East Bay or the Middle East

Roads get worse; state legislators' inaction

might create the Gravel Road State.

The two main roads between my house and U.S. 31 appear to have been carpet-bombed. It's as if the maintenance has been turned over to the Wheel and Alignment Center instead of the county road commission.

Actually, road commission crews come out every few months to fill the potholes with asphalt. Over the past few years they've used enough asphalt to fill East Bay.

These roads are at the end of their lifespan. There is not, and never was, a plan to maintain them. If they're on a priority list, it would be at the bottom. There is not much the county can do because it receives fewer dollars from the state each year.

Apparently, it is cheaper to fill in the expanding and deepening potholes year after year than laying down a fresh layer of asphalt. As the pothole filler erodes it spreads across the roads bringing them closer to gravel status.

I did vote a few years ago in favor of a township millage that would have raised money for our local roads. I liked the idea of looking forward to different roads getting a facelift every year, leading to higher property values. I liked the idea of having more control over my local road spending, and not having to wait for Lansing lawmakers to get their act together.

Voting results indicated I was in the minority.

One thing most residents agree on is that our roads are in bad need of repair, or as Governor Granholm said during her term, "the roads are the pits." She didn't manage to improve the situation, short of accepting stimulus dollars from her buddy in the White House.

Remember all of the shovel-ready projects that were finally going to be started to create and "save" jobs to improve our economy? Those dollars were spent on a few road projects as well as to upgrade insect collections at Michigan State University, provide yoga classes in Ypsilanti, study the ecology of plankton at MSU, and purchase hybrid cars from Ford Motor Co.

Governor Snyder wants to fix the roads, and to his credit he has laid a bold plan on the table, calling on legislators to take action by June. Succeed or fail, I respect him for not kicking the proverbial can down the proverbial road. He would create a new 14-cent tax on the wholesale purchase of gas, which would be reflected at the gas pump and raise diesel taxes by 18 cents a gallon.

Snyder's plan would make Michigan gas taxes the highest in the nation. (Pure Michigan!) He'd raise our annual registration fees by 60 percent, and allow counties to impose a vehicle registration fee for more local road projects.

Senator Howard Walker's plan to fund road projects is to raise the state sales tax by a penny, from six to seven cents on the dollar. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville wants a two-cent sales tax increase, which would give Michigan the honor of charging the highest sales tax in the nation! The positive side of this plan is that the 19 cents per gallon gas tax would be eliminated.

How did we get to this crossroads? Federal policy makers ruled years ago that carmakers must produce more fuel-efficient cars, which they did. In turn, we purchase less gasoline, which equates to less gas tax revenue for roads.

Also, the cost of building and maintaining roads has gone up. Bridge Magazine, published by the Center for Michigan, reports that asphalt, which is produced with petroleum, has gone up 47 percent since 2005, and reinforced concrete has increased by 70 percent.

The Department of Transportation has found ways to cut costs and save money, but before I can fully support higher state taxes, Snyder and company need to prove it will be used efficiently. I need to hear discussions about the expense of prevailing wage laws, bike paths/lanes, and mass transit. I want to see a priority list of road projects, and how much money will be spent in each county before allowing Michigan to become the state with the highest gas tax, or the highest sales tax, or perhaps the Gravel Roads State.