Sometimes it seems that Hillsdale’s roads are forever haunted by the ghosts of unavoidable ditches, detour signs, and the whining of heavy machinery.
According to Jake Hammel, director of public services for the city, residents and students can expect even more road construction in the upcoming months. But after this fall, he promises a long break for the city — at least where roads are concerned.
Hamel said there are currently two projects in progress, and one more will begin in September. “I will assure completion to happen this fall,” Hammel said. “In some way, shape, or form, I will make it happen.”
Hammel listed contractor scheduling issues, unfavorable weather, lack of manpower, and paperwork delays as some of the reasons that the construction is behind schedule and will continue into the fall.
All of the road work that is currently in progress around campus on College and Hillsdale streets is part of the Street Preservation Project of 2019.
“They’re not thinking about the students,” Hillsdale College junior Michaela Frohnen said of the news. “Construction seems to be going on all the time around here. We are living in a construction site basically, and it isn’t very nice.”
The Street Preservation Project, which began Aug. 27, is a two-step process of laying new stones and then sealing them to the existing road. It is much cheaper than complete reconstruction, costing $30,000 per mile instead of $2.5 million, and should last up to six years.
The project began the day before classes at the college started, halting traffic on major campus roads until Aug. 30.
“I thought it was kind of silly,” Hillsdale College senior Alyssa Viola said of the timing. “I appreciate that they are addressing it, because the roads definitely needed to be updated, but it almost felt comical that they went for it at that time.”
Hammel defended the construction dates, explaining that Hillsdale, an industrialized island in a sea of coffield for miles around, doesn’t exactly entice contractors to leave big cities where they have lots of opportunity to work.
“I am sure everyone is mad because they think we should have done it before school,” Hammel said. “But there is a contractor who has millions of dollars worth of equipment, and unfortunately you have to conform with their schedule. I did everything within my power humanly possible to do this before school, but ultimately these are just business decisions.”
Last Friday did not mark the end of construction on campus roads. Crews will return this month to seal Hillsdale and College streets. Then, Sept. 15, crews are scheduled to begin another project to refurbish Galloway Drive, beginning at its junction with Hillsdale Street and continuing to the city limits.
The astute observer, however, will have noticed the ditch on Hillsdale Street between the college and Carleton Road that seemed to grow slowly over the course of the past few months.
Though it is on Hillsdale Street, Hammel said that it is not actually part of the Hillsdale Street reconstruction project and therefore is not slated for completion until the end of the semester.
Instead, it is part of the Infrastructure Capacity Enhancement project, which began May of 2018, and which calls for a complete reconstruction of Garden, Vine, and Ripon streets, including new pipes, curves, sewer mains, and water mains.
This project, which will repair the ditch and mark the end of Hillsdale road work for the next few years, will be completed this fall and cost the city a total of $2.5 million.