When you vote, keep Michigan’s roads in mind

Dennis Kolar

The November election will be here soon.

Before it arrives, I encourage every Michigan resident to make one very important request of every candidate seeking to represent your community in the Legislature: Make spring 2015 the last time we have a major pothole problem in our state.

That means asking them how they stand on road funding. As Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and many informed legislators from both parties have made clear, the only way to solve the problem of Michigan’s deteriorating road system is to invest more in the system.

If we don’t do that, our roads will continue to deteriorate, and the rate of that deterioration is going to increase.

I suggest voters make this issue a litmus test for legislative candidates.

Those who understand the problem and truly want to make a difference will acknowledge that it is a tough issue but will be willing to work to resolve it. I would be very cautious of those who deny there is a road-funding crisis or are not willing to work on the issue.

It’s already too late to prevent spring 2015 from being another tough one.

Even if the Legislature were to act this year, we wouldn’t be able to resurface any additional roads before the spring.

And if the Legislature does not act soon, things will get progressively worse.

All the costs associated with maintaining the roads continue to rise while road funding remains stagnant.

At the Road Commission for Oakland County, we expect to receive less revenue this year than we did in 2003.

Meanwhile, virtually every cost associated with maintaining roads has gone up, many at double- or triple-digit rates: fuel costs, materials such as salt, asphalt, concrete, etc.

That means we simply cannot do the same level of maintenance that we have in the past. Compounding the problem is the fact that the system has deteriorated greatly in recent years and needs more maintenance than in the past.

Why is it up to the Legislature to solve this problem? Because the Legislature controls the funding we use to maintain roads, which are derived primary from the state-collected fuel taxes (gas and diesel) and vehicle-registration fees.

The gas tax has not increased in 17 years, and continues to bring in less and less revenue as cars become more fuel efficient. Partially as a result, Michigan’s per capita state and local road funding has been among the bottom 10 states in the nation since at least 1964.

The most recent data, from 2010, reveals that we rank 50th — dead last. Nothing to be proud of.

Good roads improve the quality of life for Michiganians, make traveling safer, and promote economic development.

Bad roads do the opposite.

So, before you cast your votes for the Legislature on Nov. 4, I encourage you to find out where the candidates stand on this issue.

Dennis Kolar is managing director of the Road Commission for Oakland County.