Opinion | Yes, Michigan’s roads are bad. But help is on the way

Matthew Haworth is chairman of Haworth Inc. and vice chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum

How Michigan can improve its roads and infrastructure is an important issue. We’ve all heard the campaign ads, but I encourage our citizens to take a hard look at the facts and the recently passed funding that is ramping up to finally deliver progress that Michigan deserves on this important issue.  

In 2011 Michigan’s Transportation investment per capita ranked LAST in the country.  In 2012, the West Michigan Policy Forum took on this issue, making Transportation investment a top priority.

In 2015, there was a ballot effort to increase taxes to fund our roads – I didn’t love the ballot proposal but supported its passage with an Op-ed similar to this (and my vote) because we needed improvement. The voters spoke clearly in rejecting this approach as overreach.

The problem remained, however.

Therefore, in 2015 the legislature crafted and passed a compromise that will devote $1.2 billion more to our transportation infrastructure annually by dedicating half of this funding ($600 million) from existing resources.

Additional revenue also comes from doing things like tying the diesel tax paid by semi-trucks to the gas tax paid by cars, and adjusting registration rates to ensure vehicles that don’t use gas contribute toward our roads. Further, the legislature and Gov. Snyder smartly phased in the added investment to avoid causing inflation and ensure this new money is used efficiently and effectively.

By 2021 (in three years), the state will have invested $9 billion more because of the 2015 compromise solution. In fact, when fully implemented, transportation investments will be double that which the state made when Republicans were given the responsibility to govern in 2011.

Yes, we are all frustrated that all our roads are not fixed, yet. But, just like in business or at home, if infrastructure is ignored and maintenance lapses, it takes dedication, hard work and time to recover and improve.  

Michigan is on the road to recovery, let’s not derail that recovery. Attendees at our recent West Michigan Policy Forum conference voted and overwhelmingly confirmed they disagree with candidate Whitmer’s debt or tax proposal – now is NOT the time to raise $2 billion in more taxes, which would more than double the current gas tax to over 70 cents on every gallon of gas.  

Slogans are easy. We all want immediate results, especially on something as frustrating as our bad roads.  But as we continue to dedicate more funding, it’s going to take a lot of orange barrels and construction seasons to recover – we didn’t get into this mess overnight so, unfortunately, we won’t be cured overnight.  

Let’s encourage our next governor, no matter who it is, to have the patience, foresight and courage to continue Michigan’s growth and improvement. We’ve recovered from the bad times of the last decade. Now it’s time to drive from good to great by continuing the path we’re on.

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Wed, 10/31/2018 - 8:17am

Bridge incorrectly labeled this piece as an "Opinion". It is actually a Republican campaign advertisement. West Michigan Policy Forum, for whom Mr. Haworth is vice-chairman of the board, is a Republican-aligned organization, dependent on funding from Koch and DeVos organizations (Doug DeVos is on the Board), which promotes Republican causes such as right-to-work. Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Haworth, be clear as to his goal, which is to campaign for Republican candidates.

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 10:32pm


Thu, 11/01/2018 - 7:17am

I missed the part where he mentions either or any candidate or party, but I must compliment you working in the usual list of the left wing's boogie men only you left out ALEC and the NRA.

Steve H.
Thu, 11/01/2018 - 12:59pm

Read it again. "Attendees at our recent West Michigan Policy Forum conference voted and overwhelmingly confirmed they disagree with candidate Whitmer’s debt or tax proposal ". Face it, the guy is a Republican shill.

Bill Hartwig
Wed, 10/31/2018 - 9:19am

In addition to increased funding, we need to look at changing design standards and eliminating ridiculous requirements which do not affect pavement or traveled-way safety. The focus should be on the pavement and not items like street-space and beautification which have nothing to do with actual travel. A good beginning point would be to get the Federal government out of the road business as this is where the non-pavement requirements are imposed on the local road agencies.

steve feinman
Wed, 10/31/2018 - 9:21am

The roads would be better sooner if we actually funded them without destroying the general fund and scholl funding

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 3:44pm

Because of Michigan's insistence of charging sales tax on fuel purchases thereby diverting fuel taxes to schools and general funds, Michigan has simultaneously one of the highest taxes per gallon and the lowest road funding in the region. One of many areas in our government/ tax systems needing reform but unlikely to be addressed by any candidate for governor.

Erwin Haas
Thu, 11/01/2018 - 7:01pm

There is an enormous amount of money in construction, especially in government infrastructure which lack ordinary market constraints so we need to be suspicious here. Folks with a lot of money control the conversation and the media, viz Bridgeme. In any case;
There are two chief systems for judging the condition of roads; Pasar is done by a trained observer driving over a road and judging it. It is subjective and notoriously non reproducible. It is the one used by the media, advertising and construction companies, federations of civil engineers and construction unions. Paser says that 25percent of our roads are bad....
The other is DI or Distraction Index, done every 2 years on all our roads. A specially equiped car goes over every lane. It has lasers and ultrasounds underneath measuring the roughness of the surface and how much a load of the car moving over the surface deforms the road. It is reproducible and is the yardstick used by the MDOT to decide that a road is failing and needs attention. By this metric, 9 percent of our main highways are failing. I found numbers for Indiana where a similar number is that 12 percent of their roads are failing.....
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't fix the roads. It does mean that we need to be suspicious of the motives and the method that the advocate for us spending our tax dollars employs.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 11/01/2018 - 9:52pm

For someone who is encouraging citizens to "take a hard look", Mr. Haworth is utterly clueless regarding what the republicans in the Lansing have done relating to roads over nearly a decade.

Despite Proposal 1 getting nuked at the ballot, which should leave absolutely NO DOUBT in anyone's mind at to how Michigan Taxpayers feel on the issue, republicans jammed through tax and fee hikes anyways (including a perpetual tax hike added for good measure).

And after the money started coming in, republicans in Lansing decided to get funny with the money and began transferring nearly $400-million out of the transportation budget and into the general fund.

Making matters worse, republicans in Lansing still have not eliminated the Comprehensive Transportation Fund from the state budget, despite having eight whole years to do so. This is a slush fund used to transfer money in the transportation budget away from road maintenance and towards frivolous items like mass transit.

And the final insult to Michigan Taxpayers; don't expect MDOT to be responsible stewards of the money that it already receives.

After a recent audit of MDOT going after warranties for shoddy road construction work, MDOT over let over 52% of them expire without taking any action.

Has anyone at MDOT lost their job for this? Have republicans called for hearings into why so much Michigan Taxpayer money has been allowed to be wasted? Did republican AG Schuette ever brings charges against anyone from MDOT?

I (and I'll wager a great number of Michigan Taxpayers) have a radically different definition of how "great" Lansing has been spending the money it receives on transportation.

It's a shame that Mr. Haworth cannot bother to bring himself up to speed as well!