Michigan Roads Report: ‘Poor’ Roads Won’t Decrease Until 2025

It will come as no surprise to drivers across Michigan, but in 2017, there was an increase in roads with pavement rated poor and nearly twice as many bridges declined in condition compared to those that were improved, according to a recently released report on infrastructure.

“Given the current rate of road deterioration and given the anticipated funding levels for road preservation and repair, the percentage of roads in ‘poor’ condition will not decrease till 2025, at which time 38 percent are predicted to be in ‘poor’ condition,” the report indicated.

To put that in perspective, the report by the Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) – which annually reports on the condition of roads rated as “good,” “fair,” or “poor” – noted that as of last year, 40 percent of all paved federal-aid eligible roads were rated as being in ‘poor’ condition. A mere 11 years ago (in 2007), just 25 percent were in poor condition. The majority of roads in Michigan are federal-aid eligible roads, as that term includes freeways and other large-volume roadways.

The report also noted the number of lane miles in “good” and “fair” condition decreased from 61 percent to 60 percent between the last report released in 2016 and this updated report. The 1 percent decline represents an additional 880 lane miles now in poor condition, the report noted.

In short: Despite the amount of money the Snyder administration and the Republican-majority legislature has boasted about pledging toward roads, the funding is not sufficient enough to make a significant difference even when their plans are fully implemented. And, as TAMC points out, that assumes nothing is done to change the amount of funding.

The “roads deal” passed by the legislature in November 2015 only began implementation last year and continues until 2021. A portion the funding comes from Michigan income taxes, while other funding – again, as Michigan motorists are well aware every year on and around their birthday – comes from fee increases.

It Gets Worse, First

Further, per the TAMC’s report, the percentage of federal-aid eligible roads rated as “poor” will continue to get worse before they get marginally better. The report’s forecast of pavement condition for 2019-2029 sees the percentage of roads rated as “poor” increasing to as much as 44 percent by next year.

The news doesn’t get much better for non-federal-aid roads, which are local roads expected to be maintained by local governments. Of the reports by 71 local agencies for more than 17,000 lane miles of roads surveyed, almost 50 percent were found to be in “poor” condition, while 38 percent were considered “fair” and 19 percent were rated as “good.”

Bridges Are Out, Too

Michigan also ranks worst among its fellow Great Lakes states in terms of percent of structurally deficient bridges. In 2017, 10.3 percent were found to be structurally deficient. The next-closest Great Lakes state was Illinois at 8.3 percent, followed by Wisconsin (7.8 percent), Indiana (7.1 percent), Ohio (5.8 percent) and Minnesota (5.3 percent). The national average hovers around 7.9 percent.

The report noted the number of bridges rates in “good” condition has decreased between 2010 and 2017, as have those rated “poor,” while the number rated as “fair” has increased.

It cautioned, though: “Without continued implementation of effective preventative maintenance strategies and additional funding directed toward bridge maintenance, those ‘fair’ to ‘poor’ borderline bridges are in danger of dropping into the ‘poor’ category.”

In terms of future forecasts, the TAMC report said using information on current bridge condition as well as the bridge deterioration rate, project costs, expected inflation and fix strategies, the combined overall bridge condition of all the state’s bridges is expected to decline after 2017.

And because no funding approved by the state nor federal government was specifically earmarked to local bridge programs, the report estimated that by 2025, “nearly half of the progress made toward improving bridge condition since 2004 could be lost.”

Of course, could change if elected officials prioritize funding or even earmark certain funds for such programs before it gets too late, the report noted.

The council offers several ways to report road conditions or follow where and how much investments are being made to the roads on their website.

In the meantime, Democrats in the state legislature are also reaching out to residents to tell their stories of especially bad potholes and/or the costs of repairing their vehicles on a website they created, GOP Road to Ruin.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson