Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Traffic Issues

Road Maintenance Issues

Winter Maintenance




How do I make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request?

As a governmental agency, the Washtenaw County Road Commission is required to comply with the Public Act 442 of 1976, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

If you are interested in obtaining documents that fall within the requirements of the FOIA, you may submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in writing to the Washtenaw County Road Commission, 555 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Attention: FOIA Coordinator.  (FOIA Request Form)

Please be advised that upon receipt of a FOIA request, the Road Commission has five business days in which to respond (six business days if received via fax or email), in accordance with the Act, and the requesting party will be charged for research time and copies of any documents requested. If an extension of time is necessary in order to fulfill a FOIA request, the Road Commission will notify the requesting party in writing, at which time an additional ten business days will be permitted to the agency, in accordance with the Act.  For further questions, please email the WCRC at: FOIA Coordinator

Approved minutes from the Board meetings may be obtained on the agenda page of our website. Minutes are available following the meeting at which they are approved by the Board of County Road Commissioners. If you would like to receive archived Minutes that are not available on our website, please submit a FOIA Request, as instructed above.

For FOIA Procedures & Guidelines click here » »

For the Public Summary of FOIA Procedures & Guidelines click here » »

Additional forms include: «Appeal an Excess Fee» and «Appeal a Denial of Records»

Back to top


How do I file a claim for damage to my vehicle?

If you are seeking compensatory damages for vehicle damage due to a defective road condition we first urge you to contact your own insurance company to see if you have applicable coverage before filing a claim with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

Claims filed with the Washtenaw County Road Commission are decided on a case by case basis by our insurance carrier, Specialty Claims Services, Inc., or the insurance carrier of a contractor performing work within the county road right-of-way. The Washtenaw County Road Commission does not investigate potential claims and has no authority to independently settle any claims.

Primary/Local Road Damage Claim If you believe your vehicle sustained damages on a Washtenaw County Primary or Local road, due to a defective road condition, you can file a claim for damages by following the steps below.

Filing a Claim

  1. If you have not already done so, see "how do I report a pothole" or road defect.
  2. The incident must have occurred on a roadway under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County Road Commission. If unsure please review the county road certification maps.
  3. To obtain a claim form, please contact the Washtenaw County Road Commission Administrative Office at (734) 761-1500.
  4. Complete the claim form and return it (with any attachments) to our Administrative Office at 555 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Construction Zone Damage Claim If your vehicle sustained damage while driving though a construction zone on a roadway under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County Road Commission, you may file a claim with us and we will coordinate with the responsible contractor for processing. Please follow the directions above for filing a claim omitting Step 1.

Damage Claims on Other Roadways in Washtenaw County If your vehicle sustained damage on a state trunkline highway in Washtenaw County (I-94, US-23, US-12 (Michigan Avenue), M-14, M-52, M-17 (Washtenaw Avenue or Ecorse Road), M-153 (Ford Road connected to M-14), or the Willow Run bypass), you can visit the (MDOT) website for instructions on filing a claim.

The Cities and Villages within Washtenaw County are responsible for the maintenance of roads within their respective city and village limits. If you would like to report a road defect or file a damage claim in any of the cities or villages within Washtenaw County, please contact the city or village directly.

Municipality Phone Number Municipality Phone Number
City of Ann Arbor 734) 794-6320 City of Ypsilanti (734) 483-1100
City of Chelsea (734) 475-1771 Village of Dexter (734) 426-8303
City of Milan (734) 439-1501 Village of Manchester (734) 428-7877
City of Saline (734) 483-1100    

Back to top

What do you do if there is a dead animal in the road?

If it is a large animal we will remove it from the roadway, which means we move it out the driving publics’ way. There is no agency in Washtenaw County that removes dead animals from the roadway.

Back to top

Do you remove and/or replace dead trees. Also what if the roots are coming up through my sidewalk?

If the tree is completely dead and in the ROW, we will remove the tree. We do not replace trees and request that you do not plant or landscape in the ROW. Sidewalks are the homeowner's responsibility; we do not repair and/or replace sidewalks.

Back to top

We all pay property tax, why is that not enough to cover fixing the roads?

The property tax you pay is used for your local and county governmental units and for schools, not for roads. The Road Commission budget is funded mostly by the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

Back to top

What should be kept in mind when shoveling/plowing driveways?

