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Antoine road funds on the way

September 20, 2012
By JIM ANDERSON - News Editor , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - The Dickinson County Road Commission will receive a $2 million grant to restore Quinnesec-Lake Antoine Road to all-season status, the Michigan Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.

The project is approved for $2,009,583 in Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Category A funding and will be completed with $327,000 from the road commission and $186,000 from the city of Iron Mountain.

The grant is tied to 190 new jobs at Systems Control, an operating division of Northern Star Industries, which has invested approximately $10.6 million in a new building and equipment at its north side Iron Mountain facility.

"MDOT is pleased to partner with the Dickinson County Road Commission, the city of Iron Mountain, and Systems Control on this project," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "Resurfacing this major commercial corridor will lead to reduced delays and shipping costs for the company, and increased safety for local residents by getting large commercial vehicles off downtown streets."

Lance Malburg, road commission engineer, said no timetable has been set, but a construction bid will likely be awarded in August or September 2013. It remains to be seen if resurfacing work will begin in the fall of 2013, or spring of 2014, he said.

Because the pavement is deteriorating, the road commission earlier this year enacted weight restrictions that have sent more trucks and logging rigs through downtown Iron Mountain.

Today, James Harris Jr., superintendent of operations for the road commission, announced that those restrictions will be lifted effective 6 a.m. Friday. The roadway will be opened to all traffic - in light of the grant and the fact that the county will now be able to redo the roadway in the next couple of years, Harris said.

Lake Antoine Road connects U.S. 2 near Quinnesec to U.S. 2/U.S. 141 on the north side of Iron Mountain. In addition to providing a bypass of downtown Iron Mountain for large vehicles, it is an access to the main driveway for the Systems Control facility.

Because of current road restrictions, Systems Control trucks must find alternate routes to bring in raw materials and ship finished products, MDOT said. This situation results in higher shipping costs for the company, as well as other road users.

To address these conditions, the road commission proposes to crush and shape the existing asphalt surface and repave the roadway. It also will fully reconstruct a section of the road in the Lake Antoine Park area to prevent future sinking.

These improvements will restore the road to all-season status. The improvements also will reduce delays and shipping costs for Systems Control and increase safety for local residents by allowing large commercial vehicles to bypass downtown Iron Mountain, MDOT said.

Quinnesec-Lake Antoine Road has long served as an alternate route for pulp haulers heading to the Verso Paper Corp. mill in Quinnesec.

"The Dickinson County Road Commission is pleased that MDOT, in awarding this grant, has acknowledged this roadway is a vital link in our economic infrastructure," said James Harris Sr., chairman of the road commission. "Our partner in securing this grant, Systems Control, is a major employer in the Michigan-Wisconsin region. This roadway is an integral part of our country road system."

Systems Control is nationally recognized as a premier designer and manufacturer of control and relay panels, as well as equipment enclosures used primarily by utilities.

"Lake Antoine Road is a vital link for both local and regional commerce in the U.P. and I have been anxious for the state to recognize the road's importance to our community, as well as the important role it serves in state's road system," said State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan. "I will continue to work with our local officials and MDOT to see that state participation in rehabilitating and maintaining this significant road is completed smoothly."

Enacted in 1987 and reauthorized in 1993, the TEDF was created to provide funding for highway, road and street projects that encourage private investment in Michigan that will create or support jobs. The TEDF "Category A," or "Target Industries Program," provides state funding for transportation improvements that will help accommodate increased traffic and provide commercial routes that are safe and more efficient for new and expanding companies. Eligible road agencies include MDOT, county road commissions, cities and villages.

"This project represents a true partnership between the road commission, the city, MDOT and Breitung Charter Township," said MDOT Superior Region Engineer Randy VanPortfliet. "The safety and mobility improvements to this route and their support of commercial transportation are important to the entire western Upper Peninsula."

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, said the grant is welcome news for the Dickinson County area. "The upgrade to Lake Antoine Road is sure to promote local economic growth and increase public safety, and I thank MDOT for this," said Casperson. "Similarly, I am grateful for the hard work and cooperation of the road commission, city, county, and township and for their ability to not only work together but with the state and with local industry, as I believe these efforts and partnerships were instrumental in receiving this award."

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