Local Roads Matter

8th Nov 2014

Local Communities Doing Their Part To Fund Michigan Roads

As the Michigan Senate is expected to open the lame duck session this week with discussions and possible action on road funding, the County Road Association of Michigan is pointing out a significant increase in local support for roads: 16 new countywide road millages over the past eight years.

“Over the last few years legislators have called on local governments to “put some skin in the game” when it comes to funding their roads, and it’s clear they have,” said Denise Donohue, director of the County Road Association of Michigan. “Local governments are doing what they can to patch some holes in Michigan's road funding checkbook. These local millages may slow the bleeding in some locations, but they cannot replace adequate state funding.”

From 1936 to 2006 a dozen counties adopted a total of 13 countywide road millages - about one every six years. Over the last eight years, 16 more counties have passed countywide road millages. Several others have attempted to pass millages and failed.

In this fall's General Election, three new countywide road millages were adopted, one millage was increased and another new millage failed. New millages passed in Eaton County by a 51 percent margin (1.5 mills for 12 years), in Otsego County by a 55 percent margin (1 mill for 10 years) and in Ottawa County by a 58 percent margin (.5 mills for 10 years). An increase of one mill over four years passed in Midland County with 59 percent support. Lapeer County’s effort to secure 1.85 mills for six years failed with only 46 percent supporting the initiative.

“Michigan residents see the value in good roads and appreciate the work done by county road agencies,” Donohue said. “Renewals typically pass by a high margin – some by more than 80 percent.”

The County Road Association analysis shows that while local road millages provide flexibility to allow counties to meet their diverse road needs and to raise matching funds for federal road dollars, they are only a small part of the solution. Eighty-five percent of Michigan road funding comes from state and federal sources.

There is also a significant disparity between townships and counties on the level of revenue they can generate