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Study: State roads, bridges will continue serious decline even with more money

Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan legislature boosted transportation funding in 2015 - but not enough to keep the condition of state roads and bridges from getting worse, according to a recent report from TRIP, a national transportation research group.  

The report says the additional money will not be enough to fund some $3.3 billion in needed transportation improvement projects.

According to the report, despite the new money - which is not guaranteed starting in 2019, the share of Michigan roads in poor condition will rise from 20 percent in 2016 to 46 percent in 2020.  And the Michigan Department of Transportation estimates that with the available funding, the number of state-maintained bridges in poor condition will increase by 50 percent between 2016 and 2023.

According to Rocky Moretti, TRIP's policy and research director, business leaders say maintaining roads and bridges is critical for the state's economic growth.

"Businesses look very clearly at a state and local government's ability to provide a good transportation system as they decide where they want to locate their businesses and where they want to expand their businesses," said Moretti.

"If you have well maintained roads and bridges, if you have roadways that are getting people places in a predictable and reasonable amount of time, if you have good public transit," said Moretti. "All of those things contribute to the viability of local businesses and local employers."

Moretti says well-maintained roads also reduce expensive wear and tear on vehicles. And they help reduce accidents and the resulting injuries and deaths.

"We know that roadway safety  improvements - things like adding rumble strips, and guard rails, and cable barriers -, significantly improve traffic safety," said Moretti.

Vehicle travel in Michigan rose by 10 percent between 2013 and 2016, the 11th highest rate of travel growth in the nation, according to the report, and heavier use contributes to the deterioration of the roads.