By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald
ST. CLAIR TWP. – Reconstruction will close Fred Moore Highway for about two months this summer.
At $2.25 million, the project is the most expensive on the St. Clair County Road Commission’s 2015 to-do list.
State and federal grants will pay for rebuilding almost three miles of the highway between Allington Road and Carriage Lane.
Bill Hazelton, director of engineering at the St. Clair County Road Commission, said the Fred Moore Highway is long past its sell-by date.
“The road was originally constructed in the 1960s,” Hazelton said. “The maintenance is getting too expensive. The freeze and thaw is breaking down the road to the point that people avoid the road altogether. It’s 50 years old, and it has lived its life.”
Hazelton said the project will be Fred Moore Highway’s first major reconstruction. The road commission has only done concrete slab replacement and general shoulder work.
Jennifer Nelson, road commission engineer, said the road will be completely closed, but crews will maintain access for residents and businesses in the work zone.
Traffic estimates shows 7,500 vehicles use the road on a daily basis.
The reconstruction will start in July and be completed before school starts in early September. The work will be performed in two segments.
Phase one will be from a half mile east of Allington Road to Wadhams Road. The second phase will be from Wadhams Road to a half a mile west of Carriage Lane.
Doing it in phases allows for a clear detour route from Wadhams Road to I-94, Hazelton said.
The two phases were originally separate projects that were supposed to take place a year apart.
They were combined after the road commission secured an Economic Development Category A state grant worth $275,000 based on a new or expanding employer in the area.
The expanding employer was Magna Interior Trim in China Township, which announced it was adding 200 jobs in February 2014.
That allowed the road commission to apply for the grant.
“Once the grant was secured, it made sense to put them together and do them at the same time,” Hazelton said. “Category A funding was going to come to us in 2015 no matter what, so we applied for the grant to improve the roadways near Magna.”
The road commission also secured an Economic Development Category D state grant worth $870,000 for reconstructing roads with the most-used truck routes.
Hazelton said the majority of the project’s funds came from federal grant worth $1.1 million that focuses on roads in rural areas.
The county will be covering the design and construction engineering costs, Hazelton said. That is estimated to be $100,000 and will come from the road commission’s general operating fund.
The road commission scheduled a Feb. 25 grade inspection meeting to meet with all utility companies.
“Before the meeting we send out our preliminary design to the gas and electric companies and any townships to see if there will be any conflicts of construction during the time frame,” Hazelton said. “They will come to our meeting and let us know what we can and cannot do. We don’t want to blow up a gas line by digging too deep.”
Hazelton said the road will remain open for a five-day window in July to accommodate boats traveling to St. Clair for the annual powerboat races.
“There is a time frame at the end of July we can’t close it down for,” he said. “So, we will basically be telling the contractors there are a couple of days that they can’t close down access for the boats to get to the city of St. Clair.”
Marv Westrick, who has lived in St. Clair Township for the majority of his life, said Fred Moore Highway has been in need of reconstruction for the past five years.
While residents need to be able leave their driveways, Westrick is more concerned for farmers. Construction will be taking place in the summer when farmers are the busiest.
“It’s overdue. You can’t even take a wagon or tractor down this road at 15 mph because it just beats the hell out of a tractor,” he said. “With a car you don’t even notice them.”
Westrick said he hears semi-trucks go by every night, which he blames for the roadway’s poor condition.
“It would be good to see the traffic slow down (because of construction),” Westrick said. “They drive too fast anyway. Right now it seems like the county throws asphalt in the holes every week. As soon as a car hits it, the asphalt flies out. It’s a waste of money.”
St. Clair Township resident Heidi Riley lives on Fred Moore Highway just east of Wadhams Road.
“Fred Moore is a pretty bad road,” Riley said. “I like the work they did previously at Allington (Road).”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 18, 2015)