(LANSING, MI.)—Three months after a torrential rainstorm began, the devastation left behind remains a catastrophic problem in Houghton County. More than 150 road washouts, dozens of sinkholes and more than $60 million in damages to the roads and bridges in the county, cities, townships and villages.
On Thursday, representatives from the Houghton County Road Commission and the cities of Hancock and Houghton – which suffered nearly $55 million in combined damages to their roads and bridges – came to Lansing to ask legislators for state funding assistance as they struggle to recover from a Father’s Day weekend storm that the National Weather Service in Marquette identified as a 1,000-year rain event.
The three government entities are seeking nearly $9.3 million, which represents the required matching funds to secure Federal Highway Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency support. The $9.3 million represents the largest claim for federal disaster funds for roads in Michigan in more than 20 years, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Houghton County Road Commission’s portion of the matching funds for FEMA and FWHA aid is $4,875,000, which is only slightly less than its entire annual Michigan Transportation Fund check of $5,056,000. The Houghton County Road Commission maintains 318 miles of primary roads, 526 miles of local roads and 34 bridges, which includes plowing the average 218 inches of snow per winter.
“We made the decision to come to Lansing to ensure that legislators understand just how bad a problem this remains,” said Kevin Harju, engineer-manager for the Houghton County Road Commission. “We have many bridges out and long detours, which is not in the best interest of public safety. These funds are critical to fixing the major damage that was inflicted on our road and bridge system.”
The city of Houghton, which suffered over $14 million in damages to its roads and bridges, is required to match $1.930,600 to receive FEMA and FWHA aid. Hancock, which saw nearly $11 million in damages, must match $1,608,220. Other townships and villages affected by the storm must match around $875,000 combined.
The 83 members of the County Road Association represent the unified, credible and effective voice for a safe and efficient local road right-of-way system in Michigan, collectively managing 75 percent of all roads in the state. Michigan has more than 90,000 miles and 5,700 bridges — the fourth-largest county road system in the nation.