OUR VIEW — Face reality: We need more money to fix Michigan roads
Monday, January 21, 2013
Holland - A familiar quotation observes that everybody likes to complain about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. In Michigan, everybody likes to complain about the roads, but again nobody does anything about it — even though in this case we know exactly how to solve the problem.
Gov. Rick Snyder made a strong case for doing something about it in his State of the State address Wednesday, calling for more revenue to fix Michigan’s deteriorating roads. Now the question is whether legislators will act or whether they’ll continue to sit on their hands and watch our roads crumble.
Few people have anything good to say about the condition of Michigan roads. With our hard winters and heavy truck traffic, it takes a lot of work to keep them in shape, and the state gas tax — which provides the bulk of funding for state highways, county roads and city streets — isn’t generating enough money to keep up. A legislative task force concluded in 2011 that the state needs an additional $1.4 billion a year (on top of our current spending of roughly $3 billion) to keep its roads and bridges in shape. But calls to take action, including one from Gov. Snyder last year, have gone nowhere.
We’re not eager to shell out more money, but we have to face reality. Gov. Snyder made that argument Wednesday, proposing an additional $1.2 billion for roads this year and $10 billion over the next decade. It’s money he rightly characterized as an investment, noting that motorists would recoup much of the average annual cost of $120 per vehicle through lower repair bills. Putting off repairs now, he noted, will just make the job more costly down the line. As the 2011 task force found, the extra $1.4 billion it said is needed now will become $2.6 billion a year by 2023 if no action is taken in the interim.
And all that doesn’t even factor in the safety angle: Good roads save lives.
According to media reports, the reaction among legislators to Snyder’s call was tepid at best. Key Republicans and Democrats alike said they would consider the proposal but were reluctant to make Michigan residents pay more in gas taxes or vehicle registration fees.
Perhaps these legislators represent districts where people don’t patch their roofs or fix the dents in their cars. Perhaps they live in a different world, where cars simply glide over gaping potholes and buckled pavement, or in an alternate universe where roads magically fix themselves without expense or human intervention. In the real world, of course, bad roads mean jarring rides, unsafe conditions and hefty repair bills. In the real world, repairs cost money.