Homeowners should be aware that shoveling or plowing snow from driveways onto or across roads is illegal (Act 82 of 1978, vehicle code 257.677A) because it can present a serious traffic hazard to motorists. Instead, pile the snow behind the curb or shoulder on your side of the road.

Be sure to place snow to the right as you face the road, so plows will push it away from, rather back into, the driveway entrance. It is also important to avoid vision obstructions. Care should be taken not to impede the flow of storm water from melting snow in the ditches or culverts. Citizens should also make certain that their trash containers are not placed too close to the edge of the road before snow removal has taken place.

Back to top

How much tax do I pay per gallon of gasoline?

The amount of tax paid per gallon of gas consists of 19 cents for state tax and 18.3 cents for federal tax. The sale of gasoline is also subject to 6 percent sales tax in Michigan, however, this amount is not used for transportation improvements.

In November 2015, the Michigan State Legislature approved a new long-term road funding package which will increase the gas tax by 7.3¢ in 2017, and the diesel tax by 11.3¢.

Back to top

Why are weight restrictions placed on county roads each spring?

Roads thaw out from the top down each spring and moisture is trapped on the surface. Heavy loads cause the break-up of gravel and bituminous surfaces during this thawing period.

Back to top

How close to the road can I place landscaping or fixtures?

Normally the distance is 33 feet from the center of the road; however, there are exceptions depending which road you reside on.

Back to top

How does the Road Commission determine when and where to put traffic signals?

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.

The engineering study includes the evaluation of warrants (guidelines) identified in the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD). The warrants consider vehicular and pedestrian volumes, crash history, vehicle delay and vehicular progression.

Prior to the installation of a traffic control signal, the roadway may need improvements to provide acceptable traffic operations at the intersection.

Finally, adequate funding must be available to finance the installation of traffic control signal and any necessary roadway improvements.

Back to top

How are speed limits determined and by whom?

Each year the Washtenaw County Road Commission receives many questions and requests regarding speed limits on county roadways. Many of these concerns materialize as requests for reduced speed limits.

The purpose of a speed limit is to promote a safe roadway environment for motorists and pedestrians as well as to enable police enforcement of unsafe driving behavior. In order to promote the safest driving environment possible, established speed limits must be realistic.

How Speed Limits are Established on County Roads

Michigan State law governs the methods by which speed limits are established on the county road system. The Michigan Vehicle Code was updated in 2006 with unanimous approval from the Michigan House and Senate. The revisions to the vehicle code established a new prima facie method for determining speed limits. The revisions also placed great emphasis on establishing an absolute speed limit through an engineering study and the traffic control order process.

The Legislature, Michigan State Police, County Road Association of Michigan (CRAM), and representatives of the Washtenaw County Road Commission worked together to develop the changes in the vehicle code. The methods established for determining speed limits are based on empirical evidence and practices that are used throughout the country. These methods are designed to promote uniform operating speeds across the driving population and to provide the safest driving conditions possible.

The Basic Speed Law and Prima Facie Speed Limits

The Michigan Vehicle Code states that at the most basic level a “person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper”. The Vehicle Code places responsibility on the driver to be diligent and aware of their surrounding while being fully in control of their vehicle at all times.

The Michigan Vehicle Code establishes the maximum speed limit on all highways as 55 mph. Prima facie reductions to this maximum speed include 25 mph in business districts, 25 mph on platted subdivision streets, and 15 mph in mobile home parks; these prima facie speeds do not need to be posted speed limits. Other prima facie speed reductions are based on access point density.

The Michigan Vehicle Code allows for reductions in maximum speed limits to 45, 35, or 25 mph on the basis of access point density per half mile. Prima facie speed reductions on the basis of accesses points require the speed limit to be posted on the roadway. Maximum speed limit reductions made through this method require a field investigation where the number of access points (commercial driveways, residential driveways, and intersections) per half mile is determined. Reductions to the speed limit can be made if any of the following criteria are met:

  • 25 miles per hour on a highway segment with 60 or more vehicular access points within 1/2 mile
  • 35 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 45 vehicular access points but no more than 59 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile
  • 45 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 30 vehicular access points but no more than 44 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile

Back to top

Why do some left turn lanes at traffic signals have protected arrows?

