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Mike Nystrom: Michigan must fix its roads

Saturday, July 28, 2012   (0 Comments)
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Although the year is half over, there is still time for the Legislature to pass a bipartisan package of bills that will provide much needed funding for infrastructure in Michigan.

Parts of the package have been passed, including bills aimed at ensuring that money is spent more efficiently, but other bills that allow for even greater revenue enhancements still await action when the Legislature returns from summer recess. If passed, this package of bills will help jump-start Michigan’s economy and benefit every Michigan driver who battles temporarily filled potholes as an annual rite of spring.

Spring 2013 and future seasons will be no different unless more funding is provided so road agencies can do more than apply Band-Aid repairs to our roads and plywood “diapers” under bridges every summer. Michigan residents deserve better roads, bridges and transit systems.

In order to increase our investment in infrastructure, the Legislature must consider adjustments to the traditional user fees, such as registration fees and gas taxes. Legislation that did pass this year moved some money raised by sales tax that is paid on every gallon of gas to funding for roads and bridges. But this small adjustment unfortunately did not solve all of our revenue problems.

It is estimated that an additional $2 billion a year is needed annually to make up for a shortfall in state transportation funding. The sales tax legislation only adjusted funding by approximately $100 million for fiscal year 2012-2013.

Each year that we put off making substantial improvements to our transportation funding system, the cost of repairs not only goes up, but our system declines even further. Currently, 32 percent of Michigan’s roads are ranked in poor condition. It is estimated that by 2018 this number will jump to over 65 percent.

Historical data tells us that bringing a road from poor to good pavement condition costs six times more than it does to bring a road from fair to good condition. Putting off to tomorrow what we can fix today is not good economic policy.

The governor supports enhanced infrastructure funding in Michigan, as do many legislators. These elected leaders realize that getting something done in 2012 will help to turn Michigan’s economy around and immediately create thousands of jobs. It is not too late.

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