Additional funds for roads welcome but more needed

This week, the Michigan Department of Transportation announced a combined $60.9 million in special winter road maintenance money was being distributed from the state to counties, villages and cities across Michigan, including a total of $2.7 million for the Upper Peninsula’s 15 counties.

The funding is intended to help restore road maintenance budgets that were depleted by Michigan’s tough winter and is part of $100 million provided in a supplemental appropriations bill enacted by the Legislature and signed into law March 14 by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“These funds are badly needed by counties, cities and villages to compensate for the extraordinarily high costs of plowing, salting and filling potholes this past winter,” Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said in a news release. “We are all extremely appreciative of the governor’s and Legislature’s understanding of the toll this brutal winter has taken on road budgets.”

A total of $39.1 million was distributed to MDOT and the state’s 83 counties, while $21.8 million was allocated to 533 cities and villages statewide, including numerous towns in the U.P.

We think this money will be important to the region, especially given this winter’s severe conditions, which have taxed public works department crews. Conditions are worsening as the pothole season is now under way in the U.P.

We also understand state lawmakers in the House are working on a range of ideas to try to increase funding for roads in the future. So far, the measures discussed fall far short of the annual $1.2 billion Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said is needed.

Bolger takes the stance that all or nothing road funding perspectives over the past several years have not resulted in much to show in terms of new road money. Among the ideas being considered in the House include a wholesale gas tax replacing the current gasoline tax.

While these smaller funding ideas and one-time allocations are helpful, we think state lawmakers and residents need to be willing to embrace larger ideas to finance road and bridge repairs. This extends to our federal lawmakers as well.

The state’s crumbling infrastructure is something you don’t have to go far to hear someone complain about, but when it comes to doing something to get things fixed – especially if it involves higher taxes – there are few ready to take a stand.

Snyder tried to make road funding a budgeted priority and so far he’s been stranded as the Legislature hasn’t provided any real means to get from here to there, kind of like where we might be someday without passable roads and bridges.