Creating a Placemaking Plan: The Right Way and The Wrong Way
If you work in municipal government but haven’t heard the word “placemaking,” then it’s likely you’re reading this from your municipality situated on the dark side of the moon. Placemaking has become trendy, a buzzword, a way to spice up a project idea.
But the real concept of placemaking is something municipalities have always tried to do: identify and build on their resources to improve their communities for residents and visitors.
Simply adding the word “placemaking” to a project isn’t going to make that idea a winner. So, let’s look at what makes a good placemaking plan, versus what makes a poor one.
A good placemaking plan is built on authenticity. It’s takes advantage of resources already in the community –whether physical or cultural. Michigan communities have culture in common, but there is always something that makes each community unique. That something should be the seed of any good placemaking plan.
Here’s an example of a placemaking plan that failed, because it didn’t build on what the community already had. Several years ago, there was a municipality that wanted to create an arts district. At that time, arts districts were very trendy concepts, thanks to the book “The Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida. Many communities had found that investing in an arts district was a fantastic way to support and grow their local arts community, while tying in other community assets to form a bustling and vibrant district. But Abonmarche did an analysis of this particular municipality and found that there was no organic, existing arts community. There wasn’t an art institute or a group of artists who called the community home. Abonmarche recommended instead that the municipality focus on its already existing resources.
But the municipality went forward with the arts district plan, convinced that the “if you build it, they will come” approach would work. But the first placemaking project, a space for artists to work, failed to attract any artists. Because while many artists would love to work out of a beautiful new facility, moving to a new community with no other support system – beyond a beautiful, empty facility – just wasn’t feasible.
But the story ends happily. The community, realizing its dreams of an art community didn’t reflect its history, pivoted and instead focused on the area’s abundant natural resources, attracting visitors who loved outdoor activities. The community celebrated and fostered what it already had and its sense of place grew naturally from there.
The Power of Crowdfunding
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League, has kicked off a new program that matches crowdfunded dollars with grant money. Municipalities can raise money for public space projects through the crowdfunding site Patronicity, and then receive a match from the State for up to $50,000 of the raised cash.
Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Michigan
Abonmarche has been a lead consultant for the planning, design and construction of the Harbor Shores Development since its inception in 2003. Harbor Shores is a 530-acre, mixed-use development anchored by a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. This community asset has been the host of two Senior PGA Championship, and continues to bring visitors and investment into the area. The community was able to utilize its proximity to Lake Michigan, as well as its unique terrain, to create a destination championship golf course, further elevating its sense of place.
Choosing the Right Pavement
Choosing which material to use for a particular project depends on numerous factors; including usage, underlying soils, drainage, life cycle costs, and other factors. A life cycle cost analysis will take into account the initial construction investment, the overall pavement lifespan, and estimated interim dates when repairs must be made to the pavement to maintain serviceability.
Concrete and asphalt are the two principal materials used in road construction, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Concrete is generally better suited to heavier traffic – both a higher volume of traffic and larger vehicles – than asphalt and takes longer to degrade. Due to curing time needed, concrete also takes longer to be ready for traffic following construction. Asphalt may not be as durable as concrete, but can be repaired by milling and resurfacing, a fairly simple process. At a certain point, concrete can no longer be patched and must be repaired, a more difficult process than the milling and resurfacing of asphalt. Usually, an asphalt overlay is constructed, though this is generally best for limited access highways. When used in areas such as residential neighborhoods, the overlay can cause issues with driveways and drains. The overlay must be thick enough to control or reduce reflective cracking (when cracks in the concrete cause corresponding cracks in the asphalt overlay), but driveways are graded to a particular road height and drainage issues may result. To combat this, the added asphalt overlay has to be thinned to meet each driveway, creating the potential for breakage along the edge, or the driveway has to be reworked to meet the angle of the overlay.
Concrete is often used for heavy commercial applications, but it is also being used in residential areas. There is less wear on the concrete overall in those areas due to less truck traffic, so the initial wear period happens more slowly.
There are many factors in the choice of pavements. Considering all of them will provide the best return on investment.
The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is a competitive grant program that funds projects such as multi-use paths, streetscapes, and historic preservation of transportation facilities that enhance Michigan’s intermodal transportation system and provide safe alternative transportation options. These investments use federal transportation funds to support place-based economic development by offering transportation choices, promoting walkability, and improving quality of life.
