What roads and bridges are part of Ottawa County Road Commission’s network?
The Road Commission maintains 1,712 miles of roads and 136 bridge structures within Ottawa County, exclusive of those that fall under the jurisdiction of the State, cities and villages. The OCRC also provides routine and winter maintenance for 521 lane miles of state trunklines under a contractual agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
How does the Road Commission receive funding?
There are four pieces of revenue sources that make up the financial puzzle for the OCRC:
Michigan Transportation Fund
State and Federal Sources
Countywide Road Millage
The main and largest revenue source for the OCRC comes from the State of Michigan through Public Act 51 of 1951. Michigan PA 51 guides the State in the collection and disbursement of the fuel tax, vehicle registration, and vehicle weight taxes that are deposited in the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF).
The funds the OCRC receives from the MTF are primarily utilized to maintain the county’s state-certified road system. PA 51 further defines how funds are distributed to and spent by road agencies, and classifies them as either Primary Roads — higher traffic volume roadways that balance mobility and land access — or Local Roads, lower traffic volume roads that provide limited mobility, and provide access to residential areas, businesses, and farms.
How does the gas tax play into road funding?
Each time you purchase gasoline in Michigan, you’re paying a couple of road-user fees as well: the 26.3 cents per gallon state gas tax, and the 18.4 cents per gallon federal fuel tax. Whether gas costs $2 per gallon or $4 per gallon, the amount collected for those two taxes remains the same.
You also pay the Michigan 6 percent sales tax. If gas were to cost $2.50 per gallon, that would amount to another 15 cents per gallon in taxes.
The Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) receives the gas tax, vehicle registration and various other fees and and distributes the revenue through a formula in ACT 51 of 1951 to MDOT, Cities and Villages, and County Road Agencies.
We pay property tax. Why isn't that enough to cover fixing our roads?
Generally, the property tax you pay is used for your local and county governmental units and schools, not for roads. Instead, the majority of the OCRC budget is funded by the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), which includes revenue from gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
In November of 2014, the residents of Ottawa County passed a millage of ½ mil per year for ten years (2015-2024) for the purposes of providing a fund for the reconstruction, resurfacing, and preventative maintenance of roads in Ottawa County.
The focus for the millage funds is on the primary road system. Primary roads are established by Public Act 51 and approved by the State Transportation Commission. They are typically selected according to their importance to the county.
Millage funds are not spent on administration or operating costs, or on routine maintenance activities such as snow removal, pothole filling, pavement marking, roadside mowing, tree removals, traffic road sign installation, etc.
Road millage funded projects are selected using the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) process. A SIP is developed annually, and implemented based on input and comments from local governmental officials, and the general public.
Since 100% of the millage revenues generated within a township is only spent on road improvements within that township, there are some carryover balances for some townships in order to properly fund proposed projects within that township.
The first year of the road millage was added to the 2015 winter tax bills, so a majority of the revenue was not disbursed to the Road Commission until early 2016.
What are “all-season” roads?
“All-season” roads are those that have been designed and built with the appropriate width and pavement thickness to withstand truck traffic loads all year long. They are not subject to the seasonal weight restrictions that are placed on most roads during the early spring.
Roads not constructed to “all-season” standards are subject to a reduction in allowable loading and speeds during the period each spring when thawing of the ground below the road softens the roadbed and makes the surface susceptible to damage from heavy loads.
Generally, primary roads are constructed to all-season loading standards. However, there are a few primary roads that require reduced loading during seasonal weight restrictions. All residential subdivision streets, most local roads and all gravel surfaced roads in Ottawa County are subject to a 25% reduction in allowable loading when these restrictions are in effect.
Seasonal weight restrictions are very important for the longevity of roads. The Road Commission uses weighmasters for enforcement of seasonal weight restrictions on county roads.
For more information on seasonal weight restrictions in Ottawa County and throughout Michigan, visit the County Road Association of Michigan weight restriction portal.
Where and what type of mailbox can be installed in the right of way?
The location and construction of mailboxes shall conform to the rules and regulations of the U.S. Postal Service and the following Ottawa County Road Commission standards. These standards are based on guidelines established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Mailboxes should be set back at a minimum of one foot from the edge of the shoulder, regardless of whether the shoulder is gravel or paved. Greater offset distances are encouraged so the mail carrier can move out of traffic. According to USPS standards, a mailbox must be installed so the bottom of the mailbox is between 41 inches and 45 inches above the road shoulder.
The following types of posts are acceptable for mailbox supports:
- 4" x 4" wooden posts embedded no more than two feet into the ground. Larger wooden posts (4" x 6" or 6" x 6") may be used only if the post is drilled through with an appropriate spade bit to create a breakaway post.
- One-inch- to two-inch-round diameter steel or aluminum pipe, or standard U-channel post embedded no more than two feet into the ground.
The Road Commission may consider accepting other support post types if a breakaway design can be demonstrated or the support has been approved by AASHTO.
Only mailboxes that have a Postmaster General’s (PMG) seal of approval shall be placed on acceptable supports. Custom-made mailboxes shall meet USPS size and construction standards, and shall be approved by the USPS.
