Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Council To Look At $3.9B Funding Deficit On Roads

05/31/23 05:19 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 05/30/23) This week's pending announcement on the Governor's council on population growth comes after the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) announced findings from a Public Sector Consultants report that Michigan has a $3.9 billion annual funding deficit, resulting in the continued deterioration of roads.


Lance Binoniemi, MITA vice president of government affairs, said though there is an emphasis on highway reconstruction and large transportation projects, many of those dollars come from the Governor’s Rebuilding Michigan bonding program, which is issuing $3.5 billion over the course of five years.


He said that is funding a lot of heavy construction on state highways, even rebuilding entire highways from the ground up, which with proper maintenance could then last between 20 and 50 years. 


Those fixes are necessary, Binoniemi said, because infrastructure has faced underinvestment for decades, but the bonds don’t address local road funding at all.


“We need more funding for all of our roads,” he said, adding that both the Governor’s program and federal infrastructure dollars are only short-term solutions. 


There will be a very large revenue cliff around the year 2027, he said, and one-time funding won’t address that. 


Instead, Binoniemi said annual projections for Michigan’s transportation funding require a $3.9 billion annual investment to maintain good condition for 90% of Michigan roads. 


According to data from MITA, 33% of Michigan’s federal-aid roads are in poor condition, 42% are in fair condition and 25% are in good condition. 


Binoniemi also referenced the 2023 Michigan Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which ranked Michigan’s roads as a D, and overall infrastructure a C-. 


Though the 2023 budget as passed by the House and Senate each total $6.8 billion, Binoniemi said a long-term plan is necessary to really address the decades of disinvestment. 


When asked about MITA’s role in Whitmer’s planned coalition, he said that’s a question for the governor’s office. 


But he did tell MIRS about other ways MITA is working to address the need for infrastructure investment, namely through education. 


Whether it’s through a commission or taskforce, it’s important for the public and lawmakers to understand that this problem will continue to grow if we don’t solve it, he said. 


He said MITA has been ramping up activity within the Fix MI State coalition, including meeting with lawmakers and letting them know about the study done by Public Sector Consultants. 


There have been lots of good conversations about current revenues, he said, but we really need a long-time sustainable solution. 


VMT/EV User Fee Scaled Back


One proposed program from the state’s road-building lobby and related groups is $5 million for a pilot program on a new user fee for all electric car owners, but so far lawmakers are slicing the grant to $1 million.


Michigan is far behind 20 other states, MITA argues, in trying to squeeze more road building dollars out of EV owners, who are paying a higher registration fee but are not paying the gas tax. Motorists with gas-driven cars, meanwhile, are paying the tax and Binoniemi contends that is unfair.


"While they are paying a surcharge, it does not equate to what they would pay on the gas tax," he argues.


He is hoping to convince lawmakers, as they move into the conference committee phase of the budget process, to restore that $1 million to the original $5 million request. He says the discussion is not over on that point.


If approved, limited parts of the state would use the so-called VMT user fee. The vehicle miles traveled would collect new revenue based on miles driven meaning the more you drive, the more you pay and you pay less with fewer miles driven.


The three major Michigan-based car manufacturers are partners in the effort as they push for more EV cars to be sold in the marketplace.


"We think we should at least study the vehicle miles program in Michigan. Get the citizens to be aware of what it is. Have it explained how it would work and we want it to be fair and equitable" for all motorists, he told the Off the Record panel.