Improving state’s infrastructure is lawmaker’s priority job

It’s past time for Michigan to take action on roads. The state’s infrastructure is crumbling and political gridlock has prevented meaningful action on inadequate funding for years.

Gov. Rick Snyder made road funding a key point in his State of the State address. The issue must be more than a talking point.

The share of the state’s roads rated in “poor” condition rose to 35 percent in 2011, up from 10 percent in 2004, according to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council. Those rated “good” fell from 25 percent to 18 percent in the same time period.

Local numbers are even more disturbing: some 37 percent of Ingham Counties roads were “poor” in 2011, up from just 2 percent in 2004.

In Eaton County, the majority of roads, 61 percent, were rated “poor” in 2011, up from 4 percent seven years earlier.

And since 2003, allocations from the Michigan Transportation Fund have dropped some $35 million.

The Michigan Transportation Team, a coalition of diverse business and labor interests, has long advocated for options to increase road funds and start reversing years of neglect. Among their points:

– Michigan is losing $3 million each day in lost maintenance and increased wear and tear on our roads and bridges. That’s $1.095 billion a year.

– Michigan’s roads are consistently ranked among the worst in the nation.

– Poor road conditions play at least a part in up to one-third of the state’s fatal and serious traffic accidents.

– Michigan’s gas tax hasn’t been touched since 1997.

Gov. Snyder called for reforms in 2011, but didn’t succeed in getting legislative action before the midterm election last November. This time, he must succeed.

In Jan. 16’s State of the State address, Snyder made infrastructure a jobs initiative a vital economic development effort.

Once again, he’s pitching increased vehicle registration fees and switching from a per-gallon gas tax to a wholesale tax based on the sale price of the gas.

He also wants to have an option for a local add-on to the vehicle registration fee to support local road work.

Updating an outmoded tax-and-fee scheme that doesn’t raise sufficient road funds is essential. Last year, the state had to use general fund revenue to qualify for its federal matching dollars because its road revenue is not enough.

There is room for debate and compromise on details, but there is no excuse for inactivity.

It’s time to fix the roads.