The mailbox should be attached to the support post to prevent the box from separating from the post top if a vehicle strikes the installation. Additionally, no more than four mailboxes shall be mounted on an acceptable support structure unless the support structure and mailbox arrangement have been approved by AASHTO. Newspaper boxes may be mounted below the mailbox on the side of the mailbox support.
Mailboxes, attachments, or support systems not consistent with the OCRC's Mailbox Installation Policy shall be deemed an unauthorized encroachment, and shall be immediately removed by the owner upon written notification by the Road Commission. If the owner has not removed the mailbox, the Road Commission, in accordance with relevant provisions of Michigan law, including MCL 247.171 et. seq., , shall issue the owner a Removal Order, whereupon the owner will be granted 30 days to remove the unacceptable mailbox. Thereafter, the mailbox will be removed by the Road Commission at the owner’s expense.
How are roads selected for paving?
The Road Commission continuously evaluates road conditions to identify replacement, repair, and maintenance items. Project lists are developed with priorities based on the evaluation of data such as:
- PASER Road Ratings
- Traffic Volumes
- Capacity and Congestion Issues
- Accident History
- Maintenance Problems
- Funding Sources
Each year the Road Commission gathers input from local governmental officials, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), and the general public to determine improvement needs and develop a 5-year Strategic Improvement Plan.
Improvement needs not included in the Strategic Improvement Plan are typically addressed through the recurring, day-to-day maintenance activities by the Road Commission.
Since 100% of the costs associated with resurfacing or other surface treatments applied to Subdivision Streets have been paid by the Townships and/or residents, the Township’s determine which Subdivision Streets are selected.
What is the process of a street resurfacing project?
Weather permitting, this is approximately a 4-week process from start to finish, however the actual duration can be longer or shorter depending on circumstances surrounding the road project.
The road will not be closed as the work will be done with temporary lane closures and traffic control. The work will take place in several stages and may take some time to complete. Inclement weather will also be a factor in the timely completion of the project.
Steps in the road resurfacing project include:
Step #1: Remove the right-of-way portion of driveways. We allow a 3 inch drop at the end.
Step #2: Mill existing asphalt surface at ends and intersections.
Step #3: Adjust manhole castings if applicable. They will stick up above pavement about inches.
Step #4: The road will be resurfaced with new asphalt.
Your mail box may be moved and readjusted to a height as specified by the mail carrier.
If you have items within the road right-of-way that are near the existing roadway such as irrigation, sprinkler heads, or landscaping, please make arrangements to remove these items. You may flag the irrigation lines, sprinkler heads, or other items and the contractor may make an effort to avoid them.
Neither the contractor nor the Road Commission are responsible should any damage occur to these items within the road right-of-way.
Several weeks after paving is complete the contractor/sub-contractor will restore the shoulders & driveway ends to the level of the new road surface. During this time please enter and exit your driveway on an angle so your car will not receive any underbody damage.
If you have an existing concrete driveway and the existing roadway does not have a concrete or asphalt curb and gutter, then per the policy of the Road Commission, your driveway approach will be replaced with asphalt. If the existing roadway has a concrete or bituminous curb and gutter your driveway will be replaced in kind.
Once the new asphalt surface has been placed, please avoid parking on the roadway and shoulder for at least 1 week. This will help minimize any possible damage to the new pavement.
If you should have any further questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 616-842-5400 and ask for the Project Engineer for your specific project area.
Who is responsible for bike path installation & maintenance?
The Road Commission works with townships and local municipalities to allow the installation of sidewalks, bike paths and other non-motorized trails within the road right of way.
Requests for these types of facilities would begin at your local township office.
The townships and/or residents, depending on township ordinance, is responsible for maintaining its sidewalks and/or bike paths.
On the state highway system (MDOT) requests would be directed to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
We suggest contacting either the local township or MDOT for more information.
Permitting & Right-of-Way
What is the road right of way?
All county roads are located on land that is referred to as the road right of way.
It’s intended to support county road, pedestrian facility, and public utility purposes. Additionally, the right of way concept was created to provide adequate space on either side of the road for storm drainage and a safe recovery area for vehicles that leave the road surface.
Although distances can vary, the general rule of thumb is that the right of way is 66 feet wide.
It’s advisable that an engineering or surveying firm be used to determine the actual width and location of the right of way.
What is a right-of-way encroachment?
Michigan law prohibits the placement of any object, except authorized mailbox mountings, within the county road right of way unless that object is permitted by the Road Commission.
In many instances, property owners or contractors place fences, rocks/boulders, trees/shrubs, earthwork (including berms), signs, or other objects within the road right of way as a measure of improving landscape. However, these fixed objects often become hazards to errant motorists, vision obstructions, or interfere with road and public utility improvements.
The Road Commission asks for everyone’s cooperation in keeping the road right of way free of all potential hazards and future road and conflicts with public utility improvement.
When is a permit required for work within the right-of-way?
