LANSING — Once again, state lawmakers have delayed finding a plan to fix Michigan’s roads, which will only increase the cost and cause further deterioration to our transportation network. And in the meantime, our roads are not getting better on their own.
Under the Michigan Constitution, the legislature and governor must pass a balanced state budget by Oct. 1 every year. That process is moving forward without a plan to fix the roads.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and leaders of the state Legislature have pledged repeatedly over the past year to identify a real roads plan — a plan that, over the next two decades, will finally appropriate the funds needed to fix our aging roads and bridges. Despite what some people might believe, Michigan’s investment in infrastructure has fallen woefully short of needs for literally decades:
• Fact: Recent Federal Highway Administration data show Michigan spends $195 per resident on our state and federal roads — dead last among the Great Lakes states. Ohio, which just raised its state gas tax in July, spends $296 per person; Minnesota, $352; New York, $401; Wisconsin, $410; Indiana, $426; Illinois, $441; and Pennsylvania, $676.
• Fact: Michigan needs to invest $2 billion to $2.5 billion more every year starting now and well into the next two decades just to address today’s identified road and bridge needs. This level of investment is supported by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber, many other employer organizations,every reputable independent study done to date, most Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, local elected leaders, road experts, and civil engineers. No study has substantively disagreed with the number, and two studies say the amount is closer to $4 billion a year.
• Fact: Crumbling infrastructure is not just an “urban problem.” Roads stink across all of Michigan. You can visit www.fixmistate.org/mydistrict to see the condition of the roads in every state House and Senate district in Michigan. Macomb County alone has roughly 770 miles of roadways in poor condition, or about 40 percent, in state Senate Districts 8, 9, and 10. Oakland County alone has about 2,000 miles of roadways in poor condition, or about 46 percent, in Senate Districts 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
• Fact: The districts of Michigan’s House Republican lawmakers have 2.6 times more lane-miles of roads in poor condition than House Democrats have in their districts, concludes an Aug. 26 Crain’s Detroit Business story. The 58 House Republicans have 26,385 lane-miles of roads in poor condition, compared to 10,043 lane-miles in poor condition in the 52 Democrat districts.
Under-funding Michigan’s infrastructure started many decades ago. While some past Michigan governors and lawmakers earnestly tried to address infrastructure, they collectively failed to muster the political will, courage and votes to approve needed funding, even as so many other Republican-led and Democrat-led states have gotten the job done.
Gov. Whitmer has proposed a plan that would fix the roads. While some have reacted negatively to her plan, it would generate the revenues needed to fix the roads. Opponents in the state Legislature have said they will offer an alternative proposal sometime in the near future. Until then, we must reminder our elected leaders: you can’t keep kicking the can down Michigan’s crumbling roads. It’s time to pass a real plan to fix our roads, once and for all.
Mike Nystrom is Executive Vice President, Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association.