LANSING — In light of a recent study detailing Michigan’s road needs, some legislators say they’re hoping to see roads become a bigger priority for the state.
State House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, said transportation is his main focus and roads are a major issue.
“The two things that my constituents bring up the most are insurance and roads,” said Cole, who represents the 105th District in the northern Lower Peninsula.
A recent study by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group, concluded that Michigan’s roads require more than the increased funding they’re getting, or else they may deteriorate further.
“As we saw the economy start to heal itself, what we’ve seen is significant travel growth in Michigan,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP.
Moretti said from 2013-2016, Michigan had a 10 percent increase in vehicle travel — one of the highest in the country. This brings a lot of wear and tear on roads and bridges, he said.
The number of Michigan roads that are in poor condition is projected to double by 2020, Moretti said.
“The additional funding is very helpful, but even then, the state continues to fall behind,” he said. “And you see this economic growth returning, but that growth is very much reliant on a good transportation system.
“You would obviously want to avoid having crumbling infrastructure actually impede the economic growth in the state.”
Michigan is not prioritizing its roads right now, but the state doesn’t have an endless fund of money, Cole said. And Michigan’s physical characteristics make it hard to keep roads in shape.
“A huge geographical area in Michigan was built on a swamp, so that presents challenges with how long roads last,” Cole said. “Then you’ve got an increase in traffic, you’ve got a time period of non-investment. We built really good roads, they lasted for a really long time. Little Band-Aids worked for a long time. Now, we’re looking at a time where we need to reconstruct those roads.”
The state needs to make hard choices to make sure its roads are repaired, Cole said. A lot of the state’s programs are not part of the government’s core responsibility, while roads and infrastructure are constitutional mandates.
Cole said cutting redundant regulations could save some money for roads.