A permit is required from the Road Commission for any and all work being conducted within the road right of way, whether it is by a contractor or a property owner. Permit applications and information are available on our Special Services Department website.
Some examples of work that require a permit are:
- Adding or improving a driveway approach
- Adding, improving, or maintaining a public or private utility
- Adding or improving a sidewalk or non-motorized path
- Excavating/filling roadside ditches
- Surveying and other engineering operations
- Placing a banner, decoration, or similar object
- Closing a section of county road for a parade, celebration, festival, bike/run event, demonstration, or similar activity
- Grading or excavation, landscaping, tree planting, tree trimming or tree removal
- Any construction activity that impacts storm water runoff into or around county road right of way.
Standard mailboxes are allowed without a permit in the road right of way.
Why are concrete drive approaches only permitted on curbed roads?
Safe Environment - On shouldered roads, rigid concrete driveways located in the shoulder of the road can pose safety risks to our maintenance staff and cause equipment damage. Our operators need to grade shoulders in the summer and plow in the winter. Flexible asphalt driveways minimize impacts to both our drivers and equipment. Curbed roads do not have shoulders that are graded or plowed.
Efficient and Cost-Effective Restoration - The restoration of concrete driveways with concrete is not very efficient or cost-effective for the Road Commission as compared to asphalt for the following reasons:
- It takes much longer to saw cut, excavate, and remove concrete driveways that need adjusting versus the time it takes to mill an asphalt driveway.
- In order to maintain access for the property owner, concrete driveways are often required to be poured half width at a time, where asphalt can be placed the full driveway width.
- Concrete can take up to 28 days to fully cure, where asphalt can be driven on the same day. In most cases, asphalt driveways can be placed at the same time the contractor is paving the lane of the road.
- There is an additional expense for concrete testing and quality assurance.
Curbed roads are milled and resurfaced, therefore it is not necessary to change the driveway approach.
REMINDER—A permit MUST be obtained from the OCRC in order to construct, reconstruct, relocate, surface or resurface a driveway or private road approach adjoining a road within the Road Commission’s ROW.
Can trees be planted in the right-of-way?
The Road Commission established a county-wide Tree Planting Policy to balance the benefits that trees can provide, the desires of the community, and related safety concerns.
The policy depicts tree planting locations as it relates to the type of road, number of lanes within the road, and the speed limit. On subdivision streets, the policy allows trees to be planted 25 feet from the centerline of the road.
REMINDER: A permit must be obtained from the OCRC in order to plant a tree within the ROW.
How do I obtain a transportation permit?
Permits may be issued to businesses or individuals actually providing the transportation that moves vehicles and/or loads exceeding legal size and weight limitations, provided that the vehicles and/or loads cannot be readily dismantled, divided, reduced or otherwise rearranged to conform with legal limits.
Transportation permit applications should be completed online using the Oxcart Permit System and in accordance with our Procedures and Regulations for Permitted Activities. Types of permits that can be obtained are as follows:
- Annual Transportation
- Single Move
- Super Move
- Annual Mobile Home
- Single Mobile Home
- Milk Haul Route
- Utility Non-emergency Exemption
Nominal convenience fees will be automatically added to your payment for use of Oxcart and credit card payment.
Please note: If you are bonding a road for a seasonal move, a cashier’s check must be submitted directly to the Special Services Department and should not be included with the online payment.
Why are weight restrictions placed on county roads each spring?
Seasonal weight restrictions are legal limits placed on the loads that trucks may carry. Roads thaw out from the top down each spring, trapping moisture near the surface. During the thawing period, the melting ice leaves voids underneath the pavement. Heavy loads then compress the gravel and bituminous surfaces, causing them to deteriorate. Therefore, when seasonal weight restrictions are in effect during spring thaw, the maximum allowable axle load and speed is reduced to prevent weather-related deterioration of roads.
How do I…
How do I make a service request?
Service requests can be made by calling our main office during normal business hours, Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at (616) 842-5400. You can also use the online service request form on our website.
The online service request form is simple to use. Provide your name, email, telephone number, address, township, approximate location, and an explanation of the issue or request. The request is then forwarded on to the appropriate department for investigation and resolution.
Usually within a few days, a response is given to the requestor or the service has been performed.
How do I make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request?
As a governmental agency, the Road Commission is required to comply with the Public Act 442 of 1976, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
If you are interested in obtaining documents that fall within the requirements of the FOIA, you may submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in writing to the Ottawa County Road Commission, 14110 Lakeshore Drive, Grand Haven, Michigan 49417, Attention: FOIA Coordinator.
Please be advised that upon receipt of a FOIA request, the Road Commission has five business days in which to respond (six business days if received via fax or email), in accordance with the Act, and the requesting party will be charged for research time and copies of any documents requested. If an extension of time is necessary in order to fulfill a FOIA request, the Road Commission will notify the requesting party in writing, at which time an additional ten business days will be permitted to the agency, in accordance with the Act.
How do I request a road abandonment?
