ISHPEMING — The state of Michigan’s roads is an ongoing topic of conversation. Juggling limited resources with the desire to have new, more drivable road surfaces is a unique challenge.

“We want to try to do it right the first time,” said Public Works Director and City Engineer Jon Kangas. “We feel everyone’s pain. We drive down these same roads with our personal vehicles, work vehicles. We know they’re falling apart quicker than we can fix them. It’s just going to take time.”

Fixing a city street is often not as simple as just resurfacing. Digging a new hole in a freshly paved road surface to fix broken underground infrastructure can add unnecessary costs to already tight budgets.

The City of Ishpeming is taking steps to evaluate the condition of water mains and sewers in order to consider each road as a whole from top to bottom. Knowing which pipes need care will factor into the decision to redo any particular road.

“We want to be able to do a smart project start to finish. We’re taking the worst of the water main, we’re looking at the sewers that come with it, and we’re going to attack the worst sewers at the same time knowing full well that once that road goes back together, we don’t want to touch it for twenty years,” Kangas added.

The USDA grant– and loan–funded overhaul of the city’s water mains is scheduled to begin next year. The city is hoping to get a stormwater, asset management, and wastewater grant this fall to pay for exploring the condition of sewers.

Aside from unseen infrastructure, other factors also come into play when prioritizing road projects.

“You have to look at the entire ranking system: the condition of the road, the traffic density it receives, how much functional value that road has to the city,” said Kangas.

For example, fixing a truck route might be considered a priority, because rerouting heavy vehicles to streets not paved for such use can cause additional damage — and cost — in the long run.