Metro Detroit roads ranked 4th worst in U.S.

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

In what some might see as a non-surprise, a national research group has ranked Metro Detroit’s roads as fourth worst in the nation, costing drivers an additional $866 a year in added vehicle operating costs.

TRIP, a nonprofit research group sponsored by road builders, labor unions and insurance companies, released its findings Thursday morning in its report: “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother.”

According to TRIP, 56 percent of the major roads in the metro area are in poor condition, marking it as fourth worst for 25 urban areas with a population of 500,000 or more.

TRIP ranked the San Francisco/Oakland area as worst in the nation with 74 percent of its roads in poor condition, costing drivers an additional $1,044 per year. Second was Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana at 73 percent/$1,031. Concord, California, was ranked third with 62 percent of its roads in poor shape costing drivers an additional $954 annually.

According to TRIP, Flint has the worst roads of 25 urban areas with a population between 250,000 and 500,000 with 74 percent of its roads rated in poor condition.

Lansing was rated ninth worst with 39 percent of its roads in poor condition while Ann Arbor was rated 25th worst with 26 percent of its roads in poor condition.

The report didn’t surprise Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan.

“This report from TRIP validates what drivers already suspect, that the state’s roads are among the roughest in the nation,” said Donohue, who called on Lansing and Washington, D.C., to provide additional long-term funding for roads.

In 2013, TRIP estimated that 28 percent of U.S. major urban roads, including interstates, freeways and primary roads, had pavements that were in substandard condition, costing the average driver $516 annually and $109.3 billion nationally.

The TRIP report also noted that MAP-21 (a two-year transportation reauthorization bill that went into effect on July 6, 2012) will expire on July 31. The bill provided $561 million and $572 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to oversee U.S. surface transportation funding.

"The long-term preservation and maintenance of our national transportation system depends on federal investment," said Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in the TRIP report. "We can do better than the uncertainty of short-term extensions. America needs Congress to fully fund a multi-year surface transportation bill."

According to TRIP, vehicle travel continues to grow across the U.S. due mainly to an improved economy. With that increase (which includes truck travel), the cost of maintaining U.S. roads is expected to increase as well.

Vehicle travel, which remained largely unchanged from 2008 to 2013, increased by 1.7 percent from 2013 to 2014 and increased 3.9 percent during the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Large commercial truck travel in the U.S. is expected to increase by 72 percent from 2015 to 2030.

Meanwhile, Michigan lawmakers are away from Lansing for the next month after failing to find a compromise on road and infrastructure funding. Three varying plans now exist, and each contains some ideas for fixing roads.

A $1.4 billion Senate plan calls for a three-year phase-in of a 34-cents-a-gallon fuel tax, which would be indexed to inflation. The gas tax is currently 19 cents a gallon, and hasn’t been increased since 1997. The plan is also tied to potential income tax reductions. The House’s plan would raise $1.16 billion and centers on finding funds within the current budget. A recent proposal unveiled by House Democrats relies heavily on a business profits tax increase to 9 percent, up from 6 percent. It includes a $20 million decrease — gained through a proposed renegotiation — in tax credits owed to businesses for expanding or relocating in Michigan.

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