The following process is followed for all road abandonment requests:
- A written petition signed by 7 (seven) or more different freeholders of the township in which the road is sought to be absolutely abandoned and discontinued shall be submitted. The petition for absolutely abandoning and discontinuing a highway shall describe the road in general terms or by any name by which it is known, and if the absolute abandonment and discontinuance of only a portion of a road is asked for, that portion shall be specified. The petition shall be accompanied by a true and correct list of the names and mailing addresses of the owners of each parcel of land abutting the highway, or portion of the highway, sought to be absolutely abandoned and discontinued, which list shall be signed by at least 1 (one) of the persons making or presenting the petition and certified by a Notary Public.
- The petition will be reviewed by the Road Commission to be valid and to determine if the request can be presented at a normal Board meeting of the County Road Commissioners or if a Public Hearing is required.
- Prior to the presentation of a petition to the Board of the County Road Commissioners, the Township or municipality where the requested road or part of road to be abandoned is situated shall be notified to provide written input concerning the petition. In addition, the appropriate fee according to the latest fee schedule shall be submitted by the petitioner.
- If the Board of County Road Commissioners determines to abandon any county road or portion of a county road, it shall do the following: (1) Generate a Notice of Determination and (2) Quitclaim Deed the property to the Township. The Township shall either retain the property or allow it to revert to the adjoining landowners.
* If the petitioned road or portion of a road borders on, crosses, is adjacent to, or ends at a lake or the general course of a stream the action as outlined in No. 4 above shall conform to current Michigan Law.
The procedures for requesting a Road Abandonment Request Process and Form can be downloaded.
How do I go about getting a gravel road paved?
Since townships and/or residents pay 100% of the cost to pave a gravel road, gravel roads are typically selected by the townships for paving based on concerns of the public and the amount of revenue available. Revenues to improve a gravel road are obtained by: private development funds, contributions from township governments, township local road millages, or by special assessment charges on properties that access a road.
The level of funding provided to the Road Commission, by law, is not enough to pay for the initial paving of a road. Although township governments have no responsibility for road maintenance or improvement, 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.
Contact your township to learn about petitioning to have a gravel road paved.
How can I obtain dirt from ditching?
This is landfill-grade dirt and may contain rocks, trash, class, car parts, and other debris. Once delivered, we will not retrieve unwanted fill.
We must be able to reach you when a load is available, or it will go to the next name on our list. The list length can vary, depending on current county ditching projects.
Who is responsible for…
Dead animals in the road
The responsibility for picking up and disposing of dead animals has been a long-running debate. Surprisingly, there is no statutory requirement for any agency in Michigan to perform this service.
Animal control authorities and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDRE) have both stated they have no authority on the issue.
There is no agency in Ottawa County that provides removal services for small wild or domestic animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, opossum, raccoon, or cats. They must be taken to a landfill.
As a courtesy, and to ensure safe driving conditions, dead deer are removed from the road right of way once per week when we’re not conducting winter maintenance activities.
The railroad company that owns the tracks is responsible for railroad crossings. Usually there is a small metal placard located on the crossbuck (railroad crossing) sign adjacent to the track with the appropriate railroad company information.
Any issue or incident that is an immediate risk to the safety of any person should be reported immediately to 911. Be prepared to tell them your name, location and what you observed.
Constructing and maintaining sidewalks and paths
The Road Commission works with townships and local municipalities to allow the installation of sidewalks, bike paths, and non-motorized trails within the public road right of way.
Requests for these types of facilities would begin at your township office. Additionally, the township and/or residents, depending on ordinance, are responsible for maintaining these sidewalks, paths and trails.
Along the state highway system, requests would be directed to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Private Drive Approaches
The Road Commission does not have jurisdiction over privately owned streets and is not responsible for any maintenance of the road and will not perform such work.
Private roads belong to private individuals, or collectively under an association, who are responsible for maintaining their roads.
All private driveway/road approach maintenance shall be maintained by the owner from the outside edge of the county road shoulder or curb line to the edge of the county road right of way line.
Maintaining culverts under the road is an important part of road maintenance, as failing culverts can be detrimental to the road and pose a serious hazard to motorists.
The Road Commission continuously inspects and evaluates road culverts, and repair or replacement of road culverts are performed on a priority basis using available funding.
The Road Commission does not maintain driveway/drive approaches or their culverts. Each property owner is responsible for all maintenance of their driveway, including repair, replacement and clean out of the driveway culvert.
Permits for driveway/culvert repairs can be obtained by calling our Special Services Department at 616-842-5400.
Traffic & Safety
Who decides where and when traffic control devices are placed?
Traffic signs, pavement markings and traffic signals are the result of an engineering study conducted by the Road Commission. The Road Commission has the responsibility and authority to place traffic signs and traffic signals at locations that have met a specific list of warrants or guidelines that are found in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD). To be effective, traffic controls should meet five basic requirements:
- Fulfill a need,
- Command attention,
- Convey a clear, simple meaning,
- Command the respect of road users, and
- Give adequate time for proper response.
