Today the House Transportation Committee, under the leadership of Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), held the first of three weeks of hearings to determine whether Michigan needs a gas tax increase to fix the state’s deteriorating road, bridge and transit systems. The testimony heard today resonated a consistent message that transportation funding must be increased to maintain and improve our current system, and legislators need to act.
The committee heard from a wide-variety of organizations today including Michigan Municipal League (MML), County Road Association of Michigan (CRAM), Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).
“Legislators heard today from organizations that are struggling to do their jobs despite funding shortages and increased needs, and the compounding challenges underfunding poses to both our economy and the safety of our citizens,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations, Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association and co-chair of the Michigan Transportation Team.
CRAM and its members were able to share the struggles that counties around the state are facing as revenues have decreased while the cost of materials continues to rapidly increase.
“Compounding our current revenue problems are costs associated with most materials and equipment required to maintain roads, many of which have increased at a double-digit rate or higher,” said Ed Noyola, deputy director for CRAM. “These increases have forced road commissions to dedicate a larger and larger portion of their revenues to simply maintaining the roads and less for improvement.”
MML was also able to reveal some of the economic challenges that communities face with a deteriorating transportation system. One challenge communities face is trying to attract new businesses. “Our communities are having a difficult time selling their communities because of the disrepair of their transportation infrastructure,” said Joe Fivas, assistant director of state affairs, MML.
The testimony leads many to the same conclusion - the amount of money available for transportation in Michigan is just not adequate.
“We’re headed for life support,” said Dorothy Pohl, managing director of the Road Commission for Ionia County. “We really need the legislature to increase transportation funding so we can continue our job in the future.” The hearings, which will continue March 29 and April 12, culminate a year-long statewide effort by the Michigan Transportation Team, which has included statewide road and bridge condition reports, public opinion surveys and focus groups, a Web site, postcards to legislators and most recently a radio and billboard advertising campaign. The overall message of the transportation funding campaign, known as DriveMI, has been “Don’t Forget Our Roads.” The point of the campaign is to remind legislators that there is more work to be done besides the budget and Single Business Tax replacement during this legislative session.
MTT is a broad-based, bi-partisan partnership of business, labor, local government, associations and citizens linked with the common goal of improving Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. The DriveMI campaign is committed to promoting the development and maintenance of a safe, convenient and efficient transportation network that serves the public, private and economic development needs of Michigan.