Protected Only left turn signals allow vehicles to proceed during the display of the green left turn arrow only. No permissive green ball or flashing yellow arrow is displayed, therefore vehicles may not move during gaps in the opposing through traffic.

The considerations for installation of Protected Only left signals include:

  • High left turn traffic volume
  • High Opposing through volume
  • An existing crash history
  •  The geometric design of the roadway is such that sight distance for left turn traffic is insufficient for safe completion of a left turn across opposing traffic
  • High speed opposing through traffic
  • Left turning vehicles must cross 3 or more lanes of opposing through traffic
  • There are multiple left turn lanes

Protected Only left turn arrows that precede the through movements are referred to as leading left turns. Left turn arrows that follow the through movement are referred to as lagging left turns.

If a signalized intersection warrants the need for a protected only left turn phase then the Washtenaw County Road Commission will install the protected only left turn signals to operate in the manner described above due to the safety of the left turning vehicles.  Our installation of the left turn phase includes providing vehicle detection to minimize the delay to receiving a green arrow to proceed through the intersection.  If a left turn phase is not responsive please contact our office at 734-761-1500 or email at wcrc@wcroads.org to file a service request for us to investigate the problem.

Back to top

How can I get my road graded?

Please call our office directly at (734) 761-1500. We will respond as quickly as possible, however at times road grading must be postponed due to weather. If the road is too dry or too wet, grading has little affect other than to re-arrange dust or mud.

Back to top

How can I get my road dust controlled?

We contract with each township on dust control applications each year. We do offer dust control for a nominal fee.

Back to top


Why do you spread all that tar and gravel on the paved roads?

The process referred to is called "sealcoating"

  • It is a relatively low cost method of preserving existing low to moderate-volume asphalt pavements.
  • Tar is actually liquid asphalt which penetrates and seals small cracks in the existing pavement.  Sealing these cracks on a regular basis prevents water from seeping into and softening the base of the road, thereby deterring pothole formation.
  • The slag chips used for cover material sticks to the emulsion and, after rolling and sweeping, provides a slightly roughened skid resistant surface to improve safety.
  • Although sealcoating can preserve and extend the life of the pavement, it is only a surface treatment.  Sealcoating does not fill existing bumps, holes, or irregularities and thus does not improve the ride quality.  For this reason, it is important to apply sealcoat to a road BEFORE this deterioration occurs.  The Road Commission will sealcoat roads that are in generally good condition rather than wait for them to deteriorate to the point that extensive patching is necessary.

Back to top

Which roads are plowed first?

Safety is the Washtenaw County Road Commission’s top priority and when a storm hits, WCRC crews begin their day early to keep roads as clear as possible. WCRC performs winter maintenance activities in accordance with the Winter Maintenance Guidelines approved annually by the Board of County Road Commissioners.

 WCRC’s Winter Maintenance Guidelines include a priority system for clearing snow and ice from roads that is based on traffic volumes, location and road classification (paved, unpaved). WCRC’s winter maintenance priorities are as follows:

1st Priority: Paved County Roads and I-94, US-23, M-14 and US-12 between I-94 and M-52.

Goal: Provide a pavement surface generally bare of snow and ice across the entire width of the road. Clearing the pavement will be a continuous process during and after a snow event, and overtime will be used as necessary. 

2nd Priority: M-52, M-153, M-17, BR-12, and US-12 between I-94 and Wayne County

Goal: Provide a pavement surface generally bare of ice and snow in the center portion of the road with enough width for a one-wheel track in each direction. Clearing the pavement bare of snow and ice across its entire width will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after a winter storm event, without use of overtime. 

3rd Priority:  Subdivision Roads

Goal: Provide a pavement surface that is one plow truck pass wide in each direction of travel; a thin layer of snow is permissible. This work will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after the completion of Priority 1 and initial goal of Priority 2. Overtime will only be utilized if 4+ inches of snow has accumulated or as determined necessary by the Superintendent of Maintenance, with the concurrence of the Director of Operations. Clearing the pavement surface of snow and ice from each side of the roadway centerline, with a thin cover of snow permissible, shall be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible without requiring overtime work.

