By Adam Randall

Less than 2 percent of Kalamazoo county roads tested last year were deemed in “excellent” condition, according to data provided by the Kalamazoo County Road Commission, which ranks road conditions yearly.

The KCRC surveyed 74 miles of Kalamazoo roadways in 2012. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the poorest rating, 1.2 miles, or 1.6 percent received an excellent rating of 9 in 2012, down from 2.6 percent last year with a rating of 10, according to the data. The highest ratings were at 5 as being fair.

“We want 80 percent of our primary roads to be rated at a 7 or higher,” said Paul Spitzley, project engineer for the Kalamazoo County Road Commission. However, in 2012, only 28 percent of the surveyed roads were rated as 7 or higher.

KCRC has seen revenue loss in recent years. In 2013, the KCRC is operating with a budget at $16.2 million, down from $19.1 million in 2012. Total road expenditures for 2013 are projected to be at $15.9 million.

“It does cost man hours to do the ratings and only primary roads are rated every other year,” Spitzley said. “It’s not a huge financial commitment and the road commission is not obligated to keep roads in a certain condition based on the data.”

The cost of returning a poor road to good condition is four to five times greater than the cost of maintaining a road in fair condition, according to findings by MDOT. Allowing more roads to reach poor condition will dramatically increase the future costs of repairing Michigan’s road network.

Teams of engineers and trained consultants evaluate and collect data on roads based on the PASER, or Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating System which is used statewide and managed by the Transportation Asset Management Council. The council was formed to develop a coordinated, unified process by the various roadway agencies within the state to advise the State Transportation Commission.

“PASER in Michigan started in 2003, we collected 100 percent of data from federal aid eligible roads and now collect 50 percent,” said Brian Sanada, asset management coordinator for MDOT.  “The program itself started gaining traction the past two years and has been fairly successful in determining road conditions.”

Road agencies use the data to prioritize road projects to best utilize limited funds, implementing preventative maintenance to keep roads from falling to poor condition, according to the County Road Association in a press release. The cost of returning a poor road to good condition is four to five times greater than the cost of returning a fair road to good condition, said the association. According to the TAMC, the cost of returning all roads to good condition in 2011 was estimated to be $11.5 billion.

Accordingly, the KCRC says on its website that the goal is to keep roads in good condition while making periodic investments in upgrading the pavement, rather than letting it deteriorate to a level that requires a major investment to bring it back to good condition.

Governor Rick Snyder recently used the PASER data to determine that statewide, Michigan needs $1.2 billion in funding for roads, Sanada said.

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