The Transportation Enhancement grant program was consolidated into the TAP program under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act passed in 2012. It is administered in Michigan by MDOT.
Grants are accepted year round, with committee reviews given four times a year. The program pays for up to 80% of construction costs. The applicant only has a required 20% match, but applications with 40% match receive more points for funding. The program budget is currently about $12-$16 million.
Program information can be found here.
New in Policy
Michigan’s Road Funding
On Wednesday, the Michigan House approved a plan that would combine higher fuel taxes and increased vehicle registration fees, along with a change in state funds, to fund $1.2 billion in road improvements over the next five years. The plan would also cut income tax and homestead property tax. The Legislature has been struggling to pass a road funding plan since Prop 1, which would have generated the revenue through a sales and gas tax measure, was turned down by voters. This newest plan will go on to the Senate next, where its chances of passing are uncertain.
Good quality, sustainable infrastructure is a critical component of a safe and healthy community. Given that, and given that with every delay our infrastructure continues to crumble due to disinvestment, we encourage people to contact their representatives in Lansing and encourage them to be part of the solution.
South Westnedge Avenue Resurfacing, Portage, Michigan
The South Westnedge Avenue Resurfacing Project was undertaken to improve fire flows and rehabilitate the pavement on this six- and seven-lane thoroughfare, the City of Portage’s main roadway, which sees approximately 60,000 cars per day. Abonmarche was retained by the City of Portage to conduct right-of-way and topographic surveying, engineering design, permitting, and construction administration for this $2.8 million project.
Surveying: A Changing Field
Land surveying work may not be as attention-grabbing as a large road design project or a new building, but it is a vital part of the engineering and architectural industries, and one that is changing and adapting to new challenges and technologies.
An exciting new technology is Ground Penetrating Radar; a tool that allows surveyors to create a three-dimensional map of underground terrain. The technology sends radar pulses into the subsurface, recording the pulses as they reflect off buried objects. Metallic and non-metallic objects, tree roots, pipes, lines, sewage, and voids can all be detected using this technology. The data is then translated into a 3D map of the underground features. This technology and has already proved invaluable locating buried utilities, foundations, and geological features. GPR has proven especially useful to cemeteries, which are often working from old and inaccurate maps. GPR allows cemeteries to correctly and non-destructively map graves and utilities.
Robotic total stations are a newer type of technology that is being adopted industry-wide. Conventional total station operation requires two people; one to hold the rod and prism target, and the other to manually aim the total station and collect the measurement data. When using a robotic total station, one person holds the rod and prism target while remotely controlling the total station from the rod via a data collector. The robotic total station also automatically tracks the prism target, allowing for faster and more precise targeting and data collection. While its use is limited in wooded areas due to line of sight obstructions caused by trees and brush, in open areas it becomes a very convenient tool. During construction staking, one crew member can mark stake locations and check stake grades, while the other crew member pounds the stakes into the ground, making the team much more efficient.
Surveying Fun Facts
Basic land surveying has occurred since humans built the first large structures. The prehistoric monument at Stonehenge (c. 2500 BC) was set out by prehistoric surveyors using peg and rope geometry.
Currently, the states of Indiana and Michigan have formed an Indiana-Michigan Boundary Line Commission to resurvey the border of Indiana and Michigan. Due to the deterioration and loss of wooden stakes used to mark the state line border in 1827, it is unclear where the originally surveyed borders are located today, and some property owners have been told that their property exists in both states at the same time.
Three of the four presidents whose likenesses make up Mt. Rushmore were at one time professional surveyors. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson were all surveyors, though the odd man out, Theodore Roosevelt, also spent some time in the mapping profession – a river in the Amazon was named Roosevelt River after the former president became the first non-native person to travel and record it.
Abonmarche completed the initial surveying portion of the riverfront improvement project in Allegan, Michigan, before handing it over to our architecture department to complete the next phases. This survey work combined existing conditions mapping with delineation of parcel lines based on a subdivision originally platted in 1838. A thorough review and analysis of historical records, integrated with modern surveying technology, allowed the Abonmarche survey team to efficiently create a high-accuracy base map of the existing features and underlying parcel lines, which served as the basis of conceptual planning and development of construction documents. As with the majority of Abonmarche design projects, land surveying provided the foundation from which our talented design team developed and implemented a plan to construct what is now a beautiful addition to the downtown Allegan riverfront.
