By Sterling McGinn
Residents who live along Luce County Road 500 are frustrated over the current condition of the road, which is now temporarily closed to traffic.
The Luce County Road Commission announced the closure more than a week ago, detouring traffic onto Luce County Road 414. For safety of motorists, the road will not reopen until the road has been repaired and is passable.
“The concern when we closed the road was a four-wheel drive vehicle would probably be okay, but we felt a small car, fire trucks or ambulance would be a potential hazard,” said Stuart McTiver, Luce County Road Commission Engineer and Manager. “We feel County Road 414 is the safer route.”
The Luce County Road Commission acknowledged that April and May are typically difficult months for travel on CR 500.
But the predominantly dirt road has seen an increase in traffic heading to the popular destinations that are linked by County Road 500. Year-round residents are unhappy and desperate for repairs and improvements.
“This is the second year out of three that the road has been closed after major repairs were supposedly done to it,” said Steve Bronner, who owns Culhane Lake Resort.
Bronner was one of the residents of County Road 500 who recently attended the McMillan Township meeting to express concerns to the board during the public comment section.
“Ironically, the road is closed due to potholes and ruts in the area where the repairs were done,” he furthered. “We have guests that want to come up, and now can’t get here, and they are not going to want to drive across 414.”
More than 200 cars per day travel that road in the summertime, Bronner said, headed to Crisp Point Lighthouse.
Bronner has had to refund money to unhappy customers in the past, and says the road has jarred his relatively new truck to the point where parts are now falling off.
He’s not pleased with the recent focus on paving portions of Luce County roads 407 and 410.
“How do we get a grant for County Road 500?” Bronner asked the board. “It is not designed for the amount of traffic it is getting. It is a long-term project; we need to come up with some money.”
Trustee Ted Nutkins said the board has “no idea” if there are future plans to work on CR 500.
“[Luce County Road Commission] came to us last fall with their top five priority list on what they wanted worked on this year,” Nutkins said. “We took their top project, and we are paying for that project.”
Trustee Tom Rahilly said those decisions start with the road commission.
“We are not the caretakers of the roads. We are a portion of the funding for the roads,” Rahilly said.
“The first three miles of the road has troubles every year,” explained McTiver. “That area of the road would take a lot of money to improve and would be around $500,000 to fix so we wouldn’t have that issue every year.”
Year-round County Road 500 resident Greg Roddy has lived there for 23 years and is frustrated with the condition of the road each spring.
“Every year for about six to eight weeks, they close the road down because of the mud,” he explained. “You can get through it, but you need a four-wheel drive vehicle.”
Roddy estimates there are 100 permanent residents living on or near County Road 500. Detouring onto County Road 414 inconveniences all of them, he said, including a Whitefish Township Schools teacher who now has a longer commute to school in Paradise.
Residents also worry about the response time from paramedics if an emergency occurred during the road closures.
“It would take an ambulance 30 to 40 minutes normally, but it would now take close to two hours, and it has happened before,” Roddy said.
Roddy feels that the road commission should push-out the road in the fall and he would ultimately like to see the road paved.
“It has been in the books for the last 23 years to fix 500,” Roddy noted. “The county wants to spend millions on paving 407/410 — a road to nowhere that nobody lives [on]. 500 is not a seasonal road—people live out here all year long.”
Roddy and fellow residents want to circulate a petition to have the road fixed. Roddy has tried to reach out the Senator Ed McBroom.
McTiver said work on County Road 500 could begin soon and the road could be open later this week or next, depending on the weather.