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Benzie County Road Commission - Honor, Michigan

(Frequently Asked Questions)

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B.R.C. Clerk via email

Q: My property taxes go up every year, why doesn't the Road Commission fix my road?
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?
Q: Why is my road always the last one plowed after a snowstorm?
Q: Do I need a permit for work within the road right-of-way even if I do the work myself?
Q: How can I get my road paved?
Q: Can I fill in the ditch and plant trees in front of my property?
Q: What are “Seasonal” roads?
Q: How can I get a "Children Playing" sign put up to protect my children?
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.
Q: Why don't you split the shift of employees in the winter months to take care of subdivisions and local roads on weekends?
Q: Are there any special issues to be aware of during the winter?
Q: What is the official policy on roadkill?
Q: Who's responsible for the roads?
Q: What is the average annual snowfall for Benzie County?

Q:  My property taxes go up every year, why doesn't the Road Commission fix my road?

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?

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?

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?

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 permitted encroachments.

Q: How can I get my road paved?

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 future.

Q: Can I fill in the ditch and plant trees in front of my property?

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?

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?

"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?

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.

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?

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 the winter?

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 trucks around.
  • 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 trucks;

  • Snowplows often throw up snow clouds, reducing visibility on all sides of the truck;

  • 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 in Michigan;

  • 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; and

  • Always wear your safety belt and allow extra time to reach your destinations this winter.

Steudle added,

"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 to Groom!"

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 view.

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.

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