Brand new culverts to be torn out

HUBBARD LAKE – On Monday, a road construction crew will begin ripping out thousands of dollars worth of brand new steel culverts from a portion of Hubbard Lake Road at Bennett Road because they are the wrong size. The culverts also weren’t made of the proper material required by the Michigan Department of Transportation, an official said Wednesday.

Alcona County Road Commission Managing Director Jesse Campbell said this means the road will be closed for five days, so revisions can be completed by Team Elmer’s, which is building the project. The road passes through a swampy area before it reconnects with Spruce Road East, and has been plagued with flooding and potholes.

He gave his report at a regular meeting of the Alcona County Road Commissioners Wednesday.

Team Elmer’s replaced the old culverts shortly after Labor Day, and has been in the process of building up the road bed. Project flaggers said earlier in the week that asphalt paving was to commence Monday.

The federally funded project was designed by Huron Engineering, but problems began to appear during construction, and standing water has collected at the road’s shoulders in one section.

Campbell also said the culverts were not coated with a special polyvinyl material, which would have extended their life 25 years. However, MDOT specifications called for concrete culverts.

Culverts connecting residential driveways to the main highway also are undersized and are to be replaced, he said.

Campbell estimated that because of errors, the project is $84,720.03 over budget. Commissioner Harry Harvey said the issue would have to be dealt with because the overrun is the same amount it would cost to equip a second plow truck for the county.

The original estimate for the Hubbard Lake stretch was $534,985, with $358,310 coming from a special fund. But that calculation failed to take into account $55,780 in additional design engineering fees required for federally funded projects, Campbell said.

“Everything was pushed through so fast,” Campbell said.

Meanwhile, the county has pulled out of a second project that would have rebuilt a portion of Black River Road. It, too, was to be partially funded by a special grant of $171,000. That money is now lost because it can’t be carried over into next year, he said.

The project was expected to cost around $688,923, not including design. But when engineers tested some of the shoulders of the road, they discovered there was no gravel bed that could be used to support the asphalt pavement. The issue made the project unaffordable.

The commissioners said the Black River project will be resubmitted early next year, once issues are worked out.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.