Road crews will face a challenge in springPublished 9:43am Thursday, February 13, 2014
Recently while driving along US 31 between Berrien Springs and Niles it felt as if my car was going to be rattled apart by potholes. The 12 miles of road between those two cities is one of the worst sections in the county, but it is not the only section being destroyed by this harsh winter, and road crews will probably be hard pressed to repair all the damage. But with the county budget already $1.8 million over because of excessive snow removal, the funding may not be adequate enough to fill in those potholes when spring finally arrives.
Because of Governor Snyder’s 2011 budget cuts, many of Michigan’s counties and local communities are already struggling and do not have the funds to repair the roads. Many of the projects slated to begin this summer will have to be canceled. Governor Snyder recently released his budget proposal for the upcoming year and even though he has proposed $254 million for road repair, many feel it is not enough and will not address the long-term issues that plague our transportation system. It is also clear that Snyder’s tactic is to only get a one-time deal for matching transportation funds from the federal government. What Michigan needs is a long-term funding solution that will deal with our crumbling infrastructure instead of kicking the can down the road for future generations to address.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, our state already spends $3.3 billion dollars per year on our roads. Now it will cost an additional $1.3 billion dollars just to maintain our roads in their current condition because of the recent damages.
Preventative road maintenance for just the lower half of Berrien County will cost $12 million per year. Repairing all 266 miles of road that have been ruled unfit in Berrien County will cost roughly $27 million. A proposal by our governor last year asked for $1.2 billion for repairs with the additional revenue deriving from increased gas, sales taxes and higher registration fees, but that legislation has very little support among the tea party-led Republicans in Lansing.
Currently there are 7 million vehicles on the road in Michigan. According to a study by the transportation group, TRIP, the average driver will pay an additional $536 in repairs this year because of poor road conditions for a total of 2.3 billion largely unnecessary dollars if we decline to invest in our roads.
America’s intricate systems of roads are the arteries that carry the lifeblood of our economy, and investing in their upkeep will lead to more jobs and prosperity. But unfortunately in Lansing it is more important to play political games during the election season, for instance giving away meaningless tax breaks that only the wealthy will benefit from — like the governor and many Republicans are proposing — instead of doing what is in the best interest of our state.
If Michigan wants to truly make a comeback, it begins with maintaining our infrastructures and proving to new businesses that we are serious about reinventing this state.
William Crandell is a community activist and member of the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Democratic Party. He is also a member of the South County Democratic Club where he has served as their communications director and as the chairperson of the SCDC Blue Tiger Community Action Committee.