ROAD COMMISSION FAQs
(Frequently Asked Questions)
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think should be added?
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Q: My property taxes go up every year, why
doesn't the Road Commission fix my road?
A: In November, 2013 and again in 2018, Benzie County voters approved 1 mill
for 5 years for the Road Commission. A portion of the millage funds will be used
on local road improvements as determined by a selection process through a Steering
Committee. This committee will have one representative from each township. Future
projects on local roads should start there.
Q: People are always speeding on my road. How can I get the
speed limit lowered and some signs put up to slow them down?
A: The Road Commission is the agency that installs and maintains all traffic
signs on county roads. State law requires the Road Commission to follow the requirements
of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD). In order to install
regulatory type signs like no parking signs and speed limit signs, the Road Commission
must initiate a traffic study of the road in conjunction with the Michigan State
Police (MSP). The study includes a review of traffic counts, accident history, speed
studies, the character of the area along the road, and any other information available
regarding the problems in the area. While the Road Commission is a participant in
the traffic study and analysis, the guidelines of the MMUTCD and judgment of the
MSP largely determine what speed limit will be adopted. At the conclusion of the
study the MSP issues a written Traffic Control Order directing the Road Commission
to install specific signs at specific locations on the road, and to record the completed
Traffic Control Order at the County Clerk's office.
Q: Why is my road always the last one plowed after a snowstorm?
A: The Road Commission organizes snow plowing operations to service the most
heavily traveled roadways first during and after a winter storm. About 75 miles of
State Highway and 180 miles of county primary roads and certain high traffic local
roads in the urban area are plowed and/or salted first. After those roads are passable,
crews move on to clear local paved roads throughout the county. Typically, local
subdivision streets and rural gravel roads are cleared after all other higher traffic
roads. While it is the Road Commission's goal to make at least one pass on
all local roads the day of the snow storm, our crews may begin plowing/salting several
hours before the morning peak traffic, and continue operations into the night.
Extended winter storms or continuing winds may require crews to continually
plow the main high traffic roads and prevent them from reaching subdivision streets
or rural gravel roads each day. Weekend plowing of local roads is performed only
when the roads are not passable.
Q: Do I need a permit for work within the road right-of-way
even if I do the work myself?
A: Yes, a permit from the Road Commission is required anytime work is performed
in the County road right-of-way. When you apply for a permit you are helping the
Road Commission maintain safety for both yourself and the traveling public. Most
traffic accidents occur at intersections or where vehicles are entering or leaving
the roadway. The Road Commission inspects each proposed drive location to assure
that adequate sight distance is available, to determine what drainage improvements
might be necessary, and to review the site for other potential safety problems before
a permit is issued. There is a nominal charge for a residential driveway permit and
Q: How can I get my road paved?
A: The level of funding provided to the Road Commission by law is not sufficient
to pay for the initial paving of a road. Although Township government has no responsibility
for road maintenance and does not receive any road tax money (unless they have a
township road millage), they usually pay a portion of the project cost for any significant
activities. The Township generally initiates the process for performing major upgrades
and improvements on local roads. Often the project planning process is started when
the township receives a petition from a group of concerned citizens on a particular
road segment. If they do not have the available funds to request immediate action
they often use petitions as a means of prioritizing possible road projects for the
Q: Can I fill in the ditch and plant trees in front of my property?
A: If there is a ditch along the road in front of your property you should not
fill it in even if it doesn't drain water along the road. The purpose of most roadside
ditches is to prevent water from pooling on the roadway during or after a storm,
to provide an area for snow storage from snowplowing operations, and to lower the
water table beneath the roadbed. Filling in even a fairly shallow roadside ditch
can cause serious damage to the road and pavement from frost heave and, of course,
shrubs and trees planted in that area are exposed to damage from traffic, snowplowing,
and sweeping operations. Please do not plant any trees or shrubs that may become
a vision obstruction or that may grow into a large fixed object that presents danger
to motorists anywhere inside the road right of way. Trees and ornamental plantings
should be set back at least 33 feet from the center of the road, which in most cases
will place them outside of the road right of way and protect them from traffic damage.
Q: What are Seasonal roads?