Specific warning signs for schools, playgrounds, parks and other recreational facilities where persons are gathered and may be vulnerable are listed in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and available for use where clearly justified. The Michigan Manual has lists of traffic signs that can be used and their proper size and installation. The Manual also describes pavement markings and their specific uses.
How is it determined to install traffic signals?
A traffic engineer decides of whether a signal is or is not “warranted” based on standards of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD). This manual identifies 9 warrants that may be reviewed in determining whether a signal should be installed.
The warrants that receive the closest review, however, are minimum vehicular volume, interruption of continuous traffic, and accident experience. The first relates to whether there is enough traffic coming out of the side street in question to consider stopping traffic on the main road. The second relates to whether the traffic is too heavy on the main road for motorists from the side street to pull out. The last is an indication that traffic on the side street is having difficulty getting out, causing right-angle accidents to occur.
The Road Commission continuously reviews intersections for all types of traffic control devices.
Why are left turn arrows provided at some signalized intersections and not others?
There are two modes of left turn signal control: permitted mode and protected mode. In the permitted mode a left turning motorist is provided either a flashing red ball or a flashing yellow arrow. The driver is permitted to turn left whenever there is an adequate gap in opposing traffic. In the protected mode a left turning motorist is provided a green arrow display while opposing traffic is stopped.
Most left turn signal operations consist of a combination of the permitted and protected modes. However, there are instances where a left turn signal is operated in the protected only mode and left turn vehicles are not given the opportunity to make a permissive left turn. The considerations for installation of a protected only left turn signal include:
- High left turn traffic volume
- High opposing through volume
- An existing crash history
- Limited sight distance
- High speed opposing through traffic
- Left turning vehicles must cross 3 or more lanes of opposing through traffic
- There are multiple left turn lanes
Note: The flashing yellow arrow is now the national standard for permissive left turn signal operation. All new left turn signal installations with a permissive mode will have the flashing yellow operation. In addition, existing flashing red balls will be replaced with flashing yellow arrows as traffic signals are upgraded/modernized.
How are speed limits determined and by whom?
Speed limits are established in accordance with the Michigan Vehicle Code and State Legislature.
Currently, regulatory speed limits are set by state statue at a maximum 55 mph on county roads or 25 mph for business and residential districts. These speed limits are generally not posted on county roads.
The primary basis for establishing a proper, realistic speed limit is the nationally recognized method of using the 85th percentile speed. This is the speed at or below which 85% of the traffic moves. Posting unrealistically low speed limits may create a false sense of security, and studies have shown that the driving environment, not the posted speed limit, is the main influence on motorists’ speeds.
Regulatory speed limits can be modified based on a unanimous recommendation from a traffic survey team consisting of representatives from the Michigan State Police, Road Commission, and local township.
The recommendation is based primarily on results of a traffic engineering study that includes the collection of speed data, review of the crash history, and roadway characteristics.
The State Police has to accept the recommendation of the survey team in order to establish a modified speed limit.
Can I get a 'Hidden Driveway' sign installed on my road?
The Road Commission does allow the installation of “HIDDEN DRIVE” signs if certain criteria are met for driveway location and sight distance. Also, the driveway must have been in existence prior to April 22, 1999 (sight distance for any driveway constructed after that date would have been addressed through the driveway permit process).
Unfortunately, area motorists tend to disrespect and ignore warning signs which pertain to activity which is sporadic over time. Because installation of “HIDDEN DRIVE” signs have limited benefit, the cost of the initial sign installation must be paid for by the requesting property owner. The Road Commission will be responsible for the cost to maintain the sign(s).
How are locations of No Passing Zones determined?
To ensure the county road system meets motorist safety needs, nationally accepted traffic engineering guidelines are followed for placement of traffic control devices which include pavement markings.
While state statute requires use of care when passing, the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides criteria for the installation of No Passing Zones. The criteria include specifics of when No Passing Zones are needed because of limited visibility on hills and curves. No Passing Zones are also permitted for left turn bypass lanes and other unique or special circumstances.
Typically, a common driveway or street intersection would not be marked for a No Passing Zone because the proliferation of the markings would lead to abuse and disrespect for the solid yellow line.
How are clear vision areas determined at an intersection?
The Road Commission attempts to keep areas near intersections clear of obstructions to provide minimum sight distance along the main street for motorists at the normal stopping point on the side street. This normal stopping position is at a point where a driver typically pulls up to view cross street traffic and is measured at 18 feet (position of driver’s eye) off the white edge line of the cross street (or the edge pavement if there is no edge line).
Please note the clear areas are provided for motorists at the normal stopping point and not at the location of the stop sign which can be further back than the normal stopping point. Also, road right of way may be a limiting factor in keeping the area cleared of obstructions along the main street (this can be especially true on a main street with multi-lanes).
Will a stop sign slow down traffic on my street?
Stop signs installed at the wrong place for the wrong purpose usually create more problems than they solve. One common misuse of stop signs is to arbitrarily interrupt traffic, either by causing it to stop or by causing such an inconvenience that motorists are forced to use other routes.
