch is dependent upon warmer weather and is typically only used in the late spring, summer, and early fall months.
If you notice a pothole, please contact our office at 616-842-5400 to report the pothole location or utilize our online service request form.
Road Surface Maintenance
The most common surface maintenance treatment for paved roads is pothole patching, which the Road Commission performs all year.
Other surface maintenance treatments for paved roads are performed or contracted out by the Road Commission as part of the Preventative Maintenance Programs. The programs include Crack Sealing, Seal Coat Surfacing, Cape Seal Surfacing, and Skip Paving.
Every asphalt surface develops cracks over time. If left untreated, these cracks can lead to serious road deterioration as water penetrates the pavement and weakens the road base. As the base weakens, more cracks form in the pavement. Potholes then form, and the roadway steadily disintegrates. All of this can lead to expensive maintenance and reconstruction.
One of the most cost-effective and practical methods of prolonging the life of any pavement is to seal the cracks to prevent continued surface and base damage. The construction process includes cleaning the cracks or joints with compressed air and other tools to remove all loose dirt, vegetation, and foreign materials. A rubberized asphalt material is then placed within the crack or joint and an overband width of material (typically a 3” width) is applied on the road surface.
For more information about the Crack Seal Program, download the Road Commission’s current Strategic Improvement Plan.
SEAL COAT SURFACING
Seal Coat Surfacing (also known as a Chip Seal) is a perfect tool for pavement preventive maintenance. Seal coats provide a quick, reliable and economical surface treatment that will seal out the damaging effect of water, help to increase skid resistance, improve aesthetics and delineation, and provide a new wearing surface to protect the pavement for years to come.
In a single seal coat surfacing process, an asphalt binder is sprayed onto the pavement, then immediately covered by a single layer of uniformly sized aggregate. The new chip sealed surface is then rolled to seal the aggregate to the oil and swept. After a few weeks the area is swept again, then a fog sealant (a black emulsion) is placed over the stone surface, and road pavement markings are painted.
For more information about the Seal Coat Surfacing Program, download the Road Commission’s current Strategic Improvement Plan.
CAPE SEAL SURFACING
Cape Seal Surfacing uses the advantages of two sealing and rehabilitation methods to provide a new surface for existing bituminous roads. First is the application of a seal coat that is followed within a few weeks by an overlay of a micro-surfacing.
For more information about the Cape Seal Program, download the Road Commission’s current Strategic Improvement Plan.
SKIP PAVING PROGRAM
The Skip Paving Program was developed to address roadways that have small segments of deterioration, where Road Commission maintenance crews could overlay those areas with asphalt (usually only a couple hundred feet in length) to keep the pavement in a more consistent condition until a permanent improvement can be implemented.
The skip paving process consists of placing a single layer of asphalt over a deteriorated or problem area of the paved roadway. The thickness of this overlay is typically 1 1/2 inches. The existing asphalt surface may be milled to provide good joints or to maintain or alter grades. Milling is a process by which a machine is used to plane the pavement surface to an appropriate depth before the new asphalt surface is placed.
To obtain more information about the Skip Paving Program, please contact our office at (616) 842-5400.
Road Commission crews pull shoulders on gravel roads in the county every spring before the grass begins to grow on the side of the road. This maintenance is done to reclaim gravel that has been pushed into the shoulder as well as to remove the “berm” on the roadside which keeps the water from flowing off the road.
We lose a lot of gravel either from rain washing it off the road or from vehicles kicking it up from normal driving. By doing this the Road Commission can save thousands of tons of gravel. The process of pulling shoulders involves a couple of steps. A tractor with a retriever (disk), or motor grader, goes through and pulls the berm into the center of the road. Next a truck grader “beats” the gravel out of the sod and mixes it with existing gravel. This isn’t a thing that’s done in one day. It can be a two-week process. The graders do come back on a regular basis to check on it and regrade as necessary.
In the summer, roads are graded prior to having dust control materials applied. In addition, the Road Commission tries to grade gravel roads after it rains and the road has softened up. Unfortunately in the winter and spring, there is not much that can be done until the frost is out of the roads.
To inquire about having a gravel road graded, please call our office at (616) 842-5400 or utilize the online service request form.
The Road Commission will respond as quickly as possible, however at times, road grading must be postponed due to weather conditions or coordinated with dust control applications. If the road is too dry or too wet, grading has little effect other than to re-arrange dust or mud.
One of the drawbacks of gravel roads is they are prone to giving off dust. Road dust is made up of fine particles that are important to the stability of the road. As a road dries out, the fines blow away, breaking down the gravel road. Daily traffic scatters the remaining coarser aggregates that have become loose; causing holes, ruts, washboard, loss of profile, loss of ditch lines, and other problems.
Keeping the road moist helps fines adhere to each other and to aggregates, allowing for optimum compaction. There are several different types of products that help control dust and retain moisture. The most commonly used are:
- Calcium Chloride is a man made solution generally at 26% to 35% concentration.
- Mineral Well Brine is a naturally-occurring salt water that is pumped from the ground.
When applied to gravel roads, both the chloride and brine products draw moisture from the air and ground. This moisture binds the materials in the road, reducing the amount of dust that becomes airborne and providing a better driving surface.
The Township will select a contractor, purchase a dust control material, and determine the frequency and location of applications. The Road Commission will then grade the gravel road prior to the contractor’s placement of the dust control material. A tank truck with a rear distribution bar is typically used to spread the liquid dust control evenly over the road.
Contact the local Township office to request or inquire about dust control applications.
