Eaton County Road Commission
Most paved local roads in Eaton County were improved using private development funds, contributions from Township governments, or by special assessments on the properties that access a particular road. The level of funding provided to the Road Commission by law is not sufficient to pay for the initial paving of a road. Although Township governments have no responsibility for road maintenance or improvements and do not receive any road tax money, they have been very supportive of county roads over the years, and you may wish to contact them to see if they have any plans to improve your road in the future. You can also obtain a petition from the Road Commission to create a Special Assessment District to improve your road. When signed by the owners of 51% or more of the frontage on a road, such a petition authorizes the Road Commission to create an Assessment District, prepare plans and estimates of the work needed to pave the road, and hold public hearings regarding the proposed project. All properties accessing the road would share in the expense of the project, which could be spread over a period of up to ten years.
So called “all season” roads are those that have been designed and built with additional strength and durability to withstand truck traffic loads all year long, and thus they are not subject to the reduced loading restrictions that are placed on most roads during the early spring in Michigan. All residential subdivision streets, most rural sealcoated roads, and all gravel surfaced roads in Eaton County are subject to a 25% reduction in allowable loading during the period each spring when thawing of the ground below the roadbed softens the roadbed and makes the surface susceptible to damage from heavy loads.
Yes, a permit from the Road Commission is required any time work is performed in County road right-of-way. When you apply for a permit you are helping ECRC maintain safety for both you and the traveling public. Most traffic accidents occur at intersections or where vehicles are entering or leaving the roadway. ECRC inspects each proposed drive location to assure that adequate sight distance is available, to determine what drainage improvements might be necessary, and to review the site for other potential safety problems before a permit is issued. Although there is a charge for a residential driveway permit, there are no permit fees for most other minor work in road right of way. We require that all contractors follow accepted traffic safety procedures and furnish adequate insurance coverage to protect both the homeowner and the public.
Except for the recently passed local road millage, which by law may be used only for the repair and rehabilitation of local roads, the Road Commission does not receive property tax revenues. Most property tax revenue goes to the State of Michigan and local school districts to pay for school operations. Small amounts of your property taxes fund general County and Township government administration, and special voted millages fund specific governmental functions, including the County jail, Township libraries and Central Dispatch (911).
The only tax money the Road Commission receives for road maintenance is distributed through the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) administered by the State of Michigan. State collected fuel taxes, license fees and vehicle registration fees, including all of those that you may pay, make up most of the MTF and is divided by law among the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan’s 83 counties and 534 cities and villages. MDOT receives approximately 40% for State programs.
While these funds help ECRC provide basic services such as grading on gravel roads, pothole patching and snow plowing, this level of funding does not allow the Road Commission to make significant improvements on most County Local Roads.
ECRC actively seeks State and Federal grant funds whenever available, and encourages participation in road improvement projects by other agencies and Township governments. Unfortunately for most local roads, most grant programs target funding to the main Primary County Roads, which are generally already paved and in fairly good condition, and most Township governments operate on a modest budget that can not provide the level of funding necessary to upgrade or pave many roads.
The process you are referring to is sealcoating which most road agencies in Michigan use as a relatively low cost method of preserving existing pavement. The tar is actually an emulsion of water and liquid asphalt which penetrates and seals small cracks in the existing pavement. Sealing these cracks on a regular basis prevents water from seeping into and softening the base of the road and over time causing potholes to form. The peastone that we use for cover material sticks to the emulsion and, after rolling and sweeping, provides a slightly roughened skid resistant surface to improve safety. Although sealcoating can preserve and extend the life of the pavement, it is only a surface treatment and does not fill any existing bumps, holes, or irregularities and thus does not improve the ride quality. For this reason, it is important to apply sealcoat to a road BEFORE this deterioration occurs, which leads us to sealcoat roads that are in generally good condition rather than waiting for them to deteriorate to the point that extensive patching is necessary.
The Eaton County Road Commission (ECRC) is the agency that installs and maintains all traffic signs on Eaton County roads. State law requires that ECRC follow the requirements of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD) or risk losing state funding for road maintenance. In order to install regulatory-type signs, such as no parking or speed limit signs, ECRC must initiate a traffic study of the road in conjunction with the Michigan State Police (MSP). The study includes a review of traffic counts, accident history, speed studies, the character of the area along the road and any other information available regarding problems in the area. While the Road Commission is a participant in the traffic study and analysis, the guidelines of the MMUTCD and judgment of the MSP largely determine what speed limit will be adopted. At the conclusion of the study, the MSP issues a written Traffic Control Order (TCO) directing the Road Commission to install specific signs at specific locations on the road, and to record the completed TCO with the County Clerk.
If there is a ditch along the road in front of your property you should not fill it in even if it doesn’t drain water along the road. The purpose of most roadside ditches is to prevent water from pooling on the roadway during or after a storm, to provide an area for snow storage from snowplowing operations, and to lower the water table beneath the roadbed. Filling in even a fairly shallow roadside ditch can cause serious damage to the road and pavement from frost heave and, of course, shrubs and trees planted in that area are exposed to damage from traffic, snowplowing, and sweeping operations. Please do not plant any trees or shrubs that may become a vision obstruction or that may grow into a large fixed object that presents danger to motorists anywhere inside the road right of way. Trees and ornamental plantings should be set back at least 33 feet from the center of the road, which in most cases will place them outside of the road right of way and protect them from traffic damage.
The Road Commission no longer places or maintains Children Playing signs, although there are still several of these signs scattered throughout our road system. Prior to the revision of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD) in 1983, these signs were acceptable for use on county roads. Studies done nationally leading up to that revision demonstrated conclusively that, while these signs may make parents and children feel safer, they have absolutely no effect on driver behavior, and do not slow traffic speeds as might be expected. To the extent that the signs might make parents or children think they are safer when the danger is still present, these signs can actually reduce safety. The best policy is still to be sure to keep children as far away from the road as possible, and don’t allow even older children to play in or near the road. Although we do not encourage their use, the Road Commission will issue a permit to a resident to install their own children playing sign near their home. There is no charge for the permit but the resident must agree to accept responsibility to place and maintain the sign in a safe manner.