A: Seasonal Roads, by law, cannot be maintained by the Road Commission from November
1 through April 30. In 1995 the Benzie County Road Commission held public hearings
and adopted a system of seasonal roads that were not used by the public on a permanent
full-time basis. Improvements made to a seasonal road must be paid for entirely
by the property owners and/or the township.
Q: What are "all season" roads?
A: "All Season" roads are those that have been designed and built with
additional strength and durability to withstand truck traffic loads all year long,
and thus they are not subject to the reduced load restrictions that are placed on
most roads during the early spring in Michigan. All residential subdivision streets,
most rural sealcoated roads, and all gravel surfaced roads in Benzie County are subject
to a reduction in allowable loads during each spring when thawing of the ground below
the road softens the roadbed and makes the surface susceptible to damage from heavy
loads, creating potholes.
Q: How can I get a" Children Playing" sign
put up to protect my children?
A: The Road Commission no longer places or maintains "Children Playing"
signs, although there are still several of these signs scattered throughout our road
system. Prior to the revision of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices
(MMUTCD) in 1983, these signs were acceptable for use on county roads. Studies done
nationally leading up to that revision demonstrated conclusively that, while these
signs may make parents and children feel safer, they have absolutely no effect on
driver behavior, and do not slow traffic speeds as might be expected. To the extent
that the signs might make parents or children think they are safer when the danger
is still present, these signs can actually reduce safety. The best policy is still
to be sure to keep children as far away from the road as possible, and don't allow
even older children to play in or near the road.
Q: Why do you spread tar and stone on the paved roads? There
was nothing wrong with the road and now it is a mess.
A: The process is referred to as sealcoating which most road agencies in Michigan
use as a relatively low cost method of preserving existing pavements. The tar is
actually an emulsion of water and liquid asphalt which penetrates and seals small
cracks in the existing pavement. Sealing these cracks on a regular basis prevents
water from seeping into and softening the base of the road and over time causing
potholes to form. The porous stone that we use to cover the asphalt emulsion sticks
and, after rolling and sweeping, provides a slightly roughened skid resistant surface
to improve safety. Although sealcoating can preserve and extend the life of the pavement,
it is only a surface treatment and does not fill any existing bumps, holes, or irregularities
and thus does not improve the ride quality. For this reason it is important to apply
sealcoat to a road BEFORE this deterioration occurs, which leads us to sealcoat roads
that are in generally good condition rather than waiting for them to deteriorate
to the point that extensive patching is necessary.
Q: Why don't you split the shift of employees in
the winter months to take care of subdivisions and local roads on weekends?
A: Split shifts would still only allow maintenance without paying overtime for
40 hours per week, whether those hours are Monday Friday or Wednesday Sunday.
While split shifts would allow us to maintain state trunk lines and primary roads
on regular time during weekends, the shift in manpower would require lengthening
each driver's route during the rest of the week, making it impossible to maintain
all local roads each weekday. While that split shift would benefit the state
trunk lines, it would come at a cost of more overtime spent on local roads. The Benzie
County Road Commission has downsized to the point that spreading our drivers even
thinner would not allow us to continue the current level of winter maintenance on
every road after a snowfall. The only way to increase service to local roads and
subdivisions would be to increase staff and/or pay more overtime. Unfortunately,
that is not an option available at this time.
Q: Are there any special issues to be aware of during
A: Yes. Before the winter snowplowing season begins, it's important that all
residents be aware of the following winter operations.
- It is illegal to push or blow snow into or across the roadway (MCL677a). This
practice could result in civil and or criminal liability.
- Please do not park in or block our turnarounds. We need these areas to turn our
- If you have to leave a vehicle parked alongside or in the roadway, please notify
our office so we can be aware of its location in order to prevent damage.
- Check your mailbox. The Road Commission will repair or replace a mail box that
was struck by our equipment. We do not replace mail boxes that are broken by the
force of the snow. Mail boxes are replaced with a 4x4 wood post and a standard box
only. Keeping the snow clear around your mailbox will help.
- Please don't let children play in roadside snow banks. Drivers can't always see
them and sometimes ice or rocks will be thrown from the plow.
- Please don't crowd our trucks. We instruct the drivers to operate at slower speeds
than most traffic.
- When it is snowing and slippery, slow down! Don't drive too fast for conditions.
