In our second segment of The Transportation Facts, we take a look at the condition of our roads. If you ask just about anyone who drives on Michigan roads, they will tell you that the conditions are terrible. From our southern border to the U.P., road conditions throughout the entire state are in a crisis. Just recently, a study released by lvl5, a team of former Tesla engineers that creates HD maps for self-driving cars, showed that Michigan has the worst roads in the entire country. But drivers in Michigan don’t need an independent study to tell us that our roads are in poor shape.
In the mid-1990’s the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) was established to effectively rate our roads and bridges. The systematic model that the council uses to rate our transportation network has become one of the most advanced systems in the US. Throughout the past few decades, the council has been able to rate the condition of our roadways and accurately predict future road and bridge conditions based on various funding levels.
The TAMC rates the conditions of our roads and bridges in three categories; good, fair and poor. Based off of those ratings, MDOT, County Road Commissions and local road agencies take an asset management approach to manage the resources they have. Asset management is a strategic approach to linking data, goals, investment strategies, programs, and projects into a systematic process to ensure achievement of a desired outcome. This process also includes monitoring results and making adjustments, where appropriate, with the overall goal of ensuring our transportation network is managed in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
According to the 2017 Transportation Asset Management Council annual report, only 60% of our roads are in good and fair condition. According to the council’s projections, if investment levels remain the same, by 2028 only 37%of our roads will be in good and fair condition. That is significant because the state can spend $1 to $3 on maintaining and extending the life of a road when its in good and fair condition instead of waiting for that road to fall into poor condition where reconstruction costs comparatively are $6 to $14 more. The longer we wait to provide adequate spending for our roads and bridges, the more costly the repairs come in the future.
It is easy to see what decades of underinvestment has resulted in the conditions of our infrastructure in Michigan. The only way we are going to get ourselves out of this crisis is by making the necessary investments now before the problem becomes even worse. Our Transportation Asset Management Council has become very good at predicting where the condition of our roads will be in the future with certain levels of investment. The future predictions are rather scary.