Kent County Road Commission FAQ

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Why Are You Clearing Brush and Trees from the Roadside?

The work completed is part of KCRC's routine maintenance efforts to manage vegetation within the right-of way. Beginning in late summer, KCRC deploys mechanical brush cutters to help manage vegetation. The clearing process helps trim and remove wild brush to reduce the potential hazard of overgrown vegetation. The operation can compromise the aesthetic of the site for a brief period; however, a couple months of regrowth helps to restore the naturally pleasing roadside.

  • Vegetation maintenance within the right-of-way:
  • Increase traffic sign visibility
  • Improve motorist visibility of deer and other livestock and wildlife near the road
  • Keep road users (vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians) visible to drivers
  • Help pedestrians and bicyclists see motor vehicles
  • Improve winter road maintenance in snow and ice areas
  • Help drainage systems function as designed
  • Preserve road surfaces through daylighting and root system control
  • Control noxious weeds in accordance with local laws and ordinances

Vegetation control typically causes minimal impact to traffic flow. Because of this, advance notice of this work is generally not provided to property owners. Our crews handle miles of routine maintenance efforts per day, and it would greater impact our efficiency, and the work completed, if prior notice was required before these activities could begin.

Can I push the snow from my driveway onto the road?

Under Michigan law (section 257.677(a) of the Michigan Vehicle Code), it is ILLEGAL to shovel or plow snow or ice onto any road or highway and the illegal practice is subject to enforcement by local authorities (police or sheriff's department). From a safety perspective, the practice of depositing snow and ice from one's driveway onto the public road can create a dangerous hazard for motorists who may slide or lose control after hitting the unanticipated snow pile along their route.

I have an emergency; how do I get my road cleared immediately?

KCRC does not respond to special requests except through law enforcement and fire services. Residents experiencing an emergency situation should call 911. KCRC will respond as directed by law enforcement. 

How does KCRC respond to a winter storm?

KCRC strives to complete winter operations across its network within 36 hours following the end of a snow storm. Our fleet is deployed to cover snowplow routes equating to over 5,300 lane miles of road. Day crews maintain all of the county and state snowplow routes, while evening crews maintain the snowplow routes with the highest volume/speeds – these include all state roads and county roads with the highest volumes/speeds.

Please note that KCRC does NOT plow streets that are under the jurisdiction of the cities and villages of Kent County, including cities of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs, Grandville, Kentwood, Lowell, Rockford, Walker, and Wyoming, and the villages of Caledonia, Casnovia, Kent City, Sand Lake and Sparta.

Why hasn’t my street been plowed?

KCRC serves roads with high traffic volumes and speeds, first. Therefore, snow removal crews typically address roadways in the following order: 

  • State Highways (ex: US-131, I-96, M-6) 
  • County Primary Roads (ex: Byron Center Ave, West River Drive) 
  • Local Paved Roads (ex: Buttrick Avenue, Courtland Drive) 
  • County local gravel roads, lake drives, subdivision streets 

If snow continues to fall, KCRC may have to return to the state highways and primary roads before plowing local roads and streets. After those roads are passable, crews move on to clear local paved roads throughout the county.  

I’ve seen snowplows driving along during a storm with their plows raised. Why aren’t they plowing?

There are a few possible reasons:

  1. Plows may be in operation to spread materials, or may be out of materials to spread and headed back to the garage to reload.
  2. The snowplow driver does not have the responsibility for the road he/she is currently on, and is heading elsewhere. Plow routes are designed to minimize travel in between service areas.
  3. The road may have been treated with salt or de-icing products and plowing it may remove the mixture before it has an opportunity to work. 

Is it legal to pass a snowplow?

There are no state laws that prohibit passing a snowplow. However, the action can be extremely dangerous. Snowplows may be equipped with wing plow blades that can extend anywhere between 2 and 10 feet beyond the width of the truck. This wing plow blade can weigh as much as a compact car and is often not seen because of the snow cloud being kicked up by the snowplow. Vehicles should NEVER pass a plow truck on the right and maintain at least 200 feet distance from a moving snowplow engaged in snow or ice removal.

Why can’t KCRC plows avoid pushing snow into my driveway?