Road Commission crews typically grade shoulders along the roadway to pull the gravel up against the edge of the pavement in the spring and throughout the summer months. Periodically, additional gravel is placed on the shoulders to fill in the holes.
To inquire about shoulder grading and maintenance, please contact our office at (616) 842-5400 or utilize our online service request form.
Roadside ditches, swales, storm sewer, culverts, or other similar drainage features are installed to convey storm water from the road surface and roadbed to an outlet such as a pond, county drain, creek, infiltration area, or other waterway. These roadside drainage systems are typically located in the county road right-of- way and maintained by the Road Commission or in some instances the Water Resources Commissioner.
Importantly, the primary role of roadside drainage is to drain the road, not adjacent private property, unless the roadside drainage system has been established as a County Drain.
To inquire about having a roadside ditch cleaned out, please contact our office at 616-842-5400 or utilize our online service request form. The direct link to the online service request form is LINK
Roadside ditching is scheduled when crews are not needed for other activities, such as patching, grading, mowing, etc.
The maintenance supervisor takes into consideration several questions, when establishing priorities for ditching, such as:
1. Is the current ditch elevation creating a road problem? (Elimination of flooding on the roadway or shoulder would take precedence over standing water in the ditch);
2. Is there an outlet readily available? (Ditching will create a deeper hole for water to stand in, if a creek or County Drain is not available to drain the water into)
Maintaining culverts under the road is an integral part of road maintenance, as failing culverts can be detrimental to the road and pose a serious hazard to motorists. The Road Commission continuously inspects and evaluates road culverts. Repair and replacement of road culverts are performed on a priority basis, utilizing available funding.
The Road Commission does not maintain driveway culverts. Each property owner is responsible for all repair, replacement, and cleanout of their driveway culvert. Property owners are encouraged to inspect their driveway culvert(s) on an annual basis. Debris and sediment should be removed to keep a consistent flow through their culvert.
To inquire about road culvert maintenance, please contact our office at (616) 842-5400 or utilize our online service request form.
The Road Commission roadside mowing practice is as follows:
- Primary roads are mowed twice a year
- Local paved roads are mowed twice a year
- Local gravel roads are mowed once a year
- Subdivision streets are not mowed
- Clear vision areas at intersections are mowed as needed
- State Highways are mowed as determined by MDOT
To inquire about roadside mowing, please contact our office at 616-842-5400 or utilize our online service request form.
Tree Trimming & Removal
Requests for the Road Commission to remove or trim trees or other vegetation within the county road right-of-way will be reviewed and must meet some or all of the following criteria:
- The tree or vegetation is within the county road right-of-way.
- The tree or vegetation is determined by the Road Commission to be a potential public hazard, vision impediment, or drainage obstruction.
- There are no buildings, utilities, or other obstructions too close to the tree as determined by the Road Commission.
- The tree is dead, dying, or weakened.
If the Road Commission completes a review of the request and determines there is an immediate danger to the public; the tree, limb, or vegetation will be scheduled for removal as soon as possible. Otherwise, the request will be handled as time and resources allow.
Tree trimming and removal by the Road Commission is generally done in the spring and fall of each year.
Live mature trees are typically not removed by the Road Commission unless they have a high probability of being struck or as necessary in conjunction with road improvement projects or other permitted activity.
If the adjacent property owner or their contractor wishes to trim and/or remove trees/vegetation within the county road right-of-way, a permit application shall be obtained from and submitted to the Road Commission for review and approval.
To inquire about having a tree removed or trimmed, please call our office at (616) 842-5400 or utilize the online service request form.
Dead Animal Disposal
The responsibility for picking up and disposing of dead animals has been a long-running debate. Surprisingly, there is no statutory requirement for any agency in Michigan to perform this service.
Animal control authorities and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDRE) have both stated they have no authority on the issue. Citizens usually call the local road agency to pick up the dead animals. While most road agencies will not dispose of the dead animals, they will move the carcasses that pose a hazard to motorists off the traveled portion of the road.
Over the years, the Road Commission has picked up and disposed of dead animals as a courtesy service for the public. However, costs and budget constraints have limited this service to just one day a week, and typically only dead deer will be picked up from the road right-of-way.
To inquire about dead deer disposal, please contact our office at (616) 842-5400 or utilize our online service request form.
State regulations regarding the disposal of dead animals can be very confusing. For more information on dead domestic and wild animal disposal, please contact the Ottawa County Health Department at (616) 396-5266 or visit miOttawa.org.
Summer Safety Tips
Safety is Everyone’s Job!
During the summer months, Road Commission performs many duties, including road construction, grading, roadside mowing, and more. It’s very important for residents, and especially children and newly licensed drivers, to know what they can do to stay safe.
- Don’t play on, or near roads! Talk with an adult about choosing safe places to play.
- Keep well away from the edge of the roadway as you wait for the school bus, get the mail, or watch Road Commission equipment.
- Watch your children and teach them to stay away from streams and roadside ditches which can be dangerous.
Hold an adult’s hand when you are near cars. And always “Stop, Look, Listen, and Think” before you cross the road.
- Limit bike riding to parks, playgrounds or bike paths – never on the road without an adult. And always wear an approved helmet when riding a bike.
- Wear an appropriate and properly adjusted seat belt or child restraint on every car trip.
- Stay alert in work zones! Look for reduced speed limits, narrow driving lanes, flaggers, and workers. Signs will tell you exactly what to expect ahead.
- Slow down in work zones and minimize distractions! The three C’s – cell phones, CDs and coffee – are primary causes of driver distraction.