Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 8, 2014

State could give more for roads

TRAVERSE CITY — Deadstream Road in Benzie County connects U.S. 31 to M-22. It crosses between Platte Lake and Little Platte Lake and helps residents reach the lake shore.

The narrow road is just over five miles long and is pockmarked with potholes, said Benzie County Road Commission Manager-Engineer Heather Jamison.

“Ideally, we would like to repave existing surface and widen the road,” Jamison said. “We have wanted to do it, talked about it, but through the current federal aid system there’s not enough money to fund the project.”

Jamison hopes that new state money dedicated to road funding could go toward fixing Deadstream Road, a project estimated to cost about $1 million.

Michigan lawmakers have taken a step toward spending an additional $450 million a year on deteriorating roads, mostly by redirecting existing tax dollars.

A House committee on Wednesday voted to permanently shift money from Michigan’s general fund to transportation spending. Another panel approved legislation bringing the diesel tax in line with the gasoline tax and taxing fuels on price instead of a flat per-gallon basis.

“It’s not an increase in any new fuel taxes; for the general driving public they’re not going to see a huge change,” said Traverse City Rep. Wayne Schmidt, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “What we’re doing is using existing revenues, and that’s what the people of northern Michigan have been telling me, is find existing revenues and put it toward roads, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Schmidt is hopeful the House will vote on the packet of bills today, after which they will be sent to the state Senate.

Leelanau County could use the additional funds to repave roads, said Jim Johnson, the engineer-manager for the Leelanau County Road Commission.

“We don’t have a distinct need for five-lane roads or roundabouts or traffic signals, but we could stand resurfacing a number of our paved roads that are old and tired,” Johnson said. “It’s an investment in pavement that we fall behind on most easily.”

The $450 million is just a third of what Gov. Rick Snyder said is needed to bring Michigan roads up to par. Michigan’s gasoline taxes are among the country’s highest while its per-capita road spending is among the lowest because the sales tax on fuel primarily goes to non-transportation funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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