The First Step Toward Smarter Planning
After the economic downturn, many cities and businesses went into crisis mode. They were trying to stay afloat, and so planning for future projects like facility upgrades and improvements wasn’t a priority. But now that the economy has picked up again, there has been a significant uptick in the number of municipalities, businesses, and educational institutions taking a second look at their master plans and eyeing some potential upgrades.
But before any upgrades can be undertaken, it’s best to get a facility study done. Facility studies are tailored to the client, so they can be either specific or general, encompassing many buildings or just one.
Facility studies begin with a team of architects meeting with stakeholders to outline the needs and priorities of the client. From there, the consultant looks at the physical condition of the buildings, at the individual systems, and analyzes the structures based on both physical condition and functionality. Once completed, these studies not only provide a picture of an organization’s assets, but also project the costs and cost-savings of improvements. They are used as essential tools for planning future expansions.
Building Green, Saving Green
If you have a project in mind that has to do with green infrastructure, water/energy efficiency improvements, or other “environmentally innovative activites,” look into the Drinking Water Revolving Fund. The DWRF is a program designed to help water suppliers satisfy requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. In 2016, it’s expected that new funding will be made available to subsidize green projects. If you’re interested in applying for a DWRF loan, project plans must be submitted by May 1 to be considered for funding in the next fiscal year.
New in Policy
The AIA 2030 Challenge
Facility studies are an important tool that allows organizations to build smart. These days, building smart often includes building green, using sustainable materials and integrating green technology into a building’s systems.
According to the U.S. General Services Administration, high-performing green buildings can cut energy use 26%. Those that use an integrated design approach can achieve even better results, with 45% less energy consumption, 53% lower maintenance costs, and 39% less water use.
That’s why organizations like the American Institute of Architects are making energy use reduction a priority. The AIA 2030 Challenge is a national initiative to provide a framework to help firms evaluate the impact that design decisions have on a project’s energy performance and to challenge them to commit to reducing the carbon footprint of their projects. The goal of the 2030 Challenge is that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations will be carbon-neutral by 2030. Getting to that goal begins with taking steps today.
Southwestern Michigan College
At Southwestern Michigan College, Abonmarche staff worked with SMC stakeholders, like the board, president, and financial managers, and toured the campus to assess the physical conditional and functional suitability of each building. Abonmarche staff established capital priorities and made recommendations as to which improvements would yield the greatest return on investment.
New In Policy
Healthy Water, Healthy Economy
In June, the Department of Environmental Quality released their draft water strategy, which included recommendations that would ensure that Michigan’s water resources will continue to “support healthy ecosystems, residents, communities and economies” for the next 30 years.
The strategy considers not only the environmental impact of water pollution, but the economic and cultural impact as well. It recognizes how vital water is to Michigan and its individual communities. Michigan’s bodies of water impacts our state’s economy in numerous ways, and keeping our waterways healthy isn’t an abstract environmental concern, but a requirement if Michigan wants to continue to build a robust, beneficial economy around our lakes and rivers.
The DEQ’s strategy includes the following key recommendations:
• Developing a water trails system
• Achieving a 40 percent reduction to phosphorus in the western Lake Erie basin
• Preventing the introduction of new aquatic invasive species and controlling established populations
• Supporting investments in commercial and recreational harbors and maritime infrastructure
• Accelerating water technologies to address critical water problems using an entrepreneurial, business-led initiative
• Establishing a durable water fund to achieve water strategy goals including water infrastructure management
Water Trails: The Next Phase in Michigan Recreation
After a quarter century of hard work, Michigan has built an extensive trail system across our great state that encourages non-motorized connectivity. You can bike from South Haven to Kalamazoo, or from Comstock Park to Cadillac. Our trail system is an asset for local residents and a draw for visitors.
But recently, the focus has expanded to include Michigan’s 3,126 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, and its many more miles of rivers and lakes. More and more communities are realizing that water trails are the next big thing in placemaking development. Water trails provide benefits similar to land trails – increased tourism, more recreational activities for residents, and more traffic for local businesses as people get out and get active in the community.
