Why do A2 roads stink?
Some handy-dandy excuses

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By Lynn Monson

Have you ever been asked by an out-of-state visitor, “So, what’s up with the roads around here?” With these factoids, you’ll never again be stuck for an answer.

We’re cheap: For the past several years, Michigan has been last or almost last in the nation in state money spent per capita on roads. The most recent Census numbers, for 2011, show Michigan spent $135 per person, dead last. That compares to $234 in Ohio, $288 in Indiana, $321 in Wisconsin and $336 in Illinois. The amount in the Michigan Transportation Fund, a combination of gas taxes and vehicle registrations that’s doled out to cities and counties, dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2004 to 2013, leaving the state with $199 million less to spend in 2013 than in 2004.

Nice low taxes: Michigan’s gas tax has been fixed at 19 cents a gallon since 1997, while costs of road construction, particularly petroleum-based asphalt, have risen. If Michigan tied its gas tax to inflation, as some states do, the gas tax would be 27 cents. Michigan’s 19-cent gas tax compares to 30 cents in Wisconsin, 28.5 in Minnesota, 28 in Ohio, 21 in Iowa, 19 in Illinois and 18 in Indiana. (The state of Washington leads nationally at 37.50 cents.)

Fixing the roads not as simple as you’d hope

People don’t pump enough gas: Other factors that keep the Transportation Fund from keeping up with road-fix demands: people drive less because of higher gasoline prices over the past decade; cars are more fuel efficient; and the growth of electric cars reduces demand for gasoline.

Stupid education: Some of the taxes that drive up the cost of gasoline in Michigan don’t go to roads at all. The 6 percent sales tax on gasoline raises about $1 billion a year, mostly for education and local revenue sharing. Some suggest that at least some of that money should be dedicated to roads.

Curse you, E-ZPass: Other nearby states – Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, among them – have toll roads that raise revenue beyond their gas tax collections.

Stupid education, again: Ann Arbor streets have considerably more wear and tear than other comparably sized cities because tens of thousands of people descend on the city every day to work at, visit or attend the University of Michigan.

Winter, duh: Michigan is in the deep- freeze part of the country, so the annual freeze-thaw cycle plays more havoc with roads here than in states whose annual climate is more temperate.


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1 Comment

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    Wes Fabian

    October 30, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Don’t forget Michigan’s generous truck weights. This reason above all is the true reason behind our poor road conditions. Michigan has a unique system that allows for a greater maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW includes weight of the truck, fuel, driver and cargo.) Max axle loads are the same per federal requirements (which is calculated only by cargo), but Michigan skirts this by upping the Gross Vehicle Weight and increasing the number of axles per trailer.

    The federal weight max is 80,000 pounds. In Michigan, weight max can be calculated by the number of axles. Which is why you see so many 11 axle double and triple trailers in Michigan. 11 axles can increase a truck’s max GVW to 164,000 pounds. And this is done regularly. Especially in Washtenaw county where you see so many gravel haulers. Just sit on Wagner Rd near Liberty and count them.

    This, in my opinion is the actual reason for our awful roads. Higher truck weights definitely aid in moving materials, goods, services, etc. However, the taxpayers wind up paying the price, rather than the expediting companies or the businesses using these companies. Now, throw in higher speed limits (60 mph now for all trucks) and a crumbling infrastructure (pitted roads, crumbling bridges, poor markings and signage, failing drainage systems, outdated designs, ramps that are too short, collector/distributor lanes that are too narrow and/or short and on too narrow of a radius to maintain speeds) and this just spells disaster.