The Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) maintains 771 miles of unpaved roads. Gravel roads require foresight, experience and sufficient funding to maintain.

Each season poses unique challenges for maintenance efforts on unpaved roads.  Frozen roads are too hard and cannot be graded.  In the spring, roads thaw and become saturated with moisture. Aggressive maintenance during the thawing period they can make muddy conditions worse. Due to this weather challenges, most maintenance occurs during the summer and fall.

Maintenance Services WCRC provides:

  • Grading, Shaping & Patching
  • Dust Control
  • Drainage Maintenance & Improvements

To report an unpaved road issue, please visit our Report an Issue page to report your issue online.

Frequently Asked Questions

I called two weeks ago, why hasn't my road been graded? Do you have a schedule of when you will grade roads?

Unpaved road maintenance is weather-dependent, therefore WCRC does not have a firm maintenance schedule. Grading can cause damage when roads are too wet. If the roads are too dry, dust can become a hazard for motorists and neighboring property owners. Typically, WCRC grades a roadway before a scheduled dust control application. Our crews are careful not to over-grade, which can cause unnecessary erosion and bigger maintenance problems in the future.

You always grade my road right before it rains and now it is muddy. Why?

During the summer and fall, our crews are grading unpaved roads almost every day of the week. If they were to wait until there was no chance of rain in the forecast, they would never be able to keep up with grading the 800 miles of unpaved roads we have in Washtenaw County.

We do try and avoid grading a road before a major downpour but as with all weather, is difficult to predict with 100% accuracy.

It’s also important to know that a little moisture on a road surface does help to soften the road surface which actually helps the graded road bind together better than when conditions are dry.

My gravel road is a muddy mess! Can you do something to stop this spring time situation?

We can and do try, but spring poses its challenges. As temperatures warm, what was once frozen turns soft and unstable and will remain this way until the moisture evaporates from the road bed. The best cure is warm, dry temperatures and a good wind. Adding gravel to muddy roads has little effect because the gravel mixes with the mud and creates more mud.

In the spring, it usually takes us 5 -6 weeks, once the weather allows, for us to grade every mile of unpaved road in the county.

My unpaved road is really dusty! When are you coming out to treat it?

Dust control, as with all unpaved road maintenance is weather-dependent, therefore WCRC does not have a firm maintenance schedule available.

During the dry summer and fall months, usually May to October, our crews can help stabilize gravel roads by applying brine (a salt/water mixture) to the road surface.  The application of brine decreases dust and attracts the right amount of moisture to help keep the road together.

Primary and local county roads receive three brine applications per season.

WCRC offers a private order dust control option for residents who wish to order and pay for additional brine applications on public county roads (primary or local). To place a private dust control order or receive additional information on the program please fill out this form or call (734) 761-1500.

Why do you only fill small spots with gravel or limestone?

Like pothole patching on paved roads, filling small spots with gravel or limestone helps to keep the road surface safe for the traveling public.

Significant gravel or limestone hauls are considered resurfacing work and beyond routine maintenance. Applying gravel or limestone to help “lift” a road can cost between $55,000- $65,000 per mile. With 771 miles of gravel roads, it would cost over $50 million to put one gravel application on every mile of unpaved county road.

Most unpaved roads are classified as local roads and therefore require a township directive and partial funding from a source other than the road commission.

How are resurfacing projects funded on unpaved roads?

In Washtenaw County, most unpaved roads are classified as local roads. The amount of state funding allocated towards local roads is not even enough to fund winter maintenance and road grading.

If WCRC wants to make a local road improvement beyond routine maintenance (such as a bridge replacement or road resurfacing), the project’s funding must be matched by a source other than WCRC, typically a township.

Understanding that there is simply not enough funding to improve the County’s local roads, WCRC has established a Local Road Matching Program which offers each township matching funds to promote partnership and encourage investment in local roads. Historically, townships have been WCRC’s biggest partner in improving local roads. Townships typically invest $5-7 million annually in our road network.

Why is my unpaved road always the last to be plowed?

WCRC clears snow and ice from the county’s roads based on a priority system. Crews will clear highways and paved roads before moving onto gravel and subdivision roads. To learn more about our winter maintenance, view our FAQ.

On unpaved roads, crews plow snow and apply sand to provide traction for motorists. Salt is not applied to frozen gravel roads because it would thaw the road surface, making the road more susceptible to damage and material loss.

Why don’t you pave more unpaved roads?

A lack of funding prevents WCRC from paving roads. Planners say that gravel road should be paved when traffic exceeds 500 cars per day. WCRC does not have the revenue to pave many of the county’s gravel roads, as it costs approximately $1 million per mile. Until funding levels increase, pothole patching, winter maintenance and safety improvements on high-volume paved roads will remain a priority over paving unpaved roads.