Water trails are also cheaper to create and maintain, because they require only the establishment of access points, rather than the creation of asphalt or gravel-lined trails. Expenses involve boat, kayak, and canoe launches (or some combination), signage, and marketing to increase awareness of the trail. A good place to start is at the website MichiganWaterTrails.org, an excellent resource for planning water trail trips that includes trail maps and a searchable database of amenities.
As Michigan’s water trails develop, it’s important to keep these trails open to all types of users. Accessible canoe/kayak launches can be used by people with and without disabilities. Accessible launches require routes with gentle slopes throughout the launch site; a route width that’s at least 5 feet wide; and accessible parking, restrooms and other amenities. Taking the time and money to follow these requirements will ensure that your community is part of a network of trails that provide recreation for people with all types of abilities.
Funding Water Trails
If there’s a water trail project you’ve been contemplating, consider the Department of Environmental Quality’s Coastal Zone Management program, which is designed to support “healthy and productive coastal ecosystems, resilient coastal communities, and vibrant and sustainable coastal communities.” They have an upcoming funding program for coastal communities to utilize to assist development of community trails projects such as water trails, bike path and walking trails. The request for Trails Planning and Design proposals has a deadline of August 3. Information about the program can be found here.
Allegan Kayak/Canoe Launch
Abonmarche is working with the City of Allegan to fund and build a canoe/kayak launch on the Kalamazoo River, adjacent to the City’s rapidly developing riverfront. The project began as an idea suggested during the City’s intensive public input process to create a vision for its riverfront area and nearby park land. Soon, the launch became a focal point of the plan, as residents and City officials explored the benefits of water trails both for residents and visitors. The launch will be a universally accessible floating launch anchored to the shore area via a hinged gangplank, allowing the launch to adjust to varying water levels related to nearby hydroelectric facilities. This allows the launch to remain useable and accessible at all times. The launch fulfills important objectives outline in the City of Allegan and Allegan Township Joint Recreation Plan, and will further benefit the City as interest in water trails continues to grow.
Next time you’re planning landscaping project or streetscape, consider a type of flora that’s resistant to freezing, can boost the local ecosystem, and can be used to promote interest in your region’s unique qualities – native plants.
Native plants are more equipped to thrive in local conditions and therefore require less fertilizing and watering, can be cold and drought tolerant, and boost the local ecosystem by attracting a variety of pollinators and wildlife.
Under most circumstances native plants will not require specialized conditions; however, if natural conditions have been altered by manmade practices, then installation may require returning soils to their natural state. Understanding these conditions will help the native plants properly establish.
Native plant landscaping can be very simple and implemented on the resident and municipal level and provide an excellent educational opportunity. A path bound by native plants could include information placards that educate residents on the native species and benefits they provide. Larger scale projects could partner with local schools to create a wonderful community build and ongoing education program.
New In Policy
Encouraging Native Plants
A number of municipalities throughout Michigan are starting to shed light on the importance of native plants. They are doing so by integrating verbiage into their ordinances that encourage the use of native plants and discourage the use of invasive plants. One municipality leading the way is the City of Ann Arbor who’s Material and Design Standards encourage diversity and native species.
Creating ordinances that push for residents and planners to utilize native plants helps bring attention to a commonly overlooked subject. We think it is an excellent option for any municipality and expect to see these guidelines mandated in the future.
Interest in using native plants for landscaping is increasing, but they can still be difficult to find. Some more common natives like Black Eyed Susan and Echinacea are readily available at local garden centers and box stores. Conservation districts and local nature centers, like Sarrett Nature Center in Benton Harbor, hold annual wildflower and seedling sales that would be perfect for residents and municipalities to take advantage of.
There are a number of funding opportunities available for municipalities and agencies that want to complete landscaping and tree planting projects.
The Department of Natural Resources’ Community Forestry Grants cycle reopened in June and provides information and assistance for forest activities such as tree inventories, management plans, planting and other maintenance activities.
The Wildlife Habitat Grant Program provides funding to local, state, federal and tribal units of government, profit or non-profit groups, and individuals to develop or improve wildlife habitat for game species. The WHGP is administered by the Michigan DNR through a cooperative effort between Wildlife Division and Grants Management. The deadline is July 10.
