Snyder Signs Lackluster Additional Funding for Roads

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation providing $175 million in extra funding to put toward the state’s disastrous, pothole-ridden roads, but the actual cost of truly fixing a road has some wondering just what will be done with that kind of appropriation.

In fact, based on figures from the Michigan Department of Transportation and construction experts, the $175 million might be enough to cover less than 1 percent of the state’s roads.

Craig Bryson, senior manager of communications and public information at the Road Commission for Oakland County, told the Beacon there are a variety of ways to repair a road, “from simple asphalt overlay to full reconstruction,” he said.

Bryson said the cost of repairing their roads in a heavily populous area like Oakland County – and Southeast Michigan in general – is often more expensive than, say, a place in the Upper Peninsula, and because the freeze/thaw cycles that create potholes are more severe in Southeast Michigan than up north.

Bryson said the least expensive option is known as a preservation overlay – a “simple resurfacing” in which 1.5-to-2 inches of new asphalt is put on top of existing asphalt road with “minimum base repair,” and the road would have to be in moderate condition for this particular fix to be worthwhile. Withstanding all those factors, this relatively quick fix is expected to extend the life of the road by five-to-10 years, he said.

Worth consideration is that the Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC), which analyzes the condition of the state’s roads and then rates them as “good,” ‘’fair” or “poor,” recently deemed only 18 percent of the 57,961 lane miles of paved roads it reviewed to be in “good” condition (up 1 percent from 2015).

More importantly, the report determined 43 percent were in “fair” condition (down 2 percent from 2015), and 39 percent were in “poor” condition (up 1 percent from 2015).

In short, the roads are getting worse, despite a 2015 plan passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder that increased registration fees and increased taxes paid at the pump.

“A more serious resurfacing, involving removing of the existing pavement, drainage repairs and some base repairs, adding turn lanes if needed and other safety improvements and paving in concrete or asphalt, runs approximately $1.6 million for a two-lane mile,” Bryson said. “This is applicable to roads in worse condition. This is expected to last 15-to-20 years.”

And or roads in “poor” condition, Bryson said often the only solution is complete reconstruction, which runs in excess of $2 million per two-lane mile, though that cost can vary considerably depending on certain factors. Such a reconstruction should last 20 or more years.

“Patching potholes is only a necessary Band-Aid and can last anywhere form a day or two to multiple months,” Bryson noted. “It is not intended to be a long-term solution.”

The additional funding signed by Snyder represents a roughly 7.7 percent increase for the communities fortunate to be receiving funding. A full list of the communities and how much they are receiving is available here.

Overall, the money would be divided into three parts, as one-time appropriations: $38,150,000 (21.8 percent) for cities and villages, $68,425,000 (39.1 percent) for County Road Commissions, and $68,425,000 (39.1 percent) for State Trunkline preservation and technological updates.

The supplemental funding toward the roads came as part of a broader supplemental appropriations bill that also gave more money to the Department of Attorney General for its investigation into the Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State University, as well as more funding to the Department of State and Department of State Police.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) issued the following statement on Snyder’s bill signing, which took place on Tuesday: “Republicans have held the gavel for seven years but can only come up with a mere Band-Aid for a crisis that happened on their watch. … Democrats proposed measures to pull additional funds from the ‘rainy day’ reserves and help people repair their damaged vehicles, but Republicans still refuse to put real money behind a problem that affects every person in our state.”

House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-Lansing) added, “The only thing more surprising than the inability of legislative Republicans to offer a real solution to fix our roads over the last seven years is the governor trotting out their empty bill for a public signing. Michiganders won’t be fooled by this budget swap. They deserve real solutions and the best roads, not political showboating.”

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson