Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the questions most frequently asked of the Berrien County Road Commission and their answers.
- Driveway Culvert, Maps, Copies & Permit Fees
- What type of mailbox am I allowed to install?
- When do I need to get a permit from the Road Commission?
- I want to plant some trees along the road. Is that OK?
- Why isn't my road plowed right away when it snows?
- Where can I get information on current road conditions in Michigan?
- Why are some roads numbered differently than others?
- Who is responsible for state highways in Berrien County?
- What are "Seasonal weight restrictions" and "Frost laws"?
- Who decides where Stop signs, Traffic signals, etc. are placed?
- Can you install a "Children at play" sign on my street?
- How are speed limits established?
- Gravel roads (dust, holes, ruts, etc.)
- What causes potholes?
- Where does the Road Commission get its operating funds?
- Why are roads sealcoated?
Additional FAQ's may be found by clicking here
Anytime a person or business does any construction work in the road right-of-way (normally 66 feet wide - 33 feet each direction from the center of the road) they need to obtain a permit. This applies to driveway installation or any other construction type activity. Permits are NOT needed to install a mailbox (please see our mailbox policy for more info).
Anyone found in violation of this permit policy is subject to a fine up to $250.
To obtain a copy of our permit please click here. You may also call our office to request a copy to be sent or faxed to you or you may stop in at our Napier Avenue office. Go to our Contact Information page for more info.
How does the Berrien County Road Commission (BCRC) decide which roads get plowed first? When do subdivision streets get plowed?
Snow plow crews follow a pre-determined route when clearing roads of snow. First, we clear the most heavily traveled main roads (primary roads) in Berrien County. This is crucial for it allows police, fire and Emergency medical services access to the major population centers. Local roads and subdivision streets are then cleared after the primary roads are in good condition.
Salt is not effective on gravel roads, so it's used primarily on paved roads, and sand is used on the gravel roads. Please note that salt begins to lose its effectiveness on paved roads when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.
Two big challenges for a road agency are a heavy snow storm that starts just before rush hour and a storm that continues for several days without letting up.
In the first case, traffic slows to a crawl and the trucks can only move with traffic. In the second case, the trucks must stay out on the main roads to keep them open and are delayed getting into subdivisions.
The Berrien County Road Commission has 300 miles of subdivision streets to get to after we take care of 475 miles of primary roads and 708 miles of secondary (local) roads.
Thank you for your patience!
You can call the Michigan State Police Travel Hotline at 1-800-381-8477 or visit http://www.michigan.gov/roadconditions for current road conditions in Michigan. Please do not call your local police agency for road conditions during a storm because they need to keep their phone lines open for emergencies.
"US" highways (i.e. US-31) extend to two or more states, "M" highways (i.e. M-63, M-51) begin and end within Michigan, and "I" highways (i.e. I-94) are part of the Interstate Highway System.
The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for maintenance on all state highways in Berrien County. These highways are: I-94, I-196, US-12, US-31, M-140, M-139, M-51, M-239, M60, M-62, M-63 (Niles Ave.) and Business Route 94 from exit 23 (Red Arrow Hwy) to St. Joseph, then along Main Street in Benton Harbor continuing out to exit 34 on I-94. For more information contact the Coloma Transportation Service Center at 616-849-1165.
Weight restrictions are legal limits placed on the loads that trucks (commercial vehicles) may carry. During late winter and early spring, when seasonal thawing occurs, the maximum allowable axle load and speed is reduced to prevent weather-related breakup of roads. Contact our Weighmaster for more information or view the Commercial Vehicles web page.
The townships pay for the application of chloride on gravel roads in their township, and each township contracts with the Road Commission to take care of this. The townships in Berrien County contract for one or two applications spread out over the summer.
In the summer, roads are always graded prior to having chloride applied. If your road needs graded, please submit a service request. In addition, we try to blade gravel roads after it rains and the road has softened up. In the winter, we must wait until the frost is out of the roads before we can grade them.
Potholes occur as the result of melting ice and snow. The melting water drains under the pavement through cracks caused by traffic. As the temperatures begin freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands under the pavement, forcing the pavement to lift. As traffic continues to drive over this section of road and the temperatures rise above freezing, a shallow divot occurs under the road and the pavement breaks. A pothole is formed as a result. Potholes are now mainly patched by our new patch trucks. These trucks allow one man to do the job with increased safety (the worker never stands behind the truck). However, some patching is still done by hand.
The Road Commission's main source of funding is comprised of gas and weight taxes and driver's license fees and is distributed by the state through a formula, also known as ACT 51. The Road Commission does not receive property taxes. For more information click here (source: Oakland County Road Commission) or view this slideshow.