There are also grants and awards available for planting trees found at Alliance for Community Trees.
Syndicate Park Dunes
Abonmarche is working on an exciting project at a local site containing critical dunes. Human activity and motorized recreational vehicles have left the dunes in a vulnerable condition and subject to erosion and slope alteration. Abonmarche’s Landscape Architect, along with project partners, Cardno, designed a plan to concentrate ATV use and limit foot traffic to help reestablish the dunes natural shape. Additionally, the plan includes a protected native plant area to help stabilize the dune and prevent erosion while enhancing the aesthetics and attracting wildlife.
Speed Vital In Road Repair
Now that Proposal 1 has failed, it’s important to remember that time is a factor for Michigan’s roads. As our legislators debate different potential solutions, not only are Michigan residents feeling the wear and tear of potholes on their vehicles, but the roads themselves are deteriorating. The longer the state waits to act on repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.
For every $1 that would be spent to maintain a road in good condition, $7 has to be spent to repair a road that’s fallen into poor condition, according to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. In that report, the authors compare the ubiquitous pothole to a cavity – not only can it be painful, but it can be a sign of other, more severe problems in the tooth. It’s certainly a sign that things are not being maintained as they should.
When a road develops cracks, water seeps through the cracks and gets into the sand and gravel that make up base material. Water sits in this base material until winter, when it freezes and expands, forcing the pavement upward. This creates voids in the pavement that, when met with the punishing impact of traffic, collapse into potholes. Not only is it cheaper to simply seal the cracks, it also takes less time and causes fewer road closures and traffic disruptions. The longer those cracks are left unsealed, the more likely a major rehabilitation will be required. That takes more time and more money, and still won’t get the road back to its original condition. In road repair, the watchword of road repair is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Road Funding Opportunities
The mission of the Transportation Economic Development Fund is to provide funding to county, city, and village agencies for transportation projects that address transportation needs that are critical for the agency’s economic development. Applications for this grant are accepted year round. The upcoming submission date for a letter of interest for the grant is June 10.
New In Policy
What Comes After Prop 1?
On May 5, Michigan’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 1, which would have funded much needed road repairs across the state. Now, elected officials are exploring alternative solutions to our infrastructure problems. Many organizations and individuals are providing their own ideas and recommendations for consideration as well.
This is an opportunity for our state’s leadership to develop a sound and sustainable policy approach to this ever-growing problem.
While Michigan voters have spoken loud and clear in their rejection of Proposal 1, we believe that something positive did come out of it. Michigan’s infrastructure has always been a topic of conversation in the engineering industry and among municipal, county, and state workers, but Proposal 1 helped bring this conversation into every home in the state. Though Proposal 1 wasn’t the way to do it, it does appear that residents and legislators agree that something must be done to fix the roads. We look forward to reviewing and discussing what the legislature puts forward in future issues of our newsletter.
Asset Management Plans
Abonmarche has developed Asset Management Plans for several communities. During our work in these municipalities, Abonmarche is mindful of how much more expensive it is to repair roads that have fallen into poor condition than it is to maintain good-condition roads. With that in mind, Abonmarche uses new maintenance technologies such as crack filling, slurry sealing, ultrathin overlays, and hot in place to prolong the life of the pavements before they become too deteriorated, when heavy maintenance techniques become necessary. Those roads that already require heavy maintenance techniques are then reserved for opportunities when more funding sources are available.
More and more, Michigan’s economy is relying on its waterways. Whether it’s tourists staying overnight in a beach town or residents purchasing a new boat or fishing license, Michigan’s waterways are the driving force behind a growing portion of the state’s revenue.
As Michigan’s water-based economy continues to grow, a renewed commitment needs to be made to the state’s environment. Keeping the state’s waterways healthy is no longer just an environmental issue. It’s an economic one. The mindset needs to shift from thinking of water as a burden that has to be dealt with, to thinking of it as an asset that can be used to improve our communities.
Stormwater management needs to become a priority for communities across the state, not just those on the coast. Neglected stormwater systems introduce pollutants into water ways, affecting local flora and fauna. Proper stormwater management protects the environment, eases pressure on existing infrastructure, and allows communities to adapt to severe weather events brought on by climate change.