KCRC drivers work as efficiently as possible to cover 114 snowplow routes and treat and clear 3,000 miles of roads. Lifting the plow’s blade at every driveway would increase the time it takes to move through the designated snow routes, greatly reducing the miles of roadway crews cover during a snow or ice event. In addition, lifting the plow’s blade increases the amount of snow left on the road.

Therefore, snow may be deposited onto driveways during snow removal. To help minimize the amount of snow that gets pushed onto your driveway: place as much snow as possible in the direction of travel when clearing your driveway and place the removed snow on the downstream side of the road. Then, clear an area or pocket “upstream” from your driveway’s access where the snow from the road can go into. See: Avoid Second Shovel

Schools should have priority. Why haven’t you plowed in front of my child’s school?

There are well over 300 schools in Kent County serving more than 120,000 students. Before families and buses can arrive on the school’s street, they must successfully navigate a route to get there. That is why our first priority must be to service the county’s main arteries – the state trunklines and primary roads –so that routes towards these destinations are safe to travel.

How do I get KCRC to install a traffic signal at my intersection?

Requests for a change to traffic control, like the installation of a traffic signal or all-way stop, are reviewed by the Kent County Road Commission Traffic and Safety Division with the decision based on state guidelines and federally-mandated warrants. 

The ultimate goal when considering a traffic control modification (i.e. all-way stop, traffic signal) is to provide a safe intersection for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. It seems logical that a modification to traffic control would most certainly improve the safety of an intersection, but this is not always the case. In fact, in some instances, traffic control changes only serve to alter the type of crashes that occur and can potentially increase the number, or severity, of accidents. Therefore, it is essential that KCRC performs analysis of the intersections within its network on an ongoing basis and adheres to federally-mandated warrants defined in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) regarding modifications to traffic control.

Meeting a mandated warrant for any traffic control device (sign, signal or pavement marking) is the minimum criteria for traffic control modification. The decision to install a traffic control device is made on the basis of an engineering study, the mandated warrant(s) and engineering judgment by a KCRC traffic engineer.

Traffic Signals
At least one of nine warrants must be met before a traffic signal can be installed. These warrants address the number of vehicles, pedestrians, crashes - or a combination of the aforementioned- that must exist before a signal can be installed. According to the MMUTCD, other factors that must be considered include:

  • A traffic control signal should not be installed unless one or more of the (warrants) are met.
  • A traffic control signal should not be installed unless an engineering study indicates that installing a traffic control signal will improve the overall safety and/or operation of the intersection.
  • A traffic control signal should not be installed if it will seriously disrupt progressive traffic flow.

Multi-Way Stop
Similar to a traffic signal, multi-way stop installation is dependent upon federally-mandated warrants and criteria. According to the MUTCD, multi-way stop signs should be installed on the basis of an engineering study, the mandated warrant(s) and engineering judgment by a KCRC traffic engineer.

Warning/Caution Signs
Please note that any devices that are not in the MMUTCD are not accepted as traffic controls and cannot be used. These include "slow children,” “children at play” and "slow" signs.

What is KCRC’s policy for mailbox damage?

KCRC investigates each complaint regarding a mailbox damaged during snow removal. If an inspection shows that the mailbox was hit by a plow or other KCRC equipment, KCRC will replace the mailbox. However, if damage was caused by thrown ice or snow coming off of the plow, mailbox repair is the responsibility of the property owner. Click the following for KCRC Mailbox Policy or to Report Mailbox Damage.

Sod on my property was damaged by a snow plow, what do I do?

Despite best efforts, sod along the edge of the road occasionally may be damaged during snow removal activities. In general, KCRC will repair sod damaged by a snow plow or truck. Residents who experience sod damage are asked to contact the Road Commission by phone or email the Road Commission via Report an Issue.

Why is road salt used?

Road salt is spread over roads to lower the freezing point of snow and ice; this keeps the snow “slushy” so it can be removed from the road.  

Before it is applied to the road, the salt is prewetted with a liquid chloride solution. This lowers the melting point and reduces the likelihood of the salt bouncing from the road surface. 

What are the limitations of road salt?

The effectiveness of salt is dependent upon pavement temperature of 15-20°F and above. When the pavement temperature drops below 15°F, the effectiveness of salt is decreased significantly, and KCRC will begin adding other chemicals such as calcium chloride or magnesium chloride to the salt to lower the melting point. 

