There’s not enough money to fix most Michigan roads

County road agencies maintain 75% of the roads across Michigan
Most roads in Michigan aren’t getting fixed to the level they need to be.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 6:17 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It seems everywhere you go, there’s road construction and detours. But many of those construction zones are state projects on interstates and state highways.

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Most roads in Michigan aren’t getting fixed to the level they need to be. That’s because of who owns the roads and how the state splits the money to fix them.

County road agencies maintain 75% of the roads across Michigan, but the Michigan Department of Transportation gets 75% of the federal money to fix them. This leaves every county, city and village to split the remaining 25%.

“The roads are raggedy. We have to do something,” said Velzonia Spencer.

Spencer moved to Lansing in the mid-1990s. She said the roads were just as “raggedy” then.

“When you patch stuff up, when you patch it up, it doesn’t last. So then you have to do the construction all over again,” said Spencer.

There have been many construction projects across Mid-Michigan over the last few years, including the ramps from US-127 to I-496. But those only tell part of the story since these are state projects, but 75% of Michigan’s roads are county roads.

“What happens to the rest of the system? Everything begins and ends in someone’s driveway to feed the MDOT system,” said Ed Noyola, Michigan County Road Association deputy chief.

Counties rely on the gas tax and registration fees to pay for road projects.

Noyola said the gas tax has only changed twice since Spencer moved to Lansing.

“This is a good start. But we never get beyond that point. Once we get that increase,” said Noyola.

Noyola said the state needs to work with local governments to find a sustainable solution. He said counties need an extra $1.8 billion a year to get all county roads fixed in the next decade.

It’s a conversation Spencer said is long overdue.

“We just have to be honest about it. Word on the street is we have issues. This is the Capital. It is an embarrassment if it is not getting fixed,” said Spencer.

The state does try to partner with counties to help get projects done more cheaper.

Last year MDOT launched a pilot where it bundled 19 local bridge projects into larger contracts, lowering the cost of each bridge.

Counties are also trying to figure out ways to fairly replace the gas tax as electric vehicles become more popular.

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