Michigan’s road maintenance problems stir controversy

Michigan's road maintenance problems stir controversy

In municipal maintenance meetings all over Michigan, there will be plenty of graphs, charts and lists of statistics that demonstrate the gravity of the state’s deteriorating roadways. What may not be present, however, is a clear indication of how the roads got to be this way. 

According to Michigan Live, Jay Ziomkowski, an auto repair shop owner in Grand Rapids, said he doesn’t need any metrics to know just how bad it really is out there. The repairman recently discussed one winter, when he said “the roads were just horrific. Certain sections were like a bomb went off. You would get bent rims, blown tires. The struts would actually break off where they were mounted.”

While this may mean more work and revenue for Ziomkowski, for the rest of the state, the crumbling roads are a serious problem

Government statistics show that in 2004, 13.6 percent of 85,000 lane miles on roads that were eligible for federal funding were in serious need of maintenance. As time went on and the state’s maintenance management pushed the repairs down the line, this number ballooned to 13.6 percent. 

It was only about nine years ago that 88 percent of these roads were reported to be in either good or fair shape. When the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council released its figures in 2011, this had fallen to 64.9 percent. 

According to the media outlet, this doesn’t even include the 80,000 miles of road throughout the state that cannot receive federal funding. These, too, are in disrepair, with about 44 percent of the 10,000 miles of roads that were studied rated to be in poor condition. 

Unfortunately, Michigan is no stranger to receiving poor marks for its transportation infrastructure.  In 2010, Overdrive Magazine wrote that Michigan had the second-worst-kept roads in the country, rising from its third-place spot in 2009. 

Four years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Michigan’s road system a “D” rating, while its bridges earned a “C.” Along those lines, Michigan was also rated as the worst state in the Great Lakes region for bridge maintenance, with 11.8 percent of its bridges labeled as structurally deficient. 

All this appears to be weighing on Governor Rick Snyder, who is asking for $1.2 billion per year in transportation funding. This money is most likely to come from a wholesale gas tax and higher auto registration feeds. A referendum could also be held to increase Michigan’s sales tax by 2 cents. 

According to a separate Michigan Live article, Snyder has been trying to increase funding for road maintenance since 2011, but has been met with opposition. Still, Snyder asserts that by investing in infrastructure now, taxpayers can save later. 

Any maintenance work must adhere to standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which if violated, can lead to costly downtime. 

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