TEMPERANCE - Residents along Rauch Road have always had a suspicion that it was going to take a “higher power” to get their long-neglected roadway fixed.
But while divine intervention remains unlikely, local legislators and officials are hoping that at least some of their prayers for a smoother ride will be answered soon by a higher authority: the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Road Commission managing director Ralph Lange has written to area legislators seeking help to win a $2.65 million grant to reconstruct seven miles of Rauch between Secor and South Telegraph roads.
The grant would pay about two-thirds of the estimated $3.86 million engineers believe would be needed to tear out and reconstruct the local road to a width of 22 feet. The remainder of the funds for the project would be split between the Road Commission and Bedford, Ida, Erie, and LaSalle townships.
Bedford and Ida townships, which have five of the seven miles of roadway, each would be responsible for about $283,000, while Erie and LaSalle, with two of the seven miles, would have to come up with $122,000. The Road Commission paid to improve about three miles of Rauch between Secor and U.S. 23 in Summerfield and Whiteford townships in 2000, at a cost of about $73,000 a mile.
Mr. Lange said he feels that because the road divides six townships and is traveled by buses from five different school districts, his request may be viewed favorably by MDOT.
But local officials are quick to warn that there are a lot of “ifs” built into what has been the only financially palatable means presented to local officials by the Road Commission to get Rauch back in shape.
This plan is dependent on the four townships being willing to commit significant portions- in the case of Ida Township one third - of tax dollars available annually for road repair, although Road Commission officials have offered to allow the municipalities to stretch those payments out for as much as 10 years.
At their meeting last week, Bedford Township board members said they could support this latest plan for Rauch if everything falls into place.
“This is one of the worst roads in Monroe County, no question,” Bedford Township clerk Bob Schockman said. “If all the ducks fall in a row, I wouldn't be opposed to this.”
While concerns were raised that a relatively small number of Bedford Township's 29,000 residents live along its northernmost border, township board members said that any improvement to the road could serve as a long-term solution to its ongoing growth concerns.
“I think anytime four townships can get $2.5 million from the state for a road, we ought to take it,” Bedford Township trustee Arnold Jennings said. “I think you have to look at the future, too. I would think it would be a good investment.”
Trustee Dennis Steinman agreed. “I realize there's not a lot of traffic right now [on Rauch], but if it was built, how much of a load would it take off the other east-west [section] roads,” Mr. Steinman said.
Although he said he was initially opposed to the township making the commitment, Mr. Steinman later changed his mind and said he would support the improvements.
Ida supervisor Larry Metz said that he thinks that his board will support the project, “as long as there are no surprises.” Erie Township supervisor Dan Bonkoski said he too believes his township can afford this latest plan.
“I would pay it in a heartbeat. If we get that state grant, I'll pay that $122,000 share, because it's a lot cheaper than anything else,” Mr. Bonkoski said.
Larry Rutledge, supervisor of LaSalle Township, said he thought his board could also support the project.
Monroe County Road Commission chairman Tony Majauskas said the agency continues to believe that any major road projects should meet state standards, inevitably driving up costs. But building a lesser-quality road or doing temporary patching would mean Rauch would deteriorate again, essentially wasting tax dollars on something that won't last.
“This is a crapshoot, but we're hoping to get it,” Mr. Majauskas said of the grant request. “We're tired of putting bandages on the roads. This is a pie-in-the-sky [proposal], but the only way we're going to be able to do it is if [the townships and the road commission] work together.”