A Bump in the Road, Part 4

This is UGN News Director Mike Hoey.

Roads are in rough shape all over Michigan.

Yesterday, in Part 3 of my week-long series, ‘A Bump in the Road’, I showed you Ewing Township, a Marquette County community where things are especially bad.

People both inside and outside of the township are trying to improve its situation.

Tonight, in Part 4, I take a look at what’s been done so far and what still needs to happen.

Ewing Township’s problem of lacking any paved roads isn’t the only one the community is trying to address.

There’s also the matter of connecting themselves with the rest of the county by bridging the Escanaba River.

The idea’s been floating around since the Great Depression.

The Marquette County Road Commission still has blueprints for the project that it drew up in 1931.

But money is getting in the way of solving both problems.

Road Commission engineer and manager Jim Iwanicki says they would cost at least $20 million.

Neither Ewing Township nor the Road Commission has that kind of cash.

So township residents have been working with Iwanicki to locate other funding.

Iwanicki says they made the only road leading into or out of town, West Maple Ridge Road, eligible for federal transportation funds a couple of years ago.

Township Supervisor Arnie Sirtola says when that happened in 2007, they got a federal commitment to cover 80% of the projects’ cost if the state of Michigan would put up the other 20%.

But the state has never committed to that 20% share.

Still, residents have been told they may be able to get federal funding to pave the first 2.5 miles of the road by 2012.

Township resident and Road Commission member Dave Hall says it’d be tremendous if they can do that, because once a project is started, everyone involved finds a way to finish it.

The work on the bridge and West Maple Ridge Road would have a spillover benefit for all Ewing Township roads.

If the township has to spend less on West Maple Ridge, it can spend more on the other roads and give them better attention.

Hall says while he doesn’t begrudge any other place in Marquette County for receiving the funding that it does, he feels Ewing Township deserves a slice of that pie.

He says they’re not going to give up on this until it happens.

That may be the answer for Ewing Township.

But what about big-picture answers to generate road funding across the region?

I’ll explore those Friday night in the final part of ‘A Bump in the Road’.

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