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County road association says county roads and bridges are underfunded by $2.4 billion

Road and bridge construction site with road closed signs and heavy equipment
Darryl Brooks/dbvirago - stock.adobe.com
Road and bridge construction site with road closed signs and heavy equipment

An annual report by the County Road Association of Michigan says more than half the local paved roads in the state are in poor condition - the result of a huge shortfall in county road and bridge funding.

The report says county road commissions are struggling to maintain their roads and bridges - most of which do not qualify for federal road money - in the face of an annual shortfall of nearly $2.5 billion.

“We need to fix the darn road funding,” Association CEO Denise Donohue said, paraphrasing Governer Gretchen Whitmer’s famous tagline.

Most of the revenue that counties use to maintain no-federally qualified roads comes from the Michigan Transportation Fund, which gets its revenue from the state fuel tax.

Some counties and townships also pass millages to fill in some of the gaps, but Donohue said that’s often impossible for less populated areas to support – given that it costs $250,000 to pave just one mile of road.

The report says in the short term, the state legislature needs to increase the state fuel tax, but in the long run, that won’t be enough. That’s because more and more people are expected to drive hybrid and electric vehicles, which use little to no fuel.

Donohue said the state will need to establish a mileage-driven tax to support its road and bridge system.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s highway system faces a funding cliff. In two years, the last tranche of money from the state's s $350 billion highway bond will have been spent.

In a statement, Whitmer Press Secretary Stacey LaRouche said, "Governor Whitmer is committed to fixing the damn roads and bridges across the state. Since taking office, we have rebuilt or repaired more than 20,000 lane miles and 1,400 bridges, supporting over 118,000 jobs, with the Rebuilding Our Bridges program delivering hundreds of millions of dollars to fix local bridges alone. "

"Governor Whitmer’s recent budget recommendation builds on her previous work investing over $15 billion in Michigan's roads and bridges. We will keep moving dirt and getting things done to save drivers time and money."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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