Road weight restrictions are back in force in the four-county region

RIPLEY – Despite the lingering winter weather, temperatures have risen enough that the road commissions of Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties have put weight restrictions on the roads they maintain.

Kevin Harju, Houghton County Road Commission engineer, said the weight restrictions were put on at 8 a.m. March 19. They were removed from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. for March 24, 25 and 26 because temperatures dropped enough to freeze the road bases again. Weight restrictions went back on Thursday for the four counties. They’re on 24 hours per day.

It’s not expected the weight restrictions will be removed again in April, even if temperatures go below freezing temporarily, Harju said.

“One night of freezing isn’t enough to support heavy vehicle traffic,” he said.

Weight restrictions are needed because when the frost under the road surface is melting, it makes the road base less firm, which can cause the surface material to crack.

There are no weight restrictions on the federal highways, such as U.S. 41, because they are constructed as all-season roads, Harju said. Gravel roads do have weight restrictions. Some state roads have weight restrictions and some are all-season. Road commission offices have maps indicating which roads have restrictions and which are all-season.

Harju said weight restrictions mean a multi-axle vehicle must reduce the weight it carries by 35 percent. Road commissions have weigh masters who travel the roads carrying a portable scale, which is used to weigh vehicles, Harju said.

By law, Harju said fines for violating the weight restrictions go to local libraries, not the road commissions. For Houghton County, fines go to the Portage Lake District Library.

“A typical fine is in the thousands of dollars,” he said.

In most years, Harju said road weight restrictions are removed at the beginning of May, but exactly when they will be removed depends on when the frost under the road beds has melted and the base material has stabilized.