Why are some new roads in Warren showing signs of deterioration?

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Posted at 7:03 AM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 08:47:53-04

Any time you have a concern, we want to hear about it and help you get answers. So when Kevin Fisher emailed us pictures of a newly-built road in Warren already showing signs of deterioration, I knew I wanted to look into this.

It comes on the heels of a road millage that will be on the ballot in Warren come August.

I spoke with Kevin to learn about the issue, then took his concerns to a concrete expert, the city engineer and a city council member.

“It is still concerning that in less than two years that you see that occur," Fisher told us.

He's lived in the neighborhood near Cosgrove for nearly 37 years and drives the street just about every day.

He told us in January, he noticed the road built in 2022 was starting to show signs of deterioration.

“I don’t know what is going on, I don’t know if the concrete is defective or if it was a bad batch, but as tax payer, I want good quality product," he said.

“Why did you reach out to 7 News Detroit?” I asked.

“I wanted to get some answers, you guys are the investigators and I am sure you will dig into it," he said.

After doing some digging, I learned this is not an issue just isolated to Warren roads.

“Where else are you seeing this is Southeast Michigan?” I asked Steve Waalkes, the executive director and CEO of the Michigan Concrete Association.

“We have seen this in a few other locations that come to mind, such as Garden City, Woodhaven," Waalkes said.

He tells me the concrete issue has been popping up primarily in metro Detroit.

But what is it? He said it's called "scaling."

“It’s where the surface mortar of the concrete is not durable, comes off, and exposes kind of the surrogate aggregate you know surface below," he said.

“Is this at all dangerous?” I asked.

"It’s not dangerous, it’s primarily an ascetic concern, it can leave the slab rough in spots if it gets a little deeper than just on the very surface.”

How did it happen? Waalkes said it can be a number of reasons, from weather, to how the cement is mixed.

Warren City Engineer Tina Gapshes has her own theory.

“It’s due to 2022 regulations placed by EGLE on the cement manufacturing industry in order to reduce CO2 admissions," Gapshes said. "They added more limestone to it, so it does cure faster.”

Gapshes tells me all of Warren's road projects have a three-year warranty on them. She said they are waiting to see if Cosgrove and a few other roads where this has happened in Warren gets any worse.

“Why not use that three warranty now? Because at least one person that I’m talking to is saying well this looks bad," I asked.

“It looks bad but its structurally safe. Like I said, and we are keeping an eye on it until next year and we do have until the end of next year, and that is a possibility. We can use that warranty and maybe have them place a sealant on it, or maybe have them diamond grind it," Gapshes said.

Diamond grinding involves removing the surface of the road to make it smoother.

“As far as removing and replacing it, I mean if it continues then we will look at that but as far as it is now, we think it will be fine," Gapshes said.

The timing of this is not ideal. In August, voters in Warren are heading to the polls to vote on a road millage. Instead of the typical five-year millage, the city is asking voters to approve a 20-year millage. That way, they can take out a bond for $80-$100 million and use the millage to pay off the bond over time.

The idea is to get more work done with more money, compared to the typical $8 million they are allotted in a year through the current bond.

“It is probably one of the most creative ways that a municipality can raise sufficient funds to effectively transform our neighborhood roads," Warren City Councilman Jonathan Lafferty said.

According to Lafferty, the road issue with not be a systemic problem, and he hopes voters approve the millage come August.

“What you’re seeing here today was a one time issue and we will have, we will learn from this, and have better quality going forward," he said.

“At this point do you see yourself voting for this road millage or not?” I asked Miller.

"I would have to have more guarantees, that the roads are going to be built right, it shouldn’t be decaying like this," he said.

There are a couple of other roads that have seen scaling in Warren, and, the city engineer said they are keeping an eye on those.

The Michigan Concrete Association is launching an investigation to find out the cause of the scaling to ensure it does not happen again.