Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

May 4, 2014

George Weeks: Politics of pothole-ridden roads lingers

There are encouraging signs that despite their differences on how precisely to respond, both parties appear poised to deal with increasing constituent demands that they address Michigan’s pothole-ridden deteriorating roads.

Gov. Rick Snyder has shifted some of his modest tax reduction ideas to increasingly focus on roads “because of how serious the pothole season’s been. I appreciate the general public speaking up more and more — they see a need to solve this problem in terms of transportation.”

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who has a good sense of the public pulse, said, according to the Associated Press: “In general, people are saying, ‘Look, if we got a little extra money this year, rather than give a few dollars back to everybody when we have real structural problems with the roads, we think more people would prefer we go ahead and fix those roads.’”

Right on.

Snyder and his recent predecessors of both parties are not unique among Michigan governors in dealing with bad roads. Edwin B. Winans (1891-92), who at the time was the first Democrat to be elected governor in nearly 40 years and touted by some as “Michigan’s Teddy Roosevelt,” said in his first message to the Legislature:

“The condition of all wagon roads last winter was sufficient proof that our present system of road making is a waste of time and labor.”

Michigan’s current roads were well made but poorly tended after last winter.

Early in April, Michigan’s House GOP majority unveiled a plan to increase annual road funding by nearly $500 million, pegged to a switch from the current 19-cents-a-gallon tax on gas to a six-percent wholesale tax that could yield more revenue.

Last week, there was a good deal of focus in Lansing on whether pending bipartisan legislation would lead to tolls on Michigan roads.

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