PENTWATER TOWNSHIP – Rising water levels on Pentwater Lake forced the closure of Longbridge Road between Monroe and Wayne roads, May 1, and road commission officials expect the road to remain closed for several months.
“We closed the road for public safety and also to prevent the road from being destroyed while the road bed is saturated with water and the pavement is fragile and has no stability,” states Oceana County Road Commission Managing Director Mark Timmer in a press release issued Friday, May 10.
Despite the road commission’s installation of barricades at the road closure, motorists drove through regardless. “We initially put type 3 barricades and barrels, then snow fencing,” said Timmer. “Unfortunately, residents first moved the barricades; then they cut the snow fence; and finally they pulled the posts out of the ground that the snow fence was attached to so they could drive through. We are planning to install concrete barricades behind the snow fencing. We are trying to look out for people’s best interests.
In the meantime, officials have a plan in place to handle emergencies in that area. “Pentwater Fire Chief Paul Smith stated they placed a rescue unit on the south side of Longbridge and contacted Hart Area Fire Department to respond to emergencies on the south side,” Timmer explained. “If Pentwater responds to a call on the south side of the lake, Riverton Fire Department (in Mason County) will cover structure fires and rescue on the north side of Pentwater Lake until the Pentwater Fire Department is able to respond.
“On Monday, April 29, water began encroaching on the paved shoulder on Longbridge Road between the bridge and US 31 Business Route/Monroe Rd,” Timmer said.
“On Tuesday, April 30, the Oceana County Road Commission posted 5-ton weight limit signs on this section of road.
“On Wednesday, May 1, we closed the road and placed type 3 barricades with road closed signs and barrels at Longbridge Road to close off the section of road between Monroe Road and Wayne Road.
“Water was encroaching on the paved shoulder, and the Lake Michigan lake level is 2 feet up over average, and is the highest level since 1998. The marsh and Pentwater Lake level are up also, so the road bed is saturated.
“Our bridge engineer looked at the bridge and road Monday, May 6. Our crews had taken elevations earlier that morning which showed the center of road is only 6 inches higher than Pentwater Lake. So, water is only 3 inches below the pavement in the center of the road, and right up to the pavement on the shoulder. One of our foremen and I probed the shoulder and hit water immediately. Our bridge engineer, when asked, stated that opening up the road to traffic would destroy road.
“In the summer of 2018, the road was rated with the Michigan Department of Transportation and other pavement experts and was in generally excellent condition. The cold winter, rapid frost melt and rain caused a lot of structural damage over the winter and spring. You can see longitudinal cracks that show this damage. The marsh is trying to reclaim the road bed as the water level rises, with the road settling 6 inches on the west side. On the bridge approach, there are structural cracks where the road is trying to pull itself apart as it settles. The pavement is only so elastic and can stretch only so much before it cracks and breaks. Last summer, we patched the approach to the bridge deck as it has been settling.
“Rebuilding the road as is would only mean it would settle and crack again if water levels become high in the future,” Timmer stated.
“Our bridge engineer has reviewed the bridge blueprints that show there is 30 feet down to bedrock. One method we are looking at is grout injection with boring, and to build the road on grout pilings with a geo tech fabric over it. This would allow a solid foundation; potentially raise the road above high water levels; and would be a permanent fix. The engineer is working on an estimated cost to see if this is a feasible plan.
“We don’t want to have the road closed or any roads closed. We have maintenance and upkeep of closure, and it is work to keep a road closed. But it is in the best interest of the county, the township, and the road commission to keep the road closed at this point. This is the only thing we can do to preserve the road at this point.
“At the time we can safely let traffic across without destroying the road, we will. We will keep an eye on the road and if lake levels recede and the road bed dries out, we will look at opening the road back up. Right now, though, the forecast doesn’t look good. Lake levels are predicted to rise and the road may be closed for several months or more. We appreciate your patience and cooperation.
“Please don’t attempt to move the barricades and drive through, as you are endangering yourself and others who may not be aware of the closure.”
Pentwater Public School students who live on Longbridge Road are being picked up and dropped off by the bus at the Pentwater Convenience Center due to the road closure, according to Superintendent/Principal Dr. Scott Karaptian.
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