Lame Ducks Punt Michigan Road Repair to Voters

The roads really have not gotten any better since the spring in Michigan. But some work has been done thanks to the Michigan Legislature’s approval of two $115 million special road repair packages.

“However, we didn’t make a big dent in road conditions,” Donohue said.

One of the reasons Michigan is having trouble coming up with the money to fix its roads is that the state has not increased its tax on gasoline since 1997.

“I like to say that is when the Spice Girls were popular, and gasoline was $1.92 a gallon,” said Donohue. “It was not indexed to inflation and the 4 cents it was raised then is worth about 2 cents now when you account for inflation.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) didn’t get all of that 4-cent increase or even most of it. An MDOT study released in 2013 showed local governments received most of the gas tax increase.

As a result MDOT had to rely on bonds. Michigan has been forced to borrow nearly $1.5 billion for pavement and bridge preservation work.

MDOT officials also said Michigan motorists can thank the Obama administration’s onetime stimulus program for more than 28 percent of the road work that has been funded federally in the past six years.

But the days of borrowing are over. MDOT officials said the department is just under the ceiling set on its debt limit.

Here’s another problem: People are driving less, and when they do drive, they are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Good for the environment.

Bad for MDOT.

Gas tax revenue continues to decline in Michigan while debt service costs MDOT more than $220 million in principal and interest annually, and additional bonding is no longer possible.

State officials have also said MDOT faces a serious drop in its pavement budgets.

“As a result, conditions are forecast to decline rapidly for pavements and gradually for bridges,” the MDOT 2013 study said.

Even a liberal advocacy organization is on board with the need to fix Michigan roads.

“It is critical that our elected officials find a solution to provide adequate funding for Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Nathan Triplett, the project director of Priorities Michigan.

Michigan currently ranks the lowest in per capita spending on transportation infrastructure out of all 50 states.

Mike Nystrom, the executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said Michigan can’t wait until the new legislature is seated in January.

“The time for delaying action is over,” Nystrom said. “Failure to address the problem today will only increase the cost of repairing the roads tomorrow. Winter and another spring pothole season are just around the corner.”

Will $1.2 billion be enough to repair all the roads in Michigan? Probably not.

Donohue said the County Road Association of Michigan believes $2.1 billion is needed to fix all of the roads in the state, but they can live with the Snyder administration’s $1.2 billion package.

“We welcome this governor continuing to keep roads front and center,” she said. “Voters elected the man with the plan, and now it is time to execute that plan.”