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Kalamazoo Gazette: Michigan roads are cracking up

Tuesday, March 25, 2008   (0 Comments)
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link: Kalamazoo Gazette: Michigan roads are cracking up 


The weekend snowstorm may have covered up Michigan's impressive assortment of potholes. But they're still there -- every bone-jarring, wheel-bending, tie-rod-snapping one of them. 


Each winter we've come to expect that freeze-and-thaw cycles will turn cracked roads into rubble and cause car-swallowing potholes to open up, seemingly overnight, on nearly every street. 


But tough Michigan winters aren't the only reason roads around the state look like they've been blasted by asteroids. Michigan ranks 46th in per-capita spending on roads, according to the Michigan Transportation Team, citing a 2006 Taxpayers Network study. 


The Michigan Transportation Team -- a coalition of state and local Chambers of Commerce, unions, road construction associations, governmental organizations and the Michigan Sheriff's Association -- has been advocating for more spending on Michigan's ruined roads. They've been advocating for a 9-cent increase in the state gasoline tax to better address the state's road-maintenance needs. The state levies 19 cents a gallon on gasoline. But the Michigan Transportation Team argues that the 19-cent tax, enacted in 1997, has been eroded by inflation so that its purchasing power, in 1997 terms, is only 11 cents. 


TRIP, a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., estimates Michigan drivers spend a collective $7 billion a year on vehicle repairs, wasted time and fuel. That's not all because of potholes, but includes congested freeways and damaged bridges. 


And the situation doesn't look like it's going to get any better. It has been reported that road funding has been cut 18 percent in the 2008 budget. A bond program to fund road projects has ended. And gas tax revenue is declining. 


Meanwhile, the impact of this past Michigan winter has local road departments spending more than ever just to patch all the potholes. 


Facing 20 to 25 calls a day about potholes from the driving public, Kalamazoo city road crews have poured 800,000 pounds of ``cold patch'' into those gaping maws in the roads. That's nearly 70 tons more than crews used at this point a year ago. 


To attract new companies, Michigan must find ways to maintain its critical infrastructure. 


Gov. Jennifer Granholm has already said that raising the state gasoline tax is not a priority for her. And, after raising the state personal income tax last year in a bruising fight, the state Legislature doesn't appear to be in a mood to consider any sort of revenue generation. 


So if anyone knows of any way to maintain and improve Michigan roads without spending money on them, we'd like to hear about it. 


Click here for a pdf of this story. 

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