Disparities in Road Funding; Local Roads Left Out

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

"Potholes.... they're horrible," one Lansing driver said Tuesday.

They're on everyone's mind these days, but they might just stick around longer than anyone had hoped.

"Everyday you hit a pothole you're reminded of the inequities of the system," Craig Thiel said.

Thiel is talking about the system in which the state of Michigan doles out more than a billion dollars a year to agencies that maintain roads.

"The formula used is based on miles and not the use of the roads," he said.

Thiel authored a Citizens Research Council of Michigan report that showcases the disparities in which rural counties benefit more than urban areas.

For example, Keweenaw County in the Upper Peninsula gets almost 14 cents per mile of road while Ingham County gets just 1.9 cents per mile. Wayne county... which includes Detroit... gets even less....just 1.6 cents per mile.

"The formula doesn't distinguish between a four lane road and a two lane road," Thiel said.

So small local roads with about a hundred cars a day gets the same amount of money as roads with thousands or millions of cars per day.

And even though Ingham County generates more tax revenue than Keweenaw... most money doesn't stay here.

"By and large the urban areas are sending tax revenue to other areas of the state, like rural areas," Thiel said.

The funding formula was created in 1951, when the state was looking for uniformity in the roads for safety reasons. But before funding can change, the legislature has to give the green light.

"Before we raise the revenue, let's talk about how we're spending it and if we're spending it in the most efficient fashion," he said.


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