What’s a County Road Commission?
Under Michigan law, county road commissions exist to maintain safe and efficient roads and bridges for the people of Michigan. (P.A. 283, 1919)
A county road commission or road department has employees that may include snow plow drivers, maintenance workers, weighmasters, foremen, mechanics, office and administrative staff, financial administrators, engineers and a managing director. County road agencies in Michigan employ nearly 7000 regular and temporary workers across the state.
County road agencies are responsible for 90,000 miles of roads, streets and highways and 5,700 bridges, making them the largest road owners in the state. In contrast, the Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for eight percent of Michigan's center line road mileage. The remaining 17 percent is under the jurisdiction of 533 cities and villages.
County road agencies are as diverse as the communities they serve and have a variety of responsibilities including:
• Building and maintaining everything from single-lane gravel roads to multi-lane divided highways;
• Constructing roads, bridges and culverts, and maintaining these features;
• Maintaining roads in winter, including snow removal and salting;
• Conducting preventative, roadside and gravel road maintenance; and
• Ensuring safe and steady traffic patterns.
A county road commission is a governmental agency comprised of staff and a three- or five-member board of directors. Michigan has 78 county road commissions and five county road departments that fall under the direction of the county commission branch of local government.
Regardless of whether a county has a road commission or road department, the county board of commissioners decides whether road commissioners will be appointed or elected, and establishes salary and benefit levels for road commissioners. The commissioners, in turn, are the oversight board for the road agency.
Both appointed and elected road commissioners serve six-year terms, which are staggered to ensure that all seats are not up for election at once.
Michigan is the only state that has full local control of its roads through county road commissions, which makes them very responsive to their communities.