Few people in Michigan would argue that our roads don’t need to be fixed. It has become the norm to drive over bone jarring potholes without thinking twice about them. But, a recent study by The Road Information Program (TRIP) out of Washington D.C. concluded that the average Michigan driver now pays $370 per year in costs associated with bad roads. This is a cost Michigan motorists cannot afford any longer.
Not only do we know our roads are bad, but the nation has taken notice. The History Channel recently aired a national program (The Crumbling of America) on our nation’s aging infrastructure – the special highlighted Michigan’s failing roads and bridges. Our transportation system is so bad, that producers even stated the entire special could have been filmed in Detroit. In addition, a national magazine for truckers rated our state’s roads the third worst in the nation.
The problem is only getting worse. Based on current funding levels, almost half of Michigan’s roads will be in poor condition within 10 years. Already 25 counties have been forced to pulverize their failing pavement back to gravel with no plans to repave them. Michigan is falling decades behind as we continue to disinvest in our state’s infrastructure and our economic competitors watch us crumble.
A generation of state and federal policymakers have allowed our world-class highway system to collapse under the guise of “protecting taxpayers.” We have always had a user-fee approach to finance our transportation system. If you use the roads, you support them by paying a gas tax. But, as fuel efficiency standards have improved dramatically and gasoline prices have skyrocketed, drivers are not consuming the same amounts of fuel as in years past, thus substantially reducing revenue from gasoline taxes to fix our roads. We need to raise per gallon tax rates periodically just to keep pace with inflation, but policymakers haven’t done that.
Unfortunately, the big oil companies – the ones that raised your gas prices by 75 cents per gallon in only a few short weeks – are now concerned that you are paying too much for fuel. Yet, none of those increased costs went to fix our roads. They went into the pockets of oil tycoons. Their opposition to funding our roads through fuel taxes is self-serving at best.
There is a proposal in Lansing that would base transportation taxes on fuel prices rather than gallons as a way to provide incremental increases over time. To protect taxpayers, the legislation calls for a limit of increases to no more than the equivalent of three pennies per gallon per year. With gas prices fluctuating as much as 25 cents in one day, motorists would hardly notice the difference, yet it would go a long way to helping begin to rebuild a crumbling Michigan.