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Detroit Free Press: Budget to hurt roads, MDOT says

Thursday, May 13, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Michigan's roads will deteriorate quickly -- and construction will be scarcer -- unless lawmakers fill a gaping hole in the state's transportation budget, officials said Thursday. 


The Michigan Department of Transportation warned during a meeting of the state Transportation Commission that it might do significantly less roadwork in 2011-14. 


Revenues from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees will be $84 million short of what the state needs to leverage more than $600 million in federal matching funds, MDOT said. 


The state said it is delaying 100 pavement upgrades covering 375 miles of roadway and repairs to 575 bridges. In metro Detroit, delayed work includes the rebuilding of seven miles of I-96 in Wayne County, resurfacing of 10 miles of I-94 in Macomb County and reconstructing the M-59-Crooks Road interchange in Oakland County. 


"We continue to seek creative solutions but we face the reality of having to cut $600 million annually, beginning in 2011, and seeing the revenue from federal fuel taxes paid by Michigan taxpayers going to Ohio and other states that are able to match federal funds," MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said. 


The department said it is giving regional planning agencies across the state two sets of plans for the 2011 construction season -- one based on losing the federal funds, and another in case lawmakers find money to plug the funding hole. 


Mike Nystrom, spokesman for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said the announcement portends trouble. "They're telling us the Legislature continues its inaction, and that they have to put a plan in place that recognizes we're losing the money," Nystrom said. "It is dangerous territory. To let Michigan money go to other states is unconscionable." 


Proponents have been urging lawmakers to support raising vehicle registration fees and replacing the 19-cent-per-gallon gas tax with a tax on wholesale gas prices capped at the equivalent of 34 cents per gallon. 


But Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, chairman of the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee, said there's little support for raising taxes because of the state's economy and high unemployment. He said the Senate is looking at budget reforms he declined to specify, that would raise enough money so the state wouldn't forgo the federal cash. 

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