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Report: $2.4B needed to fix Michigan county roads

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(The Center Square) – A new Michigan County Road Association report says an additional $2.4 billion is needed to fix county roads and bridges.

The biennial 2023 County Road Investment Plan report found the additional funding gap grew 28% from two years ago.

Mark Christensen, CRA president and superintendent-manager of the road commission for Montcalm County, said Michigan roads are facing a “fiscal cliff.”

“We agree with our peers at MDOT and in the roadbuilding industry that Michigan is facing a ‘fiscal cliff,’ and we call on our legislators and governor to take action this year,” Christensen said in a statement. “This Plan represents a clear and present danger to the condition of county roads, which are the foundation for our future economic and population growth.”

Michigan county road agencies have jurisdiction over 90,000 centerline road miles, representing 75% of the state’s road network, and 5,868 bridges.

County road associations are responsible for 75% of road miles and 52% of bridges, while the Michigan Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over 8% of road miles and 42% of bridges.

Villages are responsible for 17% of road miles and 6% of bridges.

“We believe this is a result of both road agency inflationary pressures including those unique to the pandemic, and shortfalls in the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) due to significant increases in vehicles’ fuel efficiency and less MTF dollars as a result of more electric vehicles,” Donohue said.

CRA chief deputy and legislative director Ed Noyola said that by law, 75% of federal road dollars must fund state highways while the remaining 25% is split between 614 municipal and county road agencies.

Michigan has the nation’s fourth-largest local road system. The 2023 Michigan County Road Investment Plan concluded that of $1.4 billion , nearly $1.8 billion didn’t fund county roads and bridges in the fiscal year 2021.

An additional $2.4 billion annual investment is needed to improve 15% of the roads per year – the goal set by CRA.

“Our work group – which represents 200 years of road agency and civil engineering experience at the county level – has established 15% as the target goal for road miles to be improved by each county annually,” Noyola said. “This does not mean 15% of the roads will be rebuilt. Rather, it means they will be improved perhaps by a chipseal, by resurfacing, adding gravel or occasionally a total reconstruct.”

CRA CEO Denise Donohue called the report a “wake-up call” about the funding problems for Michigan roads.

“The longer we kick the can down the road, the deeper the problem, and our potholes, will get,” Donohue said in a statement.”

The report studied six areas of need by county road agencies: Bridges; buildings/maintenance facilities; maintenance work; equipment; federal aid-eligible roads; and nonfederal aid-eligible roads.

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