Benton Harbor tackles infrastructure issues

NOW: Benton Harbor tackles infrastructure issues

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. –Infrastructure issues in Benton Harbor have been causing some major headaches recently. The most recent issue includes Paw Paw Avenue, which was shut down on Monday because it’s almost impassable.

The road wasn’t closed for immediate repair, but rather to investigate possible solutions. That’s something residents in the area say is long overdue.

“The holes are like big potholes,” said Cheryl Osby, who works near the portion of Paw Paw that is shut down. “You would tear your car up.”

Several neighbors in the area tell ABC 57 News they have had car issues because of the bad road, and it’s been going on for decades.

“It’s been a mess,” said Osby.

The city knows that too, which is why leaders decided to shut the road down to find a more permanent solution.

“I think now folks are seeing that enough is enough and we need to get this done,” said Chris Cook, the president and CEO of Abonmarche Consultants. The company handles all the infrastructure work for the city.

“We have studied the sewer system, the water system, and the roadways, and that has culminated in this map that I have here,” he said, gesturing to a color-coded map of the city.

That map outlines $100 million worth of infrastructure work that needs done.

It’s an amount of work Cook calls a “daunting task.” Leaving the question, how does the city pay for it?

Cook says the new income tax will help. He’s guessing it will bring in $1 million to $2 million a year. But he says it’s not enough.

“At $100 million dollars we’re looking at 50 to 100 years,” said Cook. “So we’re looking at outside funding as well.”

The company just completed a plan Monday and submitted it to City Hall. That plan outlines an application for $15 million in low interest loans. That money would be paid over the next 30 years.

“So that’s a kick start to the whole program of repair,” said Cook.

And as for Paw Paw Avenue, Cook says it will take some research and investigation to fix the draining issues that are leading to the deterioration of the road.

“We’re not going to be able to fix it today or real soon, but it certainly is a top priority,” he said.

Repair will not be able to start until construction season starts up and asphalt companies open. Cook says that will be at least a month.

“Well if it takes a month to fix it, instead of them putting the tar down that would be a good job” said Osby. “That would be totally different. That would be so awesome.”

Cook asks drivers to be patient through the process and avoid driving on the closed portion of the road, as it could create more damage and slow down repair efforts.

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