4th Priority: Gravel Roads

Goal: Provide a road surface that is one plow truck pass wide in each direction of travel. This work will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after the completion of Priority 1 and the initial goal of Priority 2. Overtime will only be utilized if 4+ inches of snow has accumulated or as determined necessary by the Superintendent of Maintenance, with the concurrence of the Director of Operations. Clearing the gravel surface of snow and ice over the entire width of the roadway shall be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible without requiring overtime work.

If a storm is long lasting, or a second storm starts before Priority 3 and 4 routes have been completed, crews will return to priority 1 and 2. 

More information is available on our Winter Maintenance page.

Back to top

Your truck knocked down my mailbox! When are you going to fix it?

Mailboxes are sometimes knocked down by road commission trucks when plowing snow. The Road Commission's policy is to replace mailboxes that have actually been hit by the snow plow; however, if the mailbox or wooden post was broken off from the force of the snow coming off the plow blade, we do not replace or repair it. Please call our office and we will check into the problem.

 Back to top

Why do snowplows block my driveway with snow when they clear the road?

WCRC’s first priority is the safety of the traveling public and clearing the roads of snow and ice by pushing it off the road and shoulders is necessary. Sometimes this means that snow is pushed into driveways. While plow crews try to minimize the amount of snow that gets plowed into driveways during the storm, it is the responsibility of the property owner to clear their driveway opening.

We understand the frustration that this causes area residents. To minimize extra work, we recommend that you shovel to the right side of your driveway as you face the road. Shoveling an area large enough to hold the snow coming off a plow blade may help reduce the need for a “second shovel.”

We cannot pick up the plow blade every time we pass a driveway, it is impractical and our drivers would never finish clearing the roads due to the sheer number of driveways in the county.

Back to top



My mailbox was knocked down by the snowplow. Who is responsible for replacing it? 

The Washtenaw County Road Commission will only replace mailboxes that are damaged by our equipment. We will not replace mailboxes damaged by the sheer force of snow or ice coming off of a plow blade.

Residents should contact the Washtenaw County Road Commission to report mailbox damage resulting from winter maintenance operations.  A District Foreman will promptly investigate all mailbox damage claims through our Service Request customer service system. 

Upon verification by the District Foreman that the mailbox was hit by WCRC equipment, the damaged mailbox and support structure are replaced by district crews, subject to the WCRC policy for erecting mailboxes on county roads.

If the ground is frozen, a temporary mailbox and support structure can be provided until seasonal conditions allow for final installation.

If the property owner elects to make the replacement themselves, a standard type mailbox and support structure can be provided or a cash reimbursement can be provided, processed through the WCRC’s Finance Department.  Replacement cost for a standard mailbox and support structure is $60.00.

Back to top

How can I help prevent mailbox damage during the winter? 

Residents should prepare mailboxes for winter by shaking their mailbox. If the mailbox moves when shaken, the mailbox and/or post may not withstand standard snow removal operations and should be repaired or replaced prior to the onset of winter. 

Mailboxes are one of the only objects allowed by law to be placed in the road right-of-way.  The location and construction of mailboxes must conform to the rules and regulations of the U.S. Postal Service, policies of the Washtenaw County Road Commission and standards established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in “A Guide for Erecting Mailboxes on Highways.”

Back to top


The post office says that they cannot access my mailbox and won't deliver my mail. 

It is the responsibility of home owners to maintain access for postal mail delivery. Several reasons may prevent snow plow drivers from getting closer to your mailbox including: blocked access due to ice, snow, landscaping or improperly installed mailboxes that come too close to the driveable road surface.

Back to top

It snowed last night, when will my road be plowed? 

When your road will be cleared depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the storm and the type of road you live on. WCRC conducts snow and ice removal based on a priority system.  State highways (typically designated by ‘US’, ‘M’, or “I”) and paved county roads have the highest priority, followed by subdivision roads and unpaved gravel or limestone roads.  

To learn more about plowing subdivision roads

To learn more about our Winter Maintenance Priorities

Back to top


We pay property tax, why don't we get better snow removal service? 

The property tax you pay is used for your local and county government agencies and for schools, not day-to-day road maintenance. WCRC’s winter maintenance budget is funded solely by the motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees passed on by the State of Michigan. This income funds all day-to-day maintenance activities included traffic signals, signage, pavement markings, sweeping and both temporary and permanent road and bridge repairs.

In late 2015, the Michigan State House and Senate approved a road funding package, which was signed into law by Gov. Snyder on November 10, 2015, that would increase the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, but these changes do not begin to go into effect until January 1st, 2017.

