RCOC Board announces six-point plan to attack potholes; introduces hotline

The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) Board has announced a six-point plan to attack the myriad of potholes and rough gravel roads left in the wake of the worst winter seen in the county in generations.

“I have heard from motorists countywide of their frustrations resulting from one of the worst pothole seasons in Michigan’s history,” stated RCOC Chairman Greg Jamian. “Because of my concern, I asked our staff for an action plan that addresses a non-routine plan of attack on potholes and gravel roads. This plan has full RCOC Board concurrence. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.”

RCOC Vice Chairman Ron Fowkes agreed. “We are fighting back against the damage caused by this brutal winter, and by decades of inadequate funding,” Fowkes said. “We are doubling down on our efforts to patch the potholes and grade the gravel roads.”

“This winter was brutal,” added RCOC Commissioner Eric Wilson. “We used more than twice as much salt as either of the last two winters and more than twice as many snow plow blades. We used nearly 35,000 hours of overtime – far more than we budgeted for. This winter took a tremendous toll.”

In order to make it easier for residents to report potholes, the Road Commission is also introducing a new, easy-to-remember phone line to its Department of Customer Services (DCS). DCS is the department that receives all resident calls and ensures all the information is received, recorded and forwarded to the proper agency staff. Residents can now call toll-free 1-844-OAK-ROAD (625-7623) to report a pothole (they can also still call DCS’s main line as well: 877-858-4804).

Additionally the agency has brought in two additional temporary employees to help answer phones in DCS, which has been inundated throughout 2014 due to the adverse winter and harsh spring. Despite this, the agency continues to see a high volume of calls, though, and callers may have to wait to report a problem. The “on hold” message  has also been changed, though, to encourage those waiting to instead use RCOC’s online form to report concerns, which should help to reduce wait time (go to www.rcocweb.org and click on “contact us”).

The six items that make up RCOC’s plan are:

1. Retain part-time, temporary workers who were hired to help out with plowing and salting during the winter until May 2 to help patch potholes. They will work three days per week and be available for overtime if needed.

2. Hired a private company specializing in pothole patching to help out. The company uses a spray patching technique that is best suited to shallower holes and can only be used when the temperature is 40 degrees and above. This will allow RCOC crews to focus on the larger holes.

3. RCOC crews stand ready to continue to work extended shifts on many weekdays and weekends to patch potholes and grade gravel roads. While this is an extraordinary expense, it is necessary to more quickly enhance the condition of RCOC roads.

4. Four additional road graders are being rented to augment RCOC’s fleet of 19 aging graders (which can experience down time). Additional equipment rentals will be considered if needed.

5. Private trucking companies are being hired to haul recycled asphalt product (RAP – ground-up asphalt) from RCOC’s stock pile at its Southfield garage to other parts of the county so it can be used to stabilize gravel roads. This will free up RCOC trucks to continue to patch roads rather than haul material. Use of RAP has been very beneficial for RCOC: It is obtained at no cost from contractors; since the gravel pits aren’t open yet, without the RAP, RCOC would have little material to stabilize gravel roads during this critical time.

6. Three additional full-time mechanics and two full-time laborers have been hired to augment RCOC staff. The mechanics will help to ensure that agency equipment is available as often as possible for pothole patching and gravel road maintenance. The laborers will be assigned to road repair.

RCOC Managing Director Dennis Kolar noted that one of the reasons there are so many potholes this year is that many roads in Oakland County as well as throughout the state are in the worst condition seen in many years. While the abnormally harsh winter hastened the deterioration, many of these roads were already falling apart due to the state’s lack of investment in its infrastructure.

“Certainly the harsh winter didn’t help,” Kolar said. “However, the reality is for decades Michigan has not invested the money needed to maintain its roads as other states have, and we are seeing clearly the impact of that neglect.”

Kolar noted U.S. Census Bureau data confirms that Michigan has been among the bottom 10 states in the nation in per capita state and local spending on roads since at least 1964. “That means for at least 50 years, we have been paying less to maintain our roads than the residents of most other states,” he explained. “Ultimately, you get what you pay for. No one wants to pay more taxes, but residents of nearly every other state in the nation pay more to maintain their roads, and that becomes painfully clear when you compare Michigan’s roads to those in other states.”

Ultimately, Kolar said, we are all paying a “hidden tax” on our roads anyway. “We may be paying less in taxes to maintain our roads than most other states, but every time we have to replace a tire or tie rod or strut due to our rough roads, we’re paying for it – not to mention the hassle of the time and effort required to have your car repaired. One way or another, we are paying for our roads. I think a lot of folks would agree that it would be easier to pay a little bit more at the gas pump every time we fill up, than to pay a large bill at the repair or tire shop.”

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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