Traffic studies indicate that there is a high incidence of intentional violations where stop signs are installed as “nuisances” or “speed breakers.” The studies also show that drivers increase their speeds between unwarranted stop signs to make up for the lost time. Based on these studies and the increased speeds of drivers on streets with unwarranted stop signs, the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD) clearly states that “Stop signs shall not be used for speed control.”
A stop sign placed at the right place and under the right conditions, tells drivers and pedestrians who has the right of way.
Why don’t all stop signs have corresponding stop ahead warning signs?
Many stop signs are at predictable locations and have adequate visibility, thus do not require advance warning.
To provide uniformity throughout the county we use the following guidelines in establishing the need for a stop ahead warning sign:
- The view of the stop sign is limited due to a horizontal or vertical curve in the roadway.
- There is a distance greater than or equal to 1.5 miles from the previous stop condition.
- There is a pattern of Fail-to-Stop type crashes at an intersection that may be corrected through the installation of a stop ahead warning sign.
How are signs for road construction areas determined?
When a construction project impacts the normal use of a county road, warning devices such as barrels, signs, and arrow boards are placed in accordance with a traffic control plan.
The basic objective of a traffic control plan is to permit construction work within the county road right of way in an efficient and effective manner, while maintaining a safe, uniform flow of traffic.
The construction work and motorists, bicycles, and pedestrians traveling through the work zone must be given equal consideration when developing a traffic control plan. Each traffic control plan is developed to be consistent with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
The Road Commission relies on the cooperation of various news media in publicizing the implementation of major road closures and detours as a method of keeping the public well informed.
Can a speed bump be placed on my street?
A speed bump is a bump of asphalt about a foot wide, 3 to 4 inches high, and placed laterally across the traveled portion of the road. However, the speed bump poses as an increased hazard to motorists, the cause of an undesirable increase in noise, and a real problem for snow removal.
The purpose of a speed bump is to make the ride over it uncomfortable for the driver, encouraging him/her to reduce their speed. With the various vehicle suspensions and wheel bases, the speed bump has shown an inability to successfully control speeds.
Speed bumps can cause maintenance problems to any vehicle and increase response time for emergency services. Because speed bumps have considerable potential for liability suits, Michigan has officially rejected them as a standard traffic control device on public streets.
The control of speeding in neighborhoods is a widespread concern which requires compliance by residents, patience and persistent effort by law enforcement – not speed bumps.
Can a Children at Play sign be placed on my street?
At first consideration, it might seem that a Children at Play sign would provide some safety for youngsters playing in a neighborhood. Unfortunately, this type of sign encourages parents to believe that children have an added degree of protection; which the signs do not and cannot provide.
Studies have shown that this type of sign provides no evidence of reducing pedestrian crashes or vehicles speeds. Obviously, children should not be encouraged to play in the roadway. The Children at Play sign is a direct and open suggestion that it is acceptable to do so.
Federal standards discourage the use of this sign and they are not even recognized in Michigan’s traffic sign manuals. As an alternative, the Road Commission strives to remove vision obstructions to provide a safe roadway for both pedestrians and motorists.
Can I place Handicap, Deaf, Blind, Special Needs Child, or Pedestrian Area warning signs on my street?
The use of Handicap, Deaf, Blind, Special Needs Child, or Pedestrian Area warning signs is limited to situations and locations meeting approval of the Ottawa County Road Commission.
Requests for such signs shall be made in writing and include a physician’s certification/letter indicating extent of handicap. The requesting party will also need to advise the Road Commission on an annual basis as to the continued need of these warning signs.
The number and location of these warning signs will be determined by the Road Commission and generally will be limited to the roadway serving the handicap person’s residence.
The installation cost will be the responsibility of the requesting resident and all costs to maintain sign(s) will be paid by the Road Commission.
Can I get a Deer Crossing sign installed on my road?
Because deer crossing signs have shown to be of little or no value in reducing motor vehicle/deer crashes and the scattered nature of the problem, we do not inventory or install these signs nor do we allow the installation of these signs within the public right of way by others.
Summer Maintenance FAQs
When are gravel roads graded?
In the summer, roads are graded prior to having dust control materials applied. The Road Commission also tries to grade gravel roads after it rains and the road has softened up. During the winter and spring months, there is not much that can be done until the frost is out of the roads.
Gravel road grading requires the use of an underbody blade truck or motor grader. Grading is usually done after a rain or in the spring when the road surface is fairly soft. When the surface is dry, the roadbed is very hard and it is difficult to shape the road with proper cross-slope.
To inquire about having a road gravel road graded, please call our office directly at (616) 842-5400 or utilize the online service request form.
The Road Commission will respond as quickly as possible, however at times, road grading must be postponed due to weather conditions or coordinated with dust control applications. If the road is too dry or too wet, grading has little effect other than to re-arrange dust or mud.
Why is shoulder work done on gravel roads in the Spring?
Road commission crews pull shoulders on gravel roads in the county every spring before the grass begins to grow on the side of the road. This maintenance is done to reclaim gravel that has been pushed into the shoulder as well as to remove the berm on the roadside which keeps the water from flowing off the road.
