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Survey findings show more funding needed for roads


To the Editor:

As part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), CLOSUP surveyed local government leaders from 1,356 Michigan jurisdictions (counties, cities, townships, and villages) about a range of issues surrounding roads and bridges in their jurisdictions, from their current condition and maintenance to state and local road funding, and more.

The MPPS finds that although road conditions vary widely across the state, there is widespread agreement among local leaders that a major increase in state-level funding is needed just to maintain roads, let alone improve them. Most jurisdictions estimate that state-level funding needs to be increased by at least 50% in order to maintain roads, while they believe improving roads would require at least doubling current state funding. The most popular funding options among local leaders, however, are not likely to generate enough revenue to meet those stated needs.

The report is summarized below, and the full report is available on the CLOSUP homepage:

http://closup.umich.edu.

You can read or download the report from the website, or if you contact closup-mpps@umich.edu we would be happy to email you a .pdf version.

Key Findings: 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."

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.

What would happen if sufficient funds are not raised at the state level? Only 26% of local leaders believe that the majority of their citizens would support raising additional local revenue for roads. Based on how jurisdictions have coped with the recent era of insufficient road funding, the other primary approaches would likely include a combination of further cuts to road maintenance, cuts to other public services and staff to divert money toward roads, and possibly more collaboration to stretch dollars.

More detailed information is available in the report itself.

—Tom Ivacko, Program Manager
February 25, 2015

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