The portion of your property tax bill that is part of the P.A. 283 road millage may only be used to specific, pre-determined road construction projects. Individual townships may levy funds from local road millages or dedicate general fund revenue for specific local road improvement projects and seasonal dust control for gravel roads.

Back to top

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

While temperatures on the road surface drop, the heat underneath the road keeps it warm enough to prevent icing as temperatures drop below freezing. 

Bridges have no way to trap heat, so they continually lose heat and freeze shortly after temperatures hit the freezing point. If the air temperature falls below freezing, a bridge's surface will likely be freezing too, causing  rain and snow to freeze and stick to the road surface.

Back to top

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

Putting salt on road surfaces prior to a snowfall is a waste of time and money since salt often bounces off the dry road during application. The portion that manages to land and stay on the road surface is subject to wind and will likely blow off the road before it can do its job.  

Salt is most effective after snow has accumulated and the temperature is 20° F or higher.  Under these conditions, the salt and snow will mix, melting snow into slush that can be plowed off the pavement. This melting action will occur within two hours, less if traffic is using the highway.

If the temperature is below 20° F, the salt will have difficulty melting the snow and ice, so other methods are used.  Abrasives are often put down for traction.  Salt brine can be added to enhance the ability to melt the ice and snow.  The road commission may change the mixture of salt and additives based on the ground temperature.

Back to top

What is the importance of pavement and ground temperatures? Why not just on just air temperature? 

The ability of a de-icing agent to melt snow and ice depends on the temperature of the roadway and not the air temperature.  During the fall season, the pavement is often warmer than the surrounding air because of the warm soil.  During the spring, the reverse may be true.  The pavement temperatures can be colder than the air because the soil is still frozen from the low winter temperatures.  The sun also has a strong influence on the pavement temperatures. The sun can help heat the pavement and speed the melting process.  Air and pavement temperatures can differ by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Back to top

Is it legal to pass a snow plow? 

There are no state laws that prohibit passing a snow plow, but passing a snow plow can be extremely dangerous. The Washtenaw County Road Commission recommends keeping a safe distance.   

Snowplows may be equipped with wing plow blades that can extend anywhere between 2-10 feet beyond the width of the truck. This wing plow blade is often not seen because of the snow cloud being kicked up by the snowplow.  These wing plows can often weigh as much as a compact car.

Back to top

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

There are a couple of reasons plows aren't always pushing snow:

  • Plows may be in operation only to spread materials, or may be out of materials to spread and headed back to the garage to reload.
  • 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.
  • The 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.

Back to top

The snowplow was speeding past my house. 

WCRC drivers are required to follow all applicable laws and are held responsible for violations. Please contact WCRC with the time and location for us to follow up. Please be aware that snow plow trucks are often in a low gear and using a high engine RPM to maintain the power necessary to push the snow and that this creates the impression that they are speeding. Additionally, the truck size, engine, size of the plow blades and flying debris can make it appear that a plow truck is moving faster than it actually is.

Back to top


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

It may seem dangerous to add liquid to a road that might freeze, but the liquid is most likely salt brine which will prevent snow from sticking to the road or bridge deck and prevent frost or black  ice.

Back to top

Why would salt be spread on a bare highway after a snowstorm 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 “black and wet” condition, there is sometimes a danger of the water on the road re-freezing.  There are times, especially at night, when this post-storm salt application may be necessary.

Back to top

I live on a cul-de-sac and I get more snow in my driveway and on my property than anywhere else. Why? 

Plowing cul-de-sacs is one of the more challenging operations after a snow storm.  Most properties on a cul-de-sac have frontages which are narrower than lots of straight streets.  Therefore, snow must be pushed into a smaller space.  Cul-de-sacs without islands contain even more area which needs to be plowed and, as a result, even more snow has to be moved to the side.

Back to top

Can the snowplow operator plow my driveway or bern if I am elderly, disabled or not physically able to shovel? 

Unfortunately, the Washtenaw County Road Commission does not have the resources to plow the driveways and/or berms of those who are unable to do so.  Our primary goal is to use the resources we have to provide safe and reliable roadways in the most efficient manner possible.  We encourage those who are not able to shovel to ask neighbors for assistance or hire a private snow plow service.

Back to top