June 5, 2018 3:30 PM
Feds award Macomb County $97.8 million to help rebuild Mound Road
By Chad Livengood/Crain's Detroit Business
Chunks of concrete from Mound Road were strewn across the boulevard medians of the heavily industrial roadway in Macomb County in early March. Sterling Heights is spending $10.2 million this summer to pave over 3.5 miles of the pockmarked road between 14 Mile and 18 Mile roads.
Relief is coming for drivers and major businesses along the industrial corridor of Macomb County's notoriously pockmarked Mound Road.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Macomb County a $97.8 million grant toward the $185 million cost to rebuild Mound Road from I-696 to M-59, a crumbling stretch of roadway that is a pipeline for workers, materials and finished products flowing to and from automotive factories and Michigan's aerospace and defense manufacturers.
"This is a big deal," Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Tuesday.
The federal grant will provide the county and cities of Warren and Sterling Heights with funding to rebuild the 30-year-old roadway from the roadbed up, adding in connected-car technology to reduce congestion and improve efficiency, Hackel said.
"We're talking about putting innovative technologies into it; the future of mobility is going to be incorporated into this road in a way you haven't seen in Southeast Michigan," Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor told Crain's.
The project is expected to start later this year with engineering work and take several years to complete a 10-mile reconstruction of the northbound and southbound lanes of Mound Road, Hackel said.
Representatives from the Detroit 3 automakers, local elected officials and members of Michigan's congressional delegation have been lobbying the federal transportation agency for months to secure funding for the Mound Technology and Innovation Corridor Project.
Mound Road in Macomb County is the home base of U.S. Army's TACOM research and development center for armored land vehicles; General Motors Co.'s sprawling Warren Tech Center; GM's Powertrain Warren Transmission Plant; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Warren truck plant and Sterling Heights Assembly Plant; Ford Motor Co.'s Sterling Heights Axle Plant; and numerous suppliers for the automakers and aerospace industry.
"Mound Road is of vital importance, not just to our local economy, but to the state and national economy as well," Taylor said.
Macomb County leaders made a case to officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation and in the Trump administration that the level of concentrated industry along Mound Road necessitated federal funding for the Mound Technology and Innovation Corridor Project.
"This had nothing to do with politics," said Hackel, the Democratic head of a county that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.
Mound Road is a local road, which don't normally get federal funding. Federal dollars usually are reserved for interstate highways.
"I think (Mound Road) also was recognized by the federal government as a national asset," Hackel said.
The state of Michigan, Macomb County, Sterling Heights and Warren are expected to pay the remaining $87 million in costs.
Michigan's U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Reps. Sander Levin and Paul Mitchell (both of whom represent Macomb County) wrote Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao a letter in support of the $97.8 million federal grant.
"Today's announcement will help transform Mound Road from a pothole-ridden road to a modernized transportation corridor," Peters said in a statement.
Because federal funding was uncertain, local officials moved earlier this year to repave portions of the roadway that had become a minefield for drivers of cars and heavy trucks alike.
Starting in July, Sterling Heights plans to start repaving the northbound and southbound lanes of Mound Road from 14 Mile to 18 Mile roads.
The $10.2 million project will entail milling down 3 inches of asphalt and repaving a 3.5-mile stretch of the road, bringing temporary relief for drivers before the road is eventually ripped out and replaced, Taylor said.
"Unfortunately, the temporary repairs had to be done anyway," Taylor said. "Mound Road really couldn't last another year or two anyways."
Macomb County and Warren are working on a plan to repave small cratered sections of Mound Road from 14 Mile south to 11 Mile similar to the short-term patchwork repairs the Michigan Department of Transportation did this winter on eastbound I-696, Hackel said.