As Michigan voters decide whether to approve Proposal 1 in May which will raise the sales tax to fund road repairs, a new study out by the University of Michigan Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) details just how bad things have gotten. The study, done last fall, shows that only 19% of local leaders say their roads are in “good” condition and nearly a quarter say their roads are in “poor” condition. Perhaps more shockingly, 12% of them have resorted to grinding up paved roads and turning them in to gravel. In the Upper Peninsula, almost 20% of the municipalities have turned to this draconian response to their crumbling infrastructure.
From the report:
Here are the key findings from the report:
- Just 1 in 5 (19%) of Michigan’s local leaders say their jurisdictions’ roads overall are in “good” condition, while 24% say their roads are in “poor” condition. The balance (57%) say their roads are somewhere in between, rating them as “fair.”
- Where roads are in poor condition, local leaders believe they have multiple negative impacts on their communities, including on economic development (58%), citizen satisfaction with local government (58%), emergency response capabilities (52%), and the local governments’ fiscal health (51%).
- The majority (52%) of local officials say that their jurisdictions are mostly or only able to keep up with short-term road fixes (e.g., filling potholes) as opposed to practicing long-term asset management. Where roads are poor, 71% say they are mostly or only able to focus on short-term fixes.
- Overall, 65% of local leaders say they would have significant problems improving roads and bridges within their jurisdictions if the state does not significantly increase road funding. In fact, a majority (53%) say it would be a significant problem just to maintain their roads if the state does not significantly increase funding.
- When asked how much is needed, 79% of local leaders estimate they would need a 50% increase or more in state funding just to maintain their roads. And if they wanted to improve their roads, more than half (56%) say that they would need state funding to at least double.
- When presented in the Fall 2014 MPPS as a stand-alone option to raise road funding, local leaders were split on support for a state sales tax increase. Overall, 43% of local leaders supported such an increase while 38% opposed it. They may or may not feel differently about the more complicated plan set for a May 5 statewide vote.
- If significant increases in road funding are not made at the state level, only 26% of local leaders think that the majority of their citizens would support raising additional local revenue for roads.
The fact that the vast majority say that they’d need a funding increase of 50% more just to maintain their roads and over half would need a doubling in road funding to do actual repairs is astonishing. Keep in mind that this survey was done in the fall of 2014 before the winter season had even begun. In another month or two, things are going to be much, much worse.
For the folks who say maybe things need to get worse before they’re going to get better, I’d say that is happening right before your very eyes and sales tax vote is still over two months from now.
Michigan Republican legislators have shown they are completely incapable of solving this problem. Voters will now get to decide if they are, as well.