Traditional stormwater management focused on directing rainwater and melted snow away from the site as quickly as possible. Modern techniques – such as rain gardens and pervious pavers – recreate a pre-development landscape by allowing water to filter through the ground.
In August 2014, severe storms swept through Michigan, causing damage and flooding across the state. Following a request from Gov. Snyder, President Obama declared a major disaster in the state of Michigan, freeing up Hazard Mitigation Grant Program assistance to become available for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
State agencies and local governments can now take advantage of FEMA funding to prepare properties against potential future disasters. The FEMA program provides up to 75% of the cost. For more information, please visit FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance page.
New in Policy
From tourism to industry, the Blue Economy is a critical component to Michigan’s growth and a sustainable economic future. Our state’s abundance of fresh water, coupled with excess capacity in our water filtration plants, positions our state and its people exceptionally well to attract both industries that rely on water, as well as tourists who come to our state to enjoy our abundant natural resources.
One example of an industry that has excellent potential for growth in Michigan is electronic data management. In today’s technology-focused society, we are using substantial amounts of water to manage the large facilities that house computer data systems, or data centers. It may seem counterintuitive that computers depend on water, but water is often used to cool these systems, which produce great amounts of heat. These centers all use large amounts of energy, and generating energy also uses water, so there is an indirect aspect of water consumption as well. Given the increasing population relying on the Internet, the United States’ computer-related water needs will continue to grow. By some estimates, more than 77 percent of the U.S. population used the Internet in 2010, representing more than a 150 percent increase over the past decade. And all of this internet traffic and reliance on electronic information means increased demand for more data centers. Consider that each email, each bank transaction, each Facebook posting, and the millions of other internet uses all must pass through and be processed in data center servers. Our State’s abundance of fresh water and processing capacity coupled with its natural beauty make it an ideal place to both establish data storage facilities as well as attract the talent to run them.
Given the success of the Pure Michigan campaign bringing attention to our State’s natural resources it is imperative we monitor and protect those resources to ensure the long term sustainability of our tourism industry. With our 3,000 plus miles of Great Lakes coastline and over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is one of the country’s top summertime destinations for people. Recreational boaters directly and indirectly spend $3.9 billion in Michigan, contributing to over 50,000 jobs. Michigan anglers contribute $2 billion annually to the state. Coastal tourism, from birding to beach visits, is responsible for 57,000 jobs and $955 million in earnings every year. Recreation and tourism spending around inland lakes, rivers and wetlands has not been estimated but arguably would be a comparable or larger amount. We do know that the small but growing Michigan canoe and kayaking industry already contributes $140 million a year to the economy.
Given the current impact our state’s waterways have on the economy, and the potential to attract and expand new industries to create jobs and tax base for our communities, it is critical that the state and local governments proactively enact policies that protect and ensure the long term viability of these important natural resources.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program is an important piece of legislation that the state of Michigan has enacted in recent years to protect and maintain our state’s water resources is. The SAW program’s funding can be used for stormwater and wastewater asset management plan development, stormwater management plan development, sewage collection and treatment plan development, and state-funded loans to construct projects identified in an asset management plan or stormwater management plan. The City of South Haven received a SAW grant that Abonmarche is working in conjunction with City staff to develop a stormwater asset management plan, among other activities, to protect the community’s fresh water resources.
Stormwater management is the control and use of stormwater runoff. It includes planning for runoff, maintaining stormwater systems, and regulating the collection, storage, and movement of stormwater. Stormwater management also considers drainage in the design of cities and housing developments. The goals of stormwater management include protecting our environment; reducing flooding to protect people and property; reducing demand on public stormwater drainage systems; supporting healthy streams and rivers; and creating healthier, more sustainable communities. Effective stormwater management provides environmental, social, and economic benefits to local communities. When stormwater management is done well, streams, rivers, and lakes are cleaner; flood risks are reduced; costs due to flood damage decrease; and community quality of life increases.
Given the significant amount of spending that access to Lake Michigan brings into the community on an annual basis, protecting the community’s water resource is of critical importance. If an E. coli issue were to shut down the community’s beaches, even for only a few days, it would have a profound economic impact on the community and business owners. By using the SAW grant to develop a sound asset management plan, the City will be able to ensure the long term sustainability and viability of its water resources.
