State of Michigan needs more money for road system

If Michigan is to improve its competitiveness, it has to fix its roads. A new report on the subject shows that the state has a long way to go.

As residents make their way across the state on summer vacations, they will see ample reason for the Legislature to get started on infrastructure repair.

The Reason Foundation’s 20th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems ranks Michigan 30th among all states.

The report tracks the performance of state-owned highway systems. Eleven indicators make up the overall rating, including highway expenditures, interstate and primary road pavement conditions, bridge conditions, traffic jams and fatality rates.

The report only examines state highways, which make up just 10 percent of the roads.

“The challenge is even greater for many local communities,” says Jeff Cranson, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation. “Michigan has not seen an increase in transportation funding since 1997 and the needs grow more critical by the day.”

Craig Bryson of the Road Commission for Oakland County notes the state has about 9,100 miles of roads under in its care, while counties control about 90,000 miles and cities and villages maintain another 20,000 miles. The latter two road systems are in worse shape than the state-managed one, he contends.

If further evidence was needed that the state is cheating its infrastructure, then the Reason Foundation report provides it.

Most of the states with the best roads are small and primarily rural, with North Dakota, Kansas and Wyoming occupying the top spots. But there were some larger states among the best, including Texas, Missouri and Georgia.

Infrastructure is one of the competitive factors in drawing jobs and investment. If Michigan is to improve its competitiveness, then it has to fix its roads.

Snyder is asking for roughly $1.5 billion more annually for roads and bridges, and has proposed a variety of ways to raise the money, including higher gas or sales taxes and increased automobile registration fees.

Lawmakers, however, have stalled on addressing the funding issue, besides using $483 million of this year’s surplus tax revenue to bolster transportation spending.

That’s way short of a long-term solution.

“It was a one-time shot,” says Carmine Palombo, chairman of the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council. “We need significantly more than that and we need it every single year.”

Part of the Council’s mission is collecting data on the condition of all roads and bridges in Michigan.

The proposal currently being discussed in Lansing would replace the 19-cent-per-gallon tax on retail gasoline sales with a wholesale tax based on a percentage of the fuel price.

Lawmakers are also weighing a 2-cent increase in the sales tax, and a boost in annual registration fees at an average of $120 per vehicle.

All of these proposals would cause Michigan motorists some pain. That’s the price of neglecting the infrastructure for so long.

But the economic health of the state depends on getting its roads in shape.

– The Detroit News