- Have a safe winter!
Also remember "Snowplows Need Room to Groom."
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the County Road Association
of Michigan (CRAM) urge motorists to remember good driving habits in winter weather
conditions, Snowplows Need Room to Groom!
"Road crews put their lives on the line every day to keep Michigan roads
safe for everyone," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "Motorists
must remember to drive with caution no matter how much salt we use or how often the
roads are plowed."
A steady decrease in road funding and an increase in costs have forced state and
local agencies to alter their winter maintenance plans and change plowing priorities.
However, one important fact has not changed: road crews must have ample room in order
to safely clear the many miles of roadway of snow and ice.
"Motorists must do their best to minimize distractions and focus on driving
and changes in road conditions," John Niemela, CRAM director, said. "Every
year, despite the flashing lights on snowplow trucks, poor driver behavior near snowplows
leads to collisions that can be deadly."
MDOT and CRAM offer the following reminders for motorists:
- Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their
- Snowplows often throw up snow clouds, reducing visibility on all sides of the
- Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should not text or talk on
cell phones while they are behind the wheel. In fact, texting while driving is illegal
- Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new
wing-plow technology, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously.
Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder
of the road most likely won't see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash;
- Always wear your safety belt and allow extra time to reach your destinations
"For the safety of everyone, motorists should use extreme caution when traveling
in winter weather conditions. We can't emphasize this enough: Snowplows Need Room
Photos and safety tips are available here:
Q: What is the official policy on roadkill?
A: If it is a road hazard within the traveled portion (including the road
shoulder) on a state or county-maintained road, the dead animal that is a safety
hazard will be removed by dragging them off the traveled portion of the road. In
highly populated areas, they will be removed by dragging them down the road or hauling
them to a remote location. In no case will the Road Commission be responsible for
dead animals placed in the traveled portion of the road by adjacent property owners.
Further, the Road Commission is not responsible for dead animals on roads other than
those that are state or county-maintained.
Q: Who's responsible for the roads?
A: This is shown the the graph below:
Q: What is the average annual snowfall for Benzie County?
A: As measured at the Road Commission, the official average annual snowfall
for the county is 121.1 inches seen over 77 seasons, from 1944 to 2021.
For what it's worth, here are some 10-year averages:
As of spring 1956: 93.9 inches (1946-1956)
As of spring 1966: 124.4 inches (1956-1966)
As of spring 1976: 108.9 inches (1966-1976)
As of spring 1986: 132.3 inches (1976-1986)
As of spring 1996: 124.0 inches (1986-1996)
As of spring 2006: 140.6 inches (1996-2006)
As of spring 2016: 134.7 inches (2006-2016)
As of spring 2017: 130.9 inches (2007-2017)
As of spring 2018: 133.0 inches (2008-2018)
As of spring 2019: 126.5 inches (2009-2019)
As of spring 2020: 128.2 inches (2009-2020)
As of spring 2021: 123.4 inches (2010-2021)
The annual snowfall per year since 1944-45 is shown in the chart below.
Note that since 1944 when records started being kept, the minimum we've received
is 33.5" in 1973-74 and the maximum is 230" in 2013-14. The
second lowest snowfall was the 2020-2021 season with just 68.25".
Click on the image for a larger
For those that like more detail, here is a table
of monthy snowfall accumulation from 1944 to 2020. (Please note that for
seven years we have no monthly data.) Here are some conslusions...
- We rarely see any accumulation in October or May. (We saw snow just five times
in October and just once in May over 69 years.)
- Monthly averages over 69 seasons: November: 10.3", December 31.7",
January: 40.4", February: 24.6", March: 14.3", and April: 3.2".
- Monthly lows and highs over 69 seasons: November: 0.0" to 33.0", December
2.0" to 108.0", January: 15.5" to 90.0", February: 2.0"
to 58.75", March: 0.0" to 38.5", and April: 0.0" to 26.0".
- The most snow we ever saw in one month was 108" in December of 1989.
- For only 7 years out of 69 (10%) we saw no snow in November.
- For 27 years out of 69 (39%) we saw no snow in April.
- For just 2 years out of 69 (3%) we saw no snow in March.
- We always get snow in December, January, and February.