As a long-awaited thaw exposes more of the ravaged moonscape to which many Michigan roads have been reduced, motorists and their elected procrastinators in Lansing are at last confronting a reality Gov. Rick Snyder noted in his 2013 State of the State address:
Michiganders can pay more at the gas station, the treasurer’s office or the repair shop, but there’s simply no avoiding the toll that decades of neglect have taken on the roads on which we rely to get to work, supply our factories and retailers and facilitate tourism.
The question is not whether to invest in a long-term roads fix, but how much and how quickly.
The good news is that responsible lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun to recognize that addressing the state’s crumbling infrastructure is more urgent than the election-year tax cut that many were championing only a month ago.
According to the Michigan Information and Research Service, Republicans and Democrats in the House are making progress on legislation that would add $300 million to $400 million in annual road funding to the $215 million already appropriated for emergency pothole repairs. Elements under consideration include several that the Snyder administration has championed for more than a year: a new wholesale fuel tax that generates more revenue when gas prices rise; the equalization of levies on gasoline and diesel fuel, and lower weight limits for trucks.
These are all reasonable options for increasing the state’s investment in roads. But the Legislature’s ambitions remain inadequate to the need for a long-term road plan that includes a sustainable maintenance schedule and the development of public transit options that promote redevelopment of the state’s urban centers and reduce the stress on its highways. Lawmakers also need to do more to incentivize repair and improvement of local roads, which also suffer from a lack of funding and long-term planning.