The Michigan Senate approved a $100 million supplemental last week to assist road agencies with the extreme cost overruns that have occurred so far this winter.
This was a good move. Our beleaguered road commission and city departments of public works have taken a harsh beating this winter in their pocketbooks. All 83 county road agencies and 533 municipalities, along with the Michigan Department of Transportation, will share the funds.
Michigan’s 83 county road agencies collectively maintain more than 90,000 miles of local roads in Michigan, the fourth-largest local road system in the nation.
Now that this pot of money has been put forth, officials in Lansing — and Washington D.C. — need to look ahead to what the roads are going to be like AFTER the snows and sub-zero temperatures subside.
Last week there was a 1-2 day period where we had a slight warm-up and thaw. The brief glimpse of spring also gave us a look at what lies ahead for Genesee County motorists. The roads are broken up and filled with some of the worst potholes we’ve seen in years.
The Senate is hoping this $100 million supplement will go toward helping defray costs for county road agencies to continue plowing snow and patching potholes without having to make major cuts to summer maintenance projects that preserve our road network and improve safety.
But let’s face it, even though $100 million is a lot of money how far is it going to go? Divided between all these agencies and communities across Michigan my guess is it won’t be enough. Especially when there are roads that are going to need major repair work due to this harsh winter.
What’s the solution? I don’t have the answer to that, but I do know this. It seems the state and federal government like to spend money on transportation projects which often don’t make a lot of sense. Roads that don’t need it are repaved and widened all the time, and it’s often simply because the grant money was available. I understand communities taking advantage of grant money, but I hear a lot of taxpaying residents say “why was that necessary?”
Maybe the government ought to consider spending these transportation funds on repairing the deteriorating infrastructure in Michigan instead of using it to repave roads and highways which are in far better condition than some of the roads that took a beating this winter.
Maybe the government — both state and federal — should re-examine what they are spending on walking trails and bike paths long enough to get our roads back to where they are drivable. Walkability is an important thing, but prioritization is something our bureaucrats need to learn. You don’t build a bike path when the road beside it is crumbling and blowing out car tires due to deep potholes.
Once the roads are good, then build all the trails you want, I think they’re a great thing to have. But with the way the roads are looking right now, bike trails may be all we have to get around on.