Commitment to fixing roads is promising

Michigan motorists are undoubtedly pleased to see Gov. Rick Snyder list committing more effort and funds to properly maintain the state’s roads as one of his top priorities.

Snyder said in his Wednesday state-of-the-state address that, although it will take a large infusion of extra money to get the state’s highways, county roads and city streets into good condition, the investment now will actually save money in the long run.

It won’t be cheap, though, with an estimated $1.5 billion more needed annually – on top of the $3 billion a year currently spent – to do the job right.

However, Snyder called on Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to work together to come up with a plan to address the funding problem. This plan would hopefully use a combination of new revenues and more efficient use of existing revenues to bring our roads up to par.

Neither of those avenues, though, will be easy, with politicians from both sides of the aisle hesitant to raise the fuel tax or vehicle registration fees. This is especially true in light of the fact that Snyder and the entire Legislature are up for re-election in 2014.

Some road officials have expressed the belief that perhaps asking the voters directly to support additional funds for road repairs would be better than jacking up already high gas and registration prices.

Reducing the costs of maintaining roads would also be difficult, with many county road officials saying they have already made significant cuts to their staffs. Included is Marquette County Road Commission Engineer/Manager Jim Iwanicki, who said his agency has seen its employee level drop from 100 workers to 45 in recent years.

Despite the obvious challenges faced in improving Michigan’s aging road system, it is promising to see the state’s leadership committed to tackling the challenge in a straightforward, non-partisan fashion.