The Kent County Road Commission’s multi-year, gravel-to-pavement construction project on 16 mile road, from Pine Lake Avenue to Harvard Avenue, readies for completion in October. This is thanks in large part to the collaborative effort among the townships of Courtland, Oakfield, Nelson and Spencer. The funding needed to transform the three miles of gravel road to pavement required a united effort from these neighboring communities because, as a “borderline” road, 16 Mile Road falls within each of the townships, which sit to its north and south.
Financing: Borderline Roads
The funding of local road projects like 16 Mile Road is cost shared between the township and KCRC. For gravel-to-pavement construction, this equates to 45% of the funding coming from the road commission, 55% from the township.
Generally, the financing of a borderline road improvement project can be tricky to secure because of the road’s physical divide among townships. Agreements made by townships prior to January 1931 sought to alleviate this type of confusion by assigning construction – and therefore, financial – responsibilities to one of the adjoining townships. As per the agreement, the identified township would be responsible for 100% of the local share of a borderline road project despite two townships sharing the border.
Assuming full responsibility for the local share of a road project, for which only half of the road resides in the township’s own jurisdiction, can be a tough sell. Given budgetary constraints, why finance a borderline road project when another improvement project resides fully within the township’s limits? Conversely, why would a township that is not assigned construction responsibility feel compelled to support a borderline road project financially?
In the case of 16 Mile Road, the road’s high-volume use helped to sway the four townships to partner in financing the three miles of work, despite the recorded assignment of construction responsibility. Ultimately, each township decided that the project was in their residents’ best interest because it provided a new, and in-demand, pavement-to-pavement connection.
“The traffic counts helped demonstrate how important 16 Mile was to the residents who live in this area. Once the project was considered a “win” for everyone, it became a matter of the townships discussing how to collaborate financially in order to complete construction,” said Jerry Byrne, KCRC’s deputy managing director of operations.
Although construction started on the first mile of the 16 Mile Road project in 2015, the conversation about the project began between KCRC and township officials in 2011. After these initial discussions, representatives from KCRC hosted multiple informational meetings for township residents, during which questions could be raised and issues discussed.
“That first meeting, we packed the house, and it was in January with really bad weather! That was a good sign,” said Courtland Township resident Tom Hoskins, who lives on 16 Mile Road.
Public Hearings held by KCRC’s Board then followed, preceding each mile of construction. Year after year, an overwhelming number of residents demonstrated their support by attending the hearings or writing to the Board in advance of the vote, to urge the commissioners’ approval.
“One of our township officials joked that the road commission’s parking lot was so full for the meeting, he couldn’t find a space,” said Hoskins.
From Construction to Completion
In 2015, the first mile of the project began between Pine Lake Avenue and Tisdel Avenue, and the second mile, between Tisdel Avenue and Keller Avenue, followed in 2016. The local share of the two-mile stretch was funded by its bordering townships, Courtland and Nelson. In 2018, construction is being completed on the final mile of the project, between Keller Avenue and Harvard Avenue, with the local share funded by the bordering townships of Oakfield and Spencer.
“We are happy to see the entire stretch completed and thank everyone for the cooperation,” said Greg Dean, Oakfield Township supervisor.
“As we enter the third and final phase of this joint project, I have enjoyed the cooperative spirit of Nelson, Courtland and Oakfield Townships in making this project reality. A special thank you to the road commission for keeping us well informed and to the residents for their patience in enduring the construction activity,” said Jeff Knapp, Spencer Township supervisor.
Resident support remains high, exemplified by the community-wide street parties thrown after each mile is completed.
“We’re very happy,” said Hoskins. “Some people have even purchased new cars!”
“This project has become a labor of love for each of the communities, and it exemplifies what can be accomplished when the road commission and townships partner and collaborate for the benefit of the residents we serve,” said Steve Warren, KCRC’s managing director.