We lose a lot of gravel either from rain washing it off the road or from vehicles kicking it up from normal driving. By doing this the road commission can save thousands of tons of gravel. The process of pulling shoulders involves a couple of steps. A tractor with a retriever (disk), or motor grader, goes through and pulls the berm into the center of the road. Next a truck grader “beats” the gravel out of the sod and mixes it with existing gravel.
This isn’t a project that’s done in one day. It can be a two-week process. The graders do come back on a regular basis to check on it and regrade as necessary.
How can dust be controlled on a gravel road?
One of the drawbacks of gravel roads is they are prone to giving off dust. Road dust is made up of fine particles that are important to the stability of the road. As a road dries out, the fines blow away, breaking down the gravel road. Daily traffic scatters the remaining coarser aggregates that have become loose; causing potholes, ruts, washboard, loss of profile, loss of ditch lines, and other problems.
Keeping the road moist helps fines adhere to each other and to aggregates, allowing for optimum compaction. There are several different types of products that help control dust and retain moisture.
The most commonly used are:
Calcium Chloride - A man-made solution generally at 26% to 35% concentration.
Mineral Well Brine - A naturally-occurring salt water that is pumped from the ground.
When applied to gravel roads, both the chloride and brine products draw moisture from the air and ground. This moisture binds the materials in the road, reducing the amount of dust that becomes airborne and providing a better driving surface.
The township will select a contractor, purchase a dust control material, and determine the frequency and location of applications. The Road Commission will then grade the gravel road prior to the contractor’s placement of the dust control material. A tank truck with a rear distribution bar is typically used to spread the liquid dust control evenly over the road.
Contact your local township office to request or inquire about dust control applications.
Why is ‘tar and gravel’ placed on some paved roads?
This process is referred to as seal coat (chip seal).
The seal coat treatment process was re-implemented in 2008 to protect, preserve and extend pavement life.
Today’s technically advanced seal coats are economical surface treatments designed to protect and prolong the life of pavements from 5-7 years.
In a single seal coat process, an asphalt binder is sprayed onto the pavement, then immediately covered by a single layer of uniformly sized aggregate. The new chip sealed surface is then rolled to seal the aggregate to the oil, broomed, fog sealed, striped and ready for traffic.
A seal coat is a perfect tool for pavement preventive maintenance as they provide a quick, reliable and economical surface treatment that will seal out the damaging effect of water, help increase skid resistance, improve aesthetics and delineation, and provide a new wearing surface to protect the pavement for years to come.
How do I get a tree removed or trimmed within the right of way?
Requests for the Road Commission to remove or trim trees or other vegetation within the county road right of way will be reviewed and must meet some or all of the following criteria:
- The tree or vegetation is within the county road right of way.
- The tree or vegetation is determined by the Road Commission to be a potential public hazard, vision impediment, or drainage obstruction.
- There are no buildings, utilities, or other obstructions too close to the tree as determined by the Road Commission.
- The tree is dead, dying, or weakened.
If the Road Commission completes a review of the request and determines there is an immediate danger to the public; the tree, limb, or vegetation will be scheduled for removal as soon as possible. Otherwise, the request will be handled as time and resources allow.
Tree trimming and removal by the Road Commission is generally done in the spring and fall of each year.
Live mature trees are typically not removed by the Road Commission unless they have a high probability of being struck or as necessary in conjunction with road improvement projects or other permitted activity.
If adjacent property owners wish to trim and/or remove trees/vegetation within the county road right of way, a permit application should be obtained from and submitted to the Road Commission for review and approval.
To inquire about having a tree removed or trimmed, please call our office directly at (616) 842-5400 or utilize the online service request form.
What does the OCRC do about potholes?
Potholes become plentiful in the spring as frost comes out of the ground. As a result, Road Commission workers work hard to fill potholes along area roads as they’re spotted and reported.
As weather and resources allow, the Road Commission will also use a long-lasting injection system that cleans the pothole area, applies a tack coat, and places the patch material into the pothole.
If you see a pothole, please report it to us by using our online service request form. You can also call our main office at 616-842-5400.
Winter Maintenance FAQs
Which roads are plowed first?
Winter maintenance activities include applying salt and sand, as well as plowing snow on roads and shoulders. During a typical year, the Road Commission will respond to approximately 50 winter maintenance call outs and will use about 20,000 to 25,000 tons of salt, and 14,000 to 18,000 tons of sand.
The cost of winter maintenance can easily be up to $3.1 million annually, depending upon inclement weather conditions and the duration of the winter months.
Our Winter Maintenance Operations Policy was crafted to provide cost-effective winter maintenance operations and to inform the public about the level of winter maintenance services for roadways maintained by the Road Commission.
Winter maintenance operations are conducted in accordance with the established priority system based on traffic volumes, road classification and location. The priorities are as follows:
1 – State Trunklines
2 – Multi-lane Primary Roads
3 – Primary Roads
4 – Local Paved Roads
5 – Subdivision Streets
6 – Local Gravel Roads
7 – Dead End Streets and Cul-de-sacs
What do I do if my mailbox is damaged?
