Road Commission Running Dry on Funds

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

No money, no bridge.

"When you have costs going up like that, and revenue going down, it's just like at home. You go out of business at some point," said Bill Conklin, director of the local road commission.

The business is the Willoughy Road Bridge, in Alaiedon Township. The costs are the repairs that Conklin says the overpass desperately needs. Now he's shutting it down. And he says, without more funding from MDOT, it could be closed for the next three years.

"The main problem that caused us to decide to close the bridge to traffic is there are rust holes, or what we call corrosion, in the main support columns," he said.

Conklin says it could take up to $2 million to replace those columns. The problem, of course, is finding the money to do it.

High gas prices and a slumping economy are keeping drivers off the road. Bad news for the road commission, which relies heavily on gas tax revenues. The group has lost 10 percent of its revenues from that source over the past six years.

Conklin's solution? Raise the gas tax.

Michigan drivers currently pay just 19 cents a gallon -- 46th lowest in the country.

"On the local road system, I would say upwards of 50 percent of our roads need significant work, and probably upwards of 50 percent of our bridges, as well," Conklin said.

A gap that both he and Michigan drivers hope can be closed soon.


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