In Michigan, spring marks the return of our state bird, the beginning of major league baseball, and pothole season on our roadways. Potholes form primarily in the late winter and early spring months when melting snow saturates the soil around and beneath our roadways. This moist soil undergoes cycles of freezing during the night and thawing during warmer days. The associated expansion and contraction is the driving force behind pothole formation. During this time, the moist ground makes the road susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles. For more information on the formation of a pothole, and how good road design seeks to reduce this problem visit the Michigan Department of Transportation’s page on potholes.
Patching potholes is a stop-gap measure intended to create a safe driving surface for the public and protect/retain as much of the underlying material as possible. Winter patching of potholes began as a way of getting through until spring. But with tight budgets and limited manpower, these temporary fixes are often required to last much longer.
Patching potholes in the winter and early spring is a difficult thing to do. During this time, roads are wet and covered in salt and the patch material can’t adhere well. Hot- mix asphalt is hard to come by at this time as well. Due to these conditions, the “Throw-and-Roll” method is often used. Patch material is shoveled into potholes where it is quickly rolled before reopening to traffic. Due to limited time and budget, many agencies may not using a roller, opting instead to use the “Throw-and-Go” method, which uses traffic to compact their patch material in lieu of a roller or plate compactor. Anyone who has endured the clinks and clangs of loose “cold-patch” hitting the undercarriage of their vehicle has experienced the less appealing consequences of the “Throw-and-Go” patch.
If it can wait until later in the spring, “Semi-Permanent” method of pothole repair is a higher quality fix. This involves removal of compromised pavement, cleaning and preparation of the substrate, placing and compacting patching material, and sealing of the joint at the perimeter of the patch if time and budget allow. A spray injection method is also available, but this is typically only used by larger departments with the money and resources to purchase the specialized equipment.
Whichever method is used, it doesn’t change the fact that the life expectancy of patches is typically measured in weeks instead of years. Patching potholes is a losing battle. In the end, patch material typically winds up on roadway shoulders, gutters, and storm drains.
Ultimately, patching potholes – even using best practices – is not a long-term pavement preservation technique. In the short term, public agencies that maintain the roadways may need to select the most cost effective means of providing a safe surface for public use, which in some cases, can mean “Throw-and-Go.” But that needs to be done with an eye toward the long-term solutions of asset management and pavement preservation that are ultimately the techniques that will solve Michigan’s roadway problems.
For more information on pavement preservation and rehabilitation techniques, contact Abonmarche at email@example.com.
The Department of Natural Resources has assigned a new grant coordinator for regions 7, 8, and 9. Chip Kosloski took over for Jule Stafford, who retired late last year. His contact information is (517) 284-5965 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for many DNR grants is coming up on April 1.
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs revised their application deadline for the fiscal year of 2016 from October 1 to June 1. Jeff Garrett is MCACA’s new community and regional development coordinator, with the Capital Improvement Program grant management among his new duties. His contact information is garrettJ7@michigan.org.
This spring, Michigan’s years of poor road policy will rear its ugly head in the form of miles and miles of potholes. The ballot language for Prop 1 has been approved, so voters will have a chance to approve or decline the series of bills that would raise the sales/use tax from 6% to 7%, increase the portion of the use tax that goes toward the School Aid Fund and direct more funding toward road repairs, among other things.
Lawmakers are cobbling together alternatives to Prop 1 that attempt to bypass the whole issue of increased revenue by redirecting funding from other sources. This is understandable, if misguided. Everyone would like for our roads to be paid for without Michigan’s residents having to pay more. But Prop 1 was created out of a hard-fought compromise that was finally accomplished years after everyone already agreed that something had to be done. It’s an unfortunate fact – especially for the Prop 1 supporters tasked with selling the proposal to voters – that after a real compromise, there’s no one left who really feels like running a victory lap.
As citizen’s and voters we should always be open to the best policy option available, however the reality is we need to stop kicking the can down the street on infrastructure funding. A state with Michigan’s history and potential should not be last in the nation in per capita spending for infrastructure.
