By Sterling McGinn
A number of County Road 500 residents attended the May 10 meeting of the Luce County Road Commission discussing concerns of the recent closure and of the condition of the road each spring. The residents are also hoping that funding can be secured for a more permanent fix to ongoing issues.
The meeting took place on Wednesday, May 10 at 7 a.m. in the road commission office.
There are approximately 100 year-round residents who live on or near County Road 500. The predominately dirt road has seen a major increase of traffic heading to the popular attractions such as the Two Hearted River and Crisp Point Lighthouse.
But the residents who live on the road year-round desperately want improvements, which would allow for the road to be passable all year. Residents feel the large increase in vehicles is not helping the roadway.
“I don’t think that road was built for this kind of traffic, so I am curious as to what the long-term goal is here to improve it,” said County Road 500 resident Steve Bronner, who also owns the Culhane Lake Resort.
For approximately two weeks, County Road 500 was closed to motorists forcing vehicles to detour on County Road 414. The Luce County Road Commission has since opened County Road 500.
“I don’t know if there was a day that you couldn’t drive out of there,” said Superintendent John Zitnik. “We probably could have pulled the sign a week ago, but I didn’t want a car going up there, so that is why we closed it.”
“This is the second year in three that the road has been closed,” stated Bronner. “We have an investment. We have people trying to get to us in the spring and it is pretty tough.”
County Road 500 sometimes closes in the spring due to the condition of the first few miles of the road. The road commission choses to close the road as a safety measure as small cars or larger emergency vehicles would likely get stuck.
“When it was built, it was only built an inch above high tide,” said Luce County Road Commission Engineer and Manager Stuart McTiver. “In order to fix it, the road has to come up and it would potentially take a two to three-foot sand lift to bring it out of the swamp. At this time there is no funding.”
Fixing the first three miles, where the majority of the issues occur, would take upwards of $500,000.
“The whole thing could use that kind of treatment,” McTiver said, “but ultimately to keep it passable, that would be the area to do it.”
McTiver advised that the State Legislature would be the best starting point to secure funding for improvements to County Road 500.
McTiver also feels that a road millage wouldn’t be possible in Luce County due to the majority of land being owned by the state, which wouldn’t generate enough funds.
Bronner said he plans to write letters to the State of Michigan pointing out that the state is profiting from the timber leasing and that a good portion and that the lighthouse is generating tourism.
“Those are both great directions to go,” said Trustee Pete Paramski. “The township also has the option to hire a lobbyist, which is how it often works statewide. There is a very good one down there right now getting some action.”
Robert Smith, another County Road 500 resident, asked how the top five possible road projects for 2023, which are presented to McMillan Township, are picked and why CR 500 wasn’t part of the list.
“We did discuss 500 with them in the past, and at this time they didn’t have an interest in funding it because it has a different funding mechanism,” McTiver said. “It has the potential for RTF [Rural Task Force] money, but the problem with that is RTF money is used for all of our primary roads.”
In other news, McTiver updated the board on the ongoing County Roads 410/407 road project. Contractors Paine and Dolan have set a schedule to potentially begin clearing land the end of May and begin stock piling gravel mid-June. Earth work and road realignment will begin after July Fourth.