WILX-TV Lansing: Michigan Highways Get The Short End
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Driving down the highway can be a rocky ride for Mid-Michigan residents -- A ride that needs constant reconstruction and repair.
"Obviously Michigan is struggling, we have an infrastructure that's falling apart. You drive on our roads and see the potholes. You drive under our bridges and concrete raining down on you. It's a safety issue. It's impacting our economic opportunities," said Mike Nystrom of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association.
But it's a long hard road between Michigan and Washington, a road that doesn't go both ways.
"We need all of our money, when we send a dollar to Washington, we need to get a dollar back," said Kirk Steudle of the Michigan Department of Transportation.
But currently that's not the case, for decades the Federal-Aid Highway Act has pegged Michigan as donor state, and the most reauthorization has kept it that way.
"Large populous states like Michigan are donor states because our tax base is able to help supplement like states like Montana, Massachusetts, those states get more then a dollar back for every dollar they send," Nystrom said.
And that's where the controversy begins. For every dollar that Michigan taxpayers send to Washington, there's only a 92-cent return for our highways.
That means a state like Alaska receive nearly a $5 surplus, while Michigan can barely break even.
Nystrom said the money just doesn't measure up.
"In the end it impacts Michigan taxpayers because our rate of return, the money we're getting back from the federal government isn't keeping up with the needs that we have here."
The 8 cent difference may seem like chump change but the Michigan Department of Transportation says it adds up to an estimated 135 million dollars that Michigan is missing out on.
"There's 21 states that are donor states, all the rest receive more money, so if you just add up votes it's easy to say donor states just stay where you're at," said Steudle.
Michigan representatives have been pushing for more highway funding for over a decade, and they say every penny is precious.
"One penny is worth about 50 million dollars, so every penny that we add, if it's 93 cents on the dollar or 94 cents on the dollar, that's 50 or 100 million more dollars. So we're trying to get up to that 96 cents is our goal," said Congressman Mike Rogers.
And that goal will be brought to the table when the Federal Transportation Bill is up for reauthorization in 2009. Rogers says it's time for Michigan to get its fair share.
"We did our part, we helped out when the rest of the country wasn't doing well, we're having a little bit of a set back, maybe it's our turn. "
Our turn at a smoother ride for Michigan drivers, one penny at a time.
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