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AASHTO Journal

TRIP Warns Michigan Road System Still Lacks Funding to Head Off Further Deterioration

Even after Michigan's legislature acted to increase transportation project funding in 2015, that extra investment level is not enough to prevent further deterioration of the state's roads and bridges, the research group TRIP said in a new report.

The TRIP report on "Modernizing Michigan's Transportation System" said the condition of state-maintained roads "is projected to deteriorate significantly over the next five years, with the share of lane miles in poor condition increasing from 20 percent in 2016 to 46 percent by 2020."

It also said the Michigan Department of Transportation estimates that based on available funding the number of state-maintained bridges rated in poor condition will rise by 50 percent between 2016 and 2023.

dollarpump.jpg"Michigan's Legislature took an important step in 2015 towards improving the condition of the transportation system and setting the state back on the road to economic recovery," said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. "While that was a good start, numerous needed improvements remain unfunded. Adequate investment in Michigan's transportation system is a critical component in the state's economic comeback."

TRIP tied the road conditions and growing traffic volume to safety risks, noting that "traffic fatalities in Michigan increased significantly in the last two years and the state has experienced the eleventh-highest rate of increase in vehicle miles of travel since 2013."

Michigan's 2015 infusion of additional transportation funds, TRIP said, means that on an annual basis state investment in local roads and bridges plus state roads, bridges and transit will grow from $2.2 billion in 2015 to nearly $3.4 billion in 2023.

In all, that legislation will provide a total of $4.2 billion in additional funding through 2023, but TRIP emphasized that $2.3 billion to be allocated from the state's general fund "is not guaranteed and will be distributed at the discretion of the legislature beginning in 2019."

"This report stresses the critical need of the region to improve its transportation infrastructure," said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. He said that organization in its 2017 legislative priorities "is committed to supporting the efforts by federal officials to increase investment in all forms of infrastructure."

Josh Lunger, director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, tied transportation investment to commercial strength. "To continue our economic growth, the industries that drive Michigan need a well-maintained and dependable infrastructure network," he said. "This report shows the significance of the 2015 transportation funding package, and how critical it is that the Legislature make these commitments a top priority."

TRIP included two infrastructure project lists in its report – one showing new work under way or to be completed by 2020 because of that 2015 funding package, while the other lists $3.3 billion in projects across the state that will still not move forward by 2020 due to lack of funding.

"This report highlights the critical need to invest more in our transportation infrastructure," said Tim Daman, president of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Better roads save drivers money and enhance our economic competitiveness. Thriving cities have infrastructure in place to support business and economic growth. That's why improving our transportation infrastructure is a top priority," he said.

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