The Detroit News' recent series on the status of Michigan's roads and bridges illustrates how woefully under-funded transportation programs are in this state. Unless our elected leaders do something to correct this problem, Michigan will be known for its crumbling infrastructure instead of the transportation innovator that built this nation's first mile of interstate highway.
Michigan's roads and bridges are funded through fees collected on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel. While fuel prices have steadily increased, the amount of fees collected has remained flat because, unlike the sales tax, gas fees are collected on the number of gallons sold, not the price. This is a major reason why Michigan annually falls more than $700 million short in meeting basic maintenance needs for the 120,000 miles of state and federal roads managed by the Michigan Department of Transportation. That shortfall grows when you include the needs of local and county roads.
Through the efforts of Michigan's Transportation Team - a broad coalition of business, labor and government agencies - our state saw an increase this year in the amount of federal funding coming back for road projects. For years, Michigan has been a donor state, receiving less revenue from federal gas fees each year than it collects. While any movement toward a more equitable federal funding formula is welcomed, it is only part of the solution to our road-funding crisis. Michigan must look for more comprehensive ways to fund the upkeep of its aging road and bridge infrastructure.
If our economy is going to rebound and grow, then Michigan needs a modern and safe transportation system. Each dollar spent on roads and bridges in Michigan creates another $6 in total economic activity. Shoring up Michigan's transportation funding shortfall would create at least 33,000 new jobs that are sorely needed today. Such economic relief will not happen until Michigan commits to a funding system that meets Michigan's transportation needs instead of offering Band-Aid solutions for long-term problems.