Wind conditions also play a role when deciding how to apply salt or other de-icing agents. As temperatures drop and the snow becomes dryer, wind can blow snow across the pavement. If there is a chemical residue left on the pavement from a previous salt application, blowing snow can be attracted to the residue and stick to the pavement. This creates hazardous conditions that would not have existed if no de-icing agents were previously applied.  


The effectiveness of salt can also be affected by the type of pavement; salt works better on blacktop pavements than on textured, concrete pavements. 

Why can’t salt be put on roads and bridges before it snows?

Putting salt on road surfaces prior to a snowfall is ineffective because the salt often bounces off, or is blown from, the dry road before it can do its job. Salt is most effective after snow has accumulated and the temperature is 20° Fahrenheit or higher. Under these conditions, the salt mixes with the snow and melts the snow into slush that can be plowed off the pavement.  

Why is salt spread on a cleared highway after a storm is over?

The projected temperature of the road surface will impact the final treatment of a road. If plowing operations have finished and a road is left in a "black and wet" condition, there is sometimes a danger of the water on the road refreezing. There are times, especially at night, when this post storm salt application may be necessary. 

Why hasn’t the intersection by my house been mowed? How can I request mowing in that area?

In order to achieve the highest efficiency and address the most amount of miles, mowing of county right of way is typically conducted in a systematic, rather than issue-by-issue, basis. However, we do appreciate knowing specific locations that residents identify as areas of concern.

* Property owners are encouraged to mow along their property to enhance safety of themselves and other motorists

* The system targets two passes along all of KCRC's right of way and includes both county and state roads

*  A fleet of mowers is deployed May - August, subject to the weather and emergency response efforts

*  Mowing equipment travels at less than 5 miles per hour, covering right of way along 5,000 miles of road

The Kent County Sheriff's Department advises that in normal daylight conditions, if you don’t have a clear line of sight to an opposing driver’s eyes, they may not know you’re there. Just as importantly, if a person doesn’t feel they can pass through an intersection safely, an alternate route can be considered.

Why do workers spray liquid onto the roadways before a big storm arrives?

Crews will spray an anti-icing agent on areas like hills, curves and bridges prior to a storm to thwart snow from sticking to the road and minimize frost or black ice. 

Will we be able to get in and out of the neighborhood during the road project? What about driveways?

Yes, residents will have access to the neighborhood.

There will be “open access” to driveways at most times during paving.  The exception is during placement of the top course of pavement in front of a driveway. To minimize wheel tracks or damage to the surface, traffic must be restricted during this process, which takes approximately 30-60 minutes.

Because paving is a moving operation, an exact schedule cannot be provided regarding when the crew will be working in front of a specific driveway. However, KCRC and its contractors will work with residents who need access to and from their driveways within the 30-60 minute period of top course paving.  When you see the crew nearing your residence, providing them with a “head’s up” of your needs will assist them in helping you exit safely.

Does KCRC remove dead animals from the road or side of the road?

Crews will remove large dead animals, like deer, from KCRC’s right-of-way.  We will also remove smaller animals, like raccoons, from the drivable portion of the roadway. Our crews will make an effort to contact the owner of a domestic dead animal if identification can be determined. Please note that KCRC does NOT remove dead animals from yards/areas outside the right-of-way.  To report a dead animal, contact KCRC via Report an Issue or call KCRC at 616-242-6950. 

How do I get a street sign made for our private street?

To request the production of a street sign for a private street, please call the Permit Department at 616-242-6920.

You’re paving in our neighborhood; will access to my driveway be restricted?

There will be “open access” to driveways at most times during paving.  The exception is during placement of the top course of pavement in front of a driveway. To minimize wheel tracks or damage to the surface, traffic must be restricted during this process, which takes approximately 30-60 minutes.

Because paving is a moving operation, an exact schedule cannot be provided regarding when the crew will be working in front of a specific driveway. However, KCRC and its contractors will work with residents who need access to and from their driveways within the 30-60 minute period of top course paving.  When you see the crew nearing your residence, providing them with a “head’s up” of your needs will assist them in helping you exit safely.

Will we be able to get in and out of the neighborhood during the road project?

Yes, residents will have access to the neighborhood.

I applied last year for an open position. Do I have to submit another application?

Yes. Applications will receive active consideration for a period of 30 days. Thereafter, if not employed by KCRC, future employment opportunities require a new employment application.

Why do plows push the snow off the road onto the shoulder, only to return to the same road?

KCRC usually makes one pass to open the road up so that residents may get in and out. Snowplows then return to widen the road and shoulders for future snow accumulation. 

Why do bridges and overpasses freeze before the surface of the road?

The heat underneath the road helps keep it warm and prevents it from freezing, or icing, as quickly as the air’s temperature. But bridges have no way to trap heat, so they freeze shortly after temperatures hit the freezing point. If the air temperature falls below freezing, a bridge’s surface will fall below freezing soon after causing rain or snow to freeze and stick to the bridge surface.  

Why are pavement and ground temperatures important? Why not rely on air temperature?

The ability of salt or other deicing agents to melt snow and ice depends on the temperature of the road - not the air, and the two temperatures can differ by as much as 20°F.  

My car hit a pothole and incurred damage. How do I get reimbursed?

​Potholes are an unfortunate consequence of Michigan weather, and KCRC seeks to fix potholes as soon as possible after we are notified.

Under Michigan law, the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) is not liable for any damages caused by a roadway defect unless: (1) the defect constituted an imperfection that made the roadway not reasonably safe and convenient for public travel; (2) the Road Commission had notice of the defect; and (3) the Road Commission failed to take corrective measures relating to the defect within a reasonable amount of time. This is a three-part requirement. That is to say, each one of these factors must be established for liability to exist on the part of the Road Commission. Therefore, KCRC typically does not reimburse for damage due to a pothole.

If you believe that all three conditions have been met, and the pothole was on a road under Kent County Road Commission jurisdiction, please contact KCRC’s Traffic and Safety Division at 616-242-6936.

How can I get KCRC to fix a pothole on my street?

Complete the online “Report an Issue” form or call KCRC at 616-242-6950. 

How do I apply or hear of a job opening at KCRC?

KCRC job openings are publicized in local publications and posted to our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. You may also sign up to receive notification when a job opening is posted.

I want to plant some trees along the road. Is that ok?

Property owners may plant trees within the KCRC’s right-of-way and easements only after a permit has been issued by the Engineering Division. All trees planted must meet the specifications outlined in KCRC’s Tree Planting Policy

What are seasonal weight and speed restrictions?

Seasonal weight and speed restrictions are legal limits placed on the loads trucks may carry and the speed at which they can travel. The intent of the restrictions is to protect the integrity of the road when frost is coming out of the ground. Normal legal loads must be reduced by approximately 35% and truck vehicle speeds reduced to 35 mph.

What are “All Season” roads?

“All Season” roads are not subject to weight restrictions, which means that heavy-load trucks may drive on them all year. Non-all-season roads are subject to weight restrictions during the annual thaw period (late winter-early spring) to prevent damage to these roads. (When thawing occurs, ground beneath the roadbed can soften and make the surface susceptible to damage from heavy loads.) 

People are speeding on our road. How do I get the speed limit lowered?

When a request is received to lower the speed limit on a county road, it is reviewed collaboratively by the township, KCRC and the Michigan State Police. The potential next step includes conducting speed studies, accident analyses, and driving environment surveys. A recommendation is made based on analysis of the data collected and established traffic engineering criteria.

If it is determined that a change should be made to the speed limit, a Traffic Control Order is submitted by the Director of the Michigan State Police for KCRC approval.

The primary basis for establishing a proper, realistic speed limit is the nationally recognized method of using the 85th percentile speed. This is the speed at or below which 85% of the traffic moves. Please note that posting unrealistically low speed limits may create a false sense of security, and studies have shown that the driving environment, not the posted speed limit, is the main influence on motorists’ speeds.

What happens to trees that may impact a project improvement?

KCRC takes a proactive approach to save or remove trees that are impacted by a road improvement project. Informational meetings are held for major improvement projects during which property owners can meet with KCRC representatives to discuss the upcoming project and the potential tree impact. 

If a tree falls in the traveled portion of the roadway, what do I do?

You may 

  • call the KCRC office at 616-242-6950 during normal business hours (M-F, 7:30 - 4:30)
  • OR call 911, who will alert us so that it can be addressed as soon as possible.

Why Are Crew Members just “standing around” the work site?

There are a number of reasons why crews may have to break for a period of time while working on a road project. A vital piece of equipment may have broken down and a replacement or repair is being addressed; work may be occurring in intervals, and the employees you see may have just completed their task and are waiting for the next step of the process to be completed; another crew member may be replenishing the necessary material or aggregate; or weather conditions may have changed causing a potential schedule change.  

What does “Weather Dependent” mean?

Cold temperatures and wet/rainy weather affects the schedule of road work, not just day-to-day, but at times, hour to hour.  

Much of the material used for pavement preservation treatments and resurfacing is weather and temperature dependent and therefore cannot be applied until conditions are warm and dry. When one job gets postponed, it impacts both KCRC and its contractors’ schedules. Working together, KCRC and its contractors make adjustments to the original scheduling with the goal of meeting projects’ targeted completion dates. 

During rainy conditions, KCRC crews will shift focus to address jobs that are not weather-sensitive, including construction preparation like milling, and maintenance activities like ditching, drainage and brush work, and guardrail repair. 

Why are you putting “tar and gravel” on our paved road?

The chip seal treatment is a cost efficient method of pavement preservation that helps prevent water from seeping into and softening the base of the road. This restricts compromising elements like cracks and potholes from forming. 

The tar-like substance is actually an emulsion of water and liquid asphalt which penetrates and seals small cracks in the existing pavement. The “gravel” is actually aggregate that sticks to the emulsion and, after rolling and sweeping, provides a skid-resistant surface to improve safety.  
As vehicles travel over the newly applied surface, some of the aggregate may come loose under the tires. When a motorist encounters a newly chip sealed road, which will be marked with "Loose Gravel" signs, the best practice is to reduce one’s speed and keep plenty of distance from the vehicle in front of you.  Click here for more information about how KCRC uses chip seal to extend the lfe of the road.

Why is this road being treated when our road looks much worse?

It can be frustrating to see crews working on a road in better condition than nearby deteriorated stretches. There is, however, a reason for this – and it includes saving money over the long-term and extending the service life of our roads.  Think of your car. You can wait until the engine fails before taking the car to be fixed, or you can take it in for routine oil changes. With the routine oil changes, your car will not only run smoother, it will likely run longer with less costly repairs. Treatments on roads in good or fair condition work similarly. Rather than waiting several years until the road deteriorates to poor condition, when expensive reconstruction may be necessary, a lower-cost surface treatment can be applied, which will extend the life of the road at a fraction of the cost for structural resurfacing or reconstruction.  This practice is call “pavement preservation”. Therefore, KCRC employs a “mix of fixes” philosophy in maintaining the country’s roadway network that combines pavement preservation treatments, resurfacing and reconstruction. In doing so, KCRC can maximize miles in good or fair condition within the constraints of available revenue from the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF). 

We pay property tax. Why isn’t that enough to cover fixing our roads?

The property tax you pay is used for your local and county governmental units and schools, not for roads. Instead, the majority of the KCRC budget is funded by the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), which includes revenue from gas tax and vehicle registration fees. More regarding KCRC's funding sources is available here.

How does KCRC decide what projects will be funded?

KCRC’s Strategic Plan outlines a blueprint for maintaining and preserving our road and bridge network. Projects for potential funding are considered based on this plan and in terms of pavement conditions, traffic patterns, public feedback, and how much money is available. 

Not all projects are eligible to receive federal aid funds and KCRC must balance the amount of money available with what type of fix is most appropriate for each roadway and bridge.  

The local road network is supported by KCRC’s partnership with townships and the matching program, through which KCRC shares approximately 50% of the cost of local road improvement and maintenance projects with the township. 

What roads and bridges are part of Kent County Road Commission’s network?

KCRC maintains 1957 miles of roads and 172 bridges within the County of Kent, exclusive of those that fall under the jurisdiction of the State, cities and villages. KCRC also provides routine and winter maintenance for 436 miles of state trunklines under a multi-year contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).