In 2010, Abonmarche developed a plan for a client to maintain and repair the City’s roads. The plan reversed the trend of fixing a municipality’s worst roads first, and instead used the approach of maintaining those roads still in good condition. “Worst first” maintenance techniques generally include mill and fill, overlays, and reconstruction – in other words, expensive heavy maintenance techniques. These techniques concentrate a municipality’s funds on a limited number of sites, and meanwhile there isn’t enough funding left over for proper maintenance of other roads. Because it becomes more expensive to maintain and repair a road the more deteriorated it becomes, Abonmarche’s approach targeted roads before they reached a critical distress point. Our technique was able to prolong road life using new maintenance technologies such as crack filling, slurry sealing, ultrathin overlays, and hot-in-place. This allowed the roads to be maintained in good condition and the City was given the breathing room to reserve the use of heavy maintenance techniques for a time when other funding sources became available.
Using Abonmarche’s plan, the City was able to restore three times as many streets with these new methods over the traditional overlay methods.
Where is your City putting its snow? The answer to that question will affect your environment long after spring arrives. Snow accumulates pollutants from the atmosphere, motor vehicles, and roadways, and it hangs onto that through snow melt, at which point the contaminants filter into surface water and groundwater.
It’s important to choose snow dumping sites carefully because snow releases contaminants at different times during the snow melt, further complicating the scenario. Traditional warm weather best management practices are not as successful because of ice, water temperature, highly concentrated pollution, and lack of biological activity. The variability of snow character and repeated freeze-thaw cycles create very heterogeneous snowpack, with many different paths available for melt water to move through. This is only exacerbated when an early spring rain hits lingering snow piles, mobilizing the soluble constituents and associated contaminants. The melt then runs over urban surfaces, continuing to pick up debris left over from the winter.
A good snow dump site is away from surface water and has more than two feet of top soil above the water table. Parking lots are an often-used snow dump site, but the parking lot needs to be in a location where the melt water from those sites can be adequately filtered before reaching surface water or groundwater. If the snow has been heavily treated it can pose a threat to water quality. Another consideration that needs to be taken into account is that, while the first part of the snow melt usually soaks into the ground, at some point in the melt sequence, the ground can become saturated. That turns a pervious portion of the watershed into an essentially impervious surface, causing all additional melt to run off.
Some good options for snow dump site locations are wastewater treatment plant yards, city-owned unused lots, or parking lots surrounded by large areas of topsoil. Just remember, wherever you choose – choose carefully.
MiRecGrants has opened its 2015 application cycle, and applications for grants through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund and Recreation Passport can now be uploaded. The due date for those grant programs is April 1.
Funding was also announced for Volunteer Stream Monitoring grants through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Up to $50,000 is available annually and the application is due February 12.
Michigan’s water is one of its most vital resources and so water management policy needs to be a focus for our elected officials and environmental experts, in order to ensure that this resource continues to be both an economic driver and a key quality of life component for the state’s residents.
Our state is already beginning to address this important issue, with nearly $4 million included in the state’s 2015 budget for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality implement water management strategies, monitor beaches for elevated bacteria levels and protect wetlands. In order to make up for wetlands lost to development, the budget sets aside $3 million for “mitigation banks,” artificial wetlands that will fulfill the same role in the ecosystem as the wetlands that were destroyed. The budget also contains $5 million for drinking water upgrades.
The Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Program is now in its second year and has proven to be of great benefit to communities for long range water resource planning. This year’s budget includes $97 million to continue the program.
If Michigan keeps investing in protecting and managing our water resources, not only will the state be able to embrace the spirit of its Pure Michigan campaign, which has built a great sense of place for our state and has attracted thousands of new residents and visitors annually, it will continue to be economic driver into our future.
Michigan’s freshwater resources are going to face new pressures in the future. Population increases worldwide will put demands on all freshwater resources, as more drinking water and water for irrigation will be pulled from the same sources. In the U.S., Midwest agriculture is moving north due to improved genetically modified seeds and climate change. Michigan can benefit from this increased agricultural demand, but only if we continue to advocate for strong policy and investments in our natural resources.
Abonmarche is currently working on a Water Reliability Study for the Village of Paw Paw. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requires these studies in order for municipalities to remain in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. As part of the study, Abonmarche inventoried existing water capacity and conducted an analysis of current and future needs, system loss, deficiencies, and other conditions. Abonmarche will develop five- and 20-year water use projections, and complete hydraulic modeling for a variety of scenarios.