KC Road Commission paves the path for the Santas of the economy

December 16, 2016
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This final week of full commerce prior to year-end holiday revelry and riotous retail, we can only pretend Santa delivers the goods and services that fill cargo planes and diesel trucks to make just-in-time deliveries. On-time business shipments keep workers working, factories humming and commodities moving for the benefit of commerce, whether coffee or copper. The logistics industry faces the added strain of doing so, as revelers share the road and air time in high volumes and almost always the blizzards of winter create special challenges to the best-laid plans.

The Business Journal believes this is an especially good time to get local — with a salute to the Kent County Road Commission. Even while there may be families and friends on “the last street plowed,” in these recent severe winter storms and arctic cold, it seems all the more a miracle.

The KCRC is responsible for 1,957 miles of county roads and 436 miles of state highways (for which it is reimbursed by MDOT). Plus, Kent County has 172 bridges. All along those passageways are the local businesses, industries and suppliers which have a fundamental necessity to keep engines running and feed the economy. The same economy providing a West Michigan quality of life on “the last road plowed” and on the busiest concrete artery for employees, employers and the products needed to conduct business.

Like many Grand Rapids businesses and institutions, the road commission has earned several distinctions. It is the first to use the bright blinking green light atop the vehicles often traveling in whiteout conditions. It is a tremendous safety feature and offers a beacon to those who await its passage. It is another hallmark of its safety records, in addition to the reports of the very human-to-human interactions, whether by KCRC engineers or by the drivers who literally look out for those on the roads.

The commission was honored in 2016 by county road associations across the state of Michigan in three important categories, each representing a partnership or best practice now shared across the state.

Joint maintenance reduced the overall cost of repairs — long before the winds of winter — as part of preparation. The county notes the program has reduced overall costs. Crews targeted deterioration, preserving previously made repairs, reducing materials and costs. Crews tripled daily output, according to county road commission website notes. At a time of known deficits for road improvements across the state, the program is more important.

For its “collaborative chip seal” program, KCRC was recognized for a pavement surface treatment combining layers of asphalt with aggregate to create a friction-wearing surface over old pavement. It did so collaboratively with three other road commissions in Newaygo, Ionia and Montcalm, saving those counties the cost of private contractors to apply a chip seal.

The road commission also was awarded recognition for its communications and improved website for greater transparency and use, with the assistance of Grand Rapids-based Image Shoppe.

Shopping local or shipping globally to world ports, the road commission certainly is an unsung hero and, certainly, Santa to the many industries that power the local economy.

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