If a mailbox is damaged by Road Commission equipment or snow thrown from Road Commission equipment during winter maintenance operations, the property owner may receive a new standard mailbox and/or a single 4”x4” wood post at one of the garage locations.
The property owner is responsible to remove the damaged mailbox/post and to install the replacement mailbox/post.
The locations are open Monday through Friday, except on holidays or observed holidays established by the Board. Appointments are made between the hours of 7:30AM and 3:30PM. Please call (616) 842-5400 for an appointment.
The property owner shall provide either the actual damaged mailbox/post or a photo of the actual damaged mailbox/post before a new standard mailbox and/or a single 4”x4” wood post can be issued. Upon receipt of a new mailbox and/or post, the property owner shall sign a register and provide the property address.
What should I keep in mind when shoveling/plowing driveways?
Homeowners are responsible for removing snow in front of their driveways.
Be aware that shoveling or plowing snow from driveways onto or across roads is illegal (Act 82 of 1978, vehicle code 257.677A) because it can present a serious traffic hazard to motorists.
Instead, pile the snow behind the curb or shoulder on your side of the road. Be sure to place snow to the right as you face the road, so plows will push it away from, rather back into, the driveway entrance. It is also important to avoid vision obstructions. Care should be taken not to impede the flow of stormwater from melting snow in the ditches or culverts.
Citizens should also make certain that their trash containers are not placed too close to the edge of the road before snow removal has taken place, and should also know that it is the responsibility of the property owner to keep areas in front of mailboxes clear for mail delivery.
We pay property tax. Why don't we get better snow removal service?
The property tax you pay is used for your local and county government agencies and for schools, not day-to-day road maintenance.
OCRC winter maintenance budget is funded solely by fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees collected by the State of Michigan. This income funds all day-to-day maintenance activities included traffic signals, signage, pavement markings, sweeping and both temporary and permanent road and bridge repairs.
If you're wondering when your street will be plowed, please refer to our Winter Maintenance Operations Policy. This policy was crafted to provide cost-effective winter maintenance operations and to inform the public about the level of winter maintenance services for roadways maintained by the Road Commission.
Can salt be put on roads and bridges before it snows?
Putting salt on the road surface prior to a snowfall generally will waste time and money. Salt will not adhere to a dry road during application and the portion that manages to land in the right location is subject to wind or traffic which blows or pushes it off the road before it can do its job.
Salt is most effective after snow has accumulated and the temperature is 20° Fahrenheit or higher. Under these conditions, the salt and snow will mix, melting snow into a slush that can be plowed off the pavement. (This melting action generally occurs within two hours, less if traffic is present.)
If the temperature is below 20°F, the salt will have difficulty melting the snow and ice, so other methods are typically used.
Abrasives (like sand) are often put down for traction. Calcium chloride or other liquid treatments can be added to enhance the ability to melt the ice and snow.
The Road Commission may change the mixture of salt and additives based on the ground temperature.
Why do bridges and overpasses freeze before the surface of the road?
Even while the air and road surface temperatures drop, the heat underneath the road keeps it warm enough to delay icing as temperatures drop below freezing.
Bridges have no way to trap heat and are exposed to cold air on all sides, so they continually lose heat and freeze shortly after air temperatures hit the freezing point.
A bridge will follow the air temperature very closely. If the air temperature falls below freezing, a bridge’s surface will fall below freezing very quickly causing rain or snow to freeze and stick to the road surface.
Is it legal to pass a snowplow?
There are no state laws that prohibit passing a snowplow. However, the action of passing can be extremely dangerous because pavement conditions vary across the path taken to pass.
Snowplows may be equipped with wing plow blades that can extend anywhere between 2 and 10 feet beyond the width of the truck. This wing plow blade is often not seen because of the snow cloud being kicked up by the snowplow.
These wing plows can often weigh as much as a compact car.
Why does the Road Commission place wooden stakes on some streets before winter?
The Road Commission installs wooden stakes to mark the edge of pavement prior to the first snow event. The stakes are typically installed at intersections or curves that are difficult for the snow plow drivers to judge. These stakes may break off after a couple of plowing operations, but they do serve a purpose in establishing appropriate plowing limits.
Residents may stake their yards, but sometimes, property damage occurs when plows are operating.
The Road Commission does not assume liability for any damage to obstacles placed within the right of way. This includes, but isn’t limited to, decorative fencing, landscaping, and sprinklers.
If possible, remove these items or mark them clearly to aid snow plow drivers.
Right of way lawn damage is repaired in the spring.
Note: The placement of metal stakes along the road right of way is always prohibited.
Sod on my property was damaged by a snow plow, what do I do?
Despite best efforts, sod along the edge of the road (within the right of way) occasionally may be damaged during snow removal activities.
In general, OCRC will repair lawn damage by a snow plow or truck in the right of way portion of the road during the spring. Residents who experience this damage are asked to contact the Road Commission by phone at 616-842-5400 or submit an online service request.