Roadwork lockout slows M-61, other projects

October 4, 2018

By Pat Maurer

Although it is more than a month behind schedule, the 14.34-mile, nearly $1.9 million cold milling and resurfacing project on M-61 in Harrison (between Clareola Road and Westlawn Street in the city) is now expected to be complete by the end of October pending weather conditions, said Jocelyn Hall, Communications for the Michigan Department of Transportation of the Bay Region. The project, which began July 9th, was originally scheduled for completion August 24th.

A second, smaller project in Clare County at 5 Lakes will not be completed this year because the contractor for both projects, Reith Riley, is now over 30 days behind schedule, said Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger. Reith Riley is a union contractor.

The poor conditions of both White Birch and Deep Woods Drives in the 5 Lakes subdivision will not be addressed until next year.

The poor conditions of both White Birch and Deep Woods Drives in the 5 Lakes subdivision will not be addressed until next year.

Dysinger said, “Missing 30 days in an already crowded construction schedule puts a lot in jeopardy.  Here we are with leaves beginning to change color and colder temperatures knocking on our door.  We are mindful that application of HMA (hot mix asphalt) in colder weather by itself is challenging.”   

He continued, “While we are disappointed our project at Five Lakes won’t be completed this year we are encouraged by Reith Riley and the Clare County Road Commission reaching out to us.  Reith Riley has confirmed they will hold the price for our project into next spring.  The affected project is the full length of the paved portion of White Birch Dr. and Deep Woods Dr.  Both roadways are on the west side of Five Lakes.  The estimated cost of the paving and milling work is $82,500.”

Dysinger added, “There is another paving project yet to be completed in Grant, Washington Rd. from Old US10/M115 to Harrison Ave.  Central Asphalt of Mt. Pleasant is the chosen contractor for this work, the estimated cost for this 3/4 mile stretch is $50,000.  The days of opportunity run short this time of year and the Township cautions that waiting until next spring may be an option for this project as well.  I have expressed concern to CCRC that paving work not be done during colder temperatures.  Therefore weather controls it all.”

A dispute between the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, representing contractors, and Operating Engineers’ Local 324 resulted in a subsequent lockout by MITA September 4th which partially or fully shut about 150 projects across the state down last month including 89 Michigan Department of Transportation projects and 72 local projects.

A September 27th press release from Governor Rick Snyder said work would begin again Monday, October 1st because the “contractors’ association and operating engineers’ union have now agreed to continue working throughout the rest of the 2018 construction season.

A meeting between the Governor, MITA, and Operating Engineers 324 earlier in the week “brought the two sides together and provided the catalyst for a short-term solution,” Snyder’s release said.

Shown is the intersection of the two dead-end roads scheduled for repaving in the Five Lakes Subdivision.

Shown is the intersection of the two dead-end roads scheduled for repaving in the Five Lakes Subdivision.

Terms of the agreement included ending the lockout on all projects; OE engineers returning to work immediately; work continuing for projects that can be completed prior to winter; other projects to continue for as long as possible for safe winter travel; and mediation to help negotiations.

MITA and OE324 agreed to use professional mediation to help negotiate a new contract. The contract between the two had expired last June, but contractors continued to work through the end of August until the lockdown by MITA was initiated.
The list of projects that can be completed or partially completed this year will be managed by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Snyder’s release continued with quotes from both MITA Executive Vice president Mike Nystrom and OE 324 President Ken Dombrow.
“I understand the frustration this has caused but our association has an important responsibility to our members who are committed to doing the best work they can to build and maintain Michigan’s infrastructure on behalf of taxpayers,” said MITA VP Nystrom,. “We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to resolving this issue in a satisfactory manner for both sides so we can get these road projects underway again. Our members will work with MDOT to get things wrapped up as quickly as possible and get lanes open again for motorists.”

“Our members are ready to get back on their machines and get these projects done across the state – and look forward to working again as soon as we can,” said OE 324 President Dombrow “We still have issues to work out and will represent the best interests of our members throughout those negotiations, as we always have. We appreciate Gov. Snyder’s willingness to not take sides and to remain focused on finding a way to get the work done. The operating engineers of Michigan have an important job to do and we’re happy that now they can start doing it again.”

Regarding the M-61 project, Hall of MDOT Communications said, “The crew was back working on the project Monday. I estimate mid-to-late October for the completion, pending weather conditions.”

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