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Posted on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

Michigan needs $1.4 billion more annually to maintain roads, new study shows

By Ryan J. Stanton

Michigan needs at least $1.4 billion in additional revenue to maintain its roads and bridges in good or fair condition, according to a new report.

A bipartisan House workgroup on transportation funding led by state Reps. Rick Olson, R-York Township, and Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids, has released the report, confirming the findings of the state's 2008 Transportation Funding Task Force.


Rick Olson

"This is the inconvenient truth of the road funding matter — this is not a dream number, this is a real number," Olson said in a statement. "Not only is this an issue of safety for Michigan citizens, but costs will spiral out of control if our roads are not maintained and Michigan cannot afford that."

Olson and Schmidt plan to present the 54-page report before the House Transportation Committee in the coming weeks.

The release of the report comes as Gov. Rick Snyder is set to unveil his transportation infrastructure agenda in October.

The goal of the bipartisan workgroup was to recommend funding levels needed to minimize the long-term cost of maintaining Michigan’s roads and bridges. The report divides the state’s paved roads into four categories and sets the following quality goals:

  • State trunkline freeways: 95 percent good or fair condition according to PASER ratings
  • Remainder of the state trunkline highways: 85 percent good or fair
  • Remainder of the federal aid roads: 85 percent good or fair
  • Non-federal aid roads that are paved: 85 percent good or fair

The study found that more than $1.4 billion in additional revenue is needed annually for years 2012-2015, rising to over $2.6 billion per year by 2023 to achieve the goals set.

In 2008, the task force assembled by the Legislature and governor recommended that Michigan at least double its current investment in transportation. According to 2010 data, more than a third of Michigan’s roads are in poor condition.

The workgroup is warning that if investments aren't made, the deferred costs of maintaining roads will continue to rise and Michigan will be forced to accept low-quality roads.

"These calculations would not result in a diamond or gold plated road system — this is merely preservation and maintenance cost," Olson stressed. "We hope our colleagues will see the writing on the wall before it's too late."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

We have many choices that will improve roads in Michigan. Most of which rquire taking on big powerful lobbies. Michigan has a higher load limit than any other state in region. Truckers haul steel and heavy loads out of IL by bringing 1/2 loads to Mi then marrying them. We could change the weight limits if we are willing to take on Teamsters union and auto companies. Will not happen. Currently we pay sales tax on gas purchases that goes into general fund, we could use that money. We also could elect a new senator who would fight for Michigans interests instead of protecting her reelection donors interests. Not likely to happen either. So the reality is we are stuck with bad roads because we get the government we vote for.


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

Michigan must revert many roads back to gravel - the cost to maintain a gravel road is near 90% less then to maintain a paved road. We need real cost cutting for when the State is is in real financial trouble. Re-paving can be done later when the funds arrive.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Yeah, that'll make the state more attractive to buisness. Good Night and Good Luck

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

The money is there for the roads. We just choose to divert a lot of it to subsidize other forms of transportation. And this is just political correctness. As it turns out, most forms of transportation (other than commuter trains, which are quite wasteful, and buses, which are inefficient but considered necessary for people who can't afford a car) use about the same amount of energy per passenger mile. People rail against the passenger car. But they don't cause a lot of wear and tear on the roads. That's mostly done by the heavy trucks. I see plenty of evidence that the gas tax paid by those of us who use passenger cars more than pays for the cost of using those passenger cars. Some argue that small, local roads should be private. Again, I think that's missing where tax revenue comes from. Land would be worth very little without road access. So a portion of our property tax must be held in consideration when determining the true funding of our road system. Like it or not, the roads are our primary method of transportation. Allowing them to fall apart damages our economy and hurts every one of us, whether we think it does or not.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

Disagree with you about mass transit, but absolutely agree with you about the damage caused by cars v. that of trucks. The Michigan Vehicle Code charges far too little for truck licenses. If the per pound rate were the same for trucks as it is for cars, the license fee for truck would nearly quintuple. But that will never happen--it would look too much like a tax. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

There are better, longer lasting ways to build roads. I attended a session in Germany where they talked about 15 year roads in freeze thaw zones. Right now Michigan is lucky if we get 5 to 7 years. The German process costs roughly double the cost of the process Michigan uses. This may help in the long run to reduce the cost of road repair. To get there we need more revenue. The gas tax was set when new cars averaged 16 miles per gallon. Now the average more, many get 30 mile per gallon or more. Doubling the tax per gallon at the state level is a good first step. As an interim step, the state should accept the Canadian funds for the Bridge, which will releases $2 Billion in Federal road repair money.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

Apparently not. Too bad. GN&GL

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

"As an interim step, the state should accept the Canadian funds for the Bridge, which will releases $2 Billion in Federal road repair money." DonBee: would it make a difference if I told you that I hope you are correct on this--and then to ask for a link that makes this clear. Good Night and Good Luck

Basic Bob

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

@Ron Granger, Michigan allows heavier trucks than the federal standard, but they must have less weight per axle. For bridge weight limits, the gross vehicle weight is important: you wouldn't want to put four of those gravel trains on a bridge all at once. You might have a catastrophic failure. But for damage to the pavement, the per axle weight is the important thing. Hard to believe, but those 42-wheel gravel trains are easier on the road than the 18-wheel tankers. Other cold-weather states have better roads because they fix them, and we don't. Even with the proposed level of service, 15% of the roads will be *poor*.


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Not sure I completely buy this. For damaging a particular freeze/thaw weakened piece of pavement, you're right. But for making a section of roadway flex to create the initial cracks, I would think the total weight on the section would play a role. In engineering terms, the lighter, but higher point weight, would create more shear, but the heavier, but wider-spread stress would cause more bending. I would think both would play a role.

Wilford John Presler IV

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

Legalize and tax marihuana. Use that revenue to directly fund the road projects. Do not waiver... Do not let it be diverted to other places like the legalization of the Lottery and Gambling which was to go for public education and now goes to the general fund while the Governor talks of privatizing schooling.

Alex Brown

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

if we do not have enough money to properly maintain the roads we currently have then we shold not be building more new roads!


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Alex - actually, this report is only looking at maintaining the lanes we have, not expansions - but I agree with your point!

Ron Granger

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Michigan allows the heaviest trucks in the nation. Research shows that it is weight from trucks, not cars, that mainly wears and destroys roads. Are those heavy trucks paying their fair share for the damage they cause? Other cold-weather states manage to have great roads... and they have much lower weight limits. Michigan also has perpetual construction. We don't seem to understand that major routes should *fixed well*. Instead, we do constant construction between major thoroughfares like A2 to Dearborn, or the airport. It seems there is always some segment of the key routes that is getting fixed. So you are always experiencing construction delays.

larry kramer

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

the population of michigan is about 10 million. at 1600 million to fix the roads, that works out to $160 per person. not too bad unless you have a bunch of kids. time to install open road tolling on all the "freeways"--I use my I-Pass whenever I go to Madison Wi and its great!

Arno B

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

More calls for help! I never see a statement listing the annual gas tax and Motor Vehicle receipts and detailed expenditures. What is siphoned off in non-highway expenditures such as handouts to Amtrak, Greyhound, mass transit fantasies, etc. is never disclosed. For those of you who have never noticed it, look at the sides of the Greyhound busses in Ann Arbor next time you see one. It says "Owned by the State of Michigan". Where did the money come from to buy Greyhound busses? In addition, do the subsidies for the bridges and tunnels come out of these road taxes? Last time I looked, for example, the subsidy for the Mackinac Bridge was about 5 Megabucks per year (toll receipts 10 MB, expenses 15 MB). Not said are the subsidies for the other Michigan crossings (bridges and tunnels). Too bad the users aren't the ones who are paying. I noticed that the Tooth Fairy (Dingell) was shown in your article. Maybe he could be implored to steal money from some other needy enterprise to help fix our roads. And don't forget - here in AA homeowners (not drivers) are forced to pay for street repairs via various ballot issues which get passed. Where do these sums fit into the "additional sums" talked about in Lansing?


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

This is no revelation. I'm actually surprised the number isn't a lot higher given how badly Lansing has neglected funding our roads for the last 20 years. Anyone who says this can't be achieved without increased revenue sources (probably gas taxes, vehicle fees, tolls, etc.) is living in a dream world. This kind of money is simply no longer in the budget. Just like in Washington, the politicians in our State government are going to have to stop avoiding the difficult decisions and actually do their jobs. Poor roads are a drain on our already weak economy and if not addressed, will undermine the ability of Michigan's economy to grow in the future.


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

"Michigan will be forced to accept low-quality roads" - that about sums it up. People won't accept an increase in the gas tax, and as gas prices rise, they'll use less gas anyway. That's a perpetually declining revenue source. They probably *could* change the weight tax portion of the funding. I'd be happy to pay $5 per year for each of my bikes as long as we jack up the tax for SUVs and trucks - particularly the big commercial trucks. Bikes don't damage the roads at all.


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

Unfortunately the Federal government and their 56 MPG mandate will make road funding worse. So not only will Michigan loose manufacturing jobs to the higher mandate, the push for GPS tracking will increase. The problem with basing policy on flawed premises, is bad policy that is irrevrsable results.


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

The actual problem is funding roads based on gas taxes. That is lunacy. The simple way to do this is to tax based on mileage. A simple way to do this would be to have to renew your registration each year and then charge by the mile for registration. For example, if you drive 10k miles a year and say you charge .05 a mile, that would be $500. There would then be no gas tax. You would be rewarded for driving fewer miles, meaning you are not hurting the roads as much. Those who actually USE the roads more would pay more.