2017-05-18 / Front Page

Fate of Burton roads may be left in residents’ hands

BY TANYA TERRY
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — To those who live, work or do business in Burton, it’s no secret that Burton roads need serious attention. Drivers see and feel their crumbling condition every time they get behind the wheel.

Fourteen communities around Michigan had road millage questions on their recent ballots. Thirteen of those 14 road proposals passed. The city of Burton is currently putting together a road millage proposal for an upcoming election.

“Our deteriorating roads are costing our city dearly in terms of quality of life, business development and even the increased dollars we’re forced to pay for auto repairs,” said Burton Mayor Paula Zelenko. “Depending on funding from Lansing or Washington, D.C. is a pipe dream.”

Since Mayor Zelenko took office, the city has invested significantly in roads, including major road projects in multiple areas on Center Road, Atherton Road from Dort Highway to Center Road and on Lapeer Road. Those projects included millions of dollars in federal aid, with significant local match dollars.

“Despite all this investment, we’ve barely made a dent,” said Burton Department of Public Works Director Bob Slattery. “The trend is clear. Like elsewhere in the state and nation, our road system in Burton continues to deteriorate faster than we can rebuild because the money is simply not there.”

Burton, like all cities in Michigan, receives the bulk of its road maintenance money from the state-collected gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

“Roads in Michigan are way behind the deterioration curve, and many roads have gotten to the point where simply patching them is not cost effective,” Slattery said.

Slattery said cities like Burton have been forced to try to stretch meager maintenance funds by patching potholes on roads that really should be rebuilt or resurfaced.

“Many roads, like Center Road from Davison Road north to the city limit are actually beyond patching, beyond the end of their useful life and literally crumbling under motorists’ tires,” he said.

“Time is running out to do this,” Zelenko said. “The opportunity to take advantage of low interest rates available for road bonds is slipping away and won’t last long. A road bond would allow the city to reconstruct or rehabilitate some of the worst roads and match the federal aid projects already approved to stop the bleeding of costly pothole patching.”

Zelenko suggests putting a ballot proposal, in the form of a very specific list of road projects and a specific timetable for completion of each, on the ballot.

“There is nothing to lose in asking Burton voters how serious they are about wanting to have good roads,” she said. “Ask the voters if they are willing to levy a millage to support the goal of having good roads. If voters approve, we will get to work on a multi-faceted effort to create a road system that will be safer and smoother, and a boost to economic development. If they say no, well, that’s their call. But let’s at least see what they say.”

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