Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 12, 2014

Mich. official: Potholes could be worse than ever

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's top transportation official warned lawmakers Tuesday that the coming pothole season may be worse than many drivers have ever seen, blaming a "brutal" winter for ruining deteriorating roads he said already are in poor condition because of a long-term funding crisis.

State Transportation Department Director Kirk Steudle said an extra $30 million, a third more than budgeted, is needed after near-constant snowplowing in parts of Michigan and because salt usage and costs have doubled from a year ago. Local governments are confronting similar financial problems, he said.

"We're going to see one of the biggest pavement breakouts we've probably ever seen in our lifetime," Steudle told the House transportation budget subcommittee, which met to begin considering the proposed 2014-15 budget unveiled last week by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. "The next couple months are going to be very, very interesting."

For now, the agency will tap into summer maintenance money to continue clearing highways and improving freeway lighting but likely will request a special mid-year appropriation to account for winter spending. It is possible the GOP-led Legislature could put additional money aside for counties and cities, too.

Snyder did not build into the next budget his request for gasoline tax and vehicle registration fee increases, which stalled last year despite Michigan regularly not collecting enough in transportation revenue to ensure a federal match. For the third straight year, the state will use general fund dollars — part of a nearly $1 billion budget surplus — to ensure the match comes through.

The governor "called for the fact that we have to deal with this problem. We've been pushing off this problem for 10 years," Steudle said. "We can match federal aid and it's still going to fall all apart."

Though Snyder's permanent funding solution was held up last year, lawmakers did put $230 million into a new Roads and Risks Reserve Fund. Legislators in December announced that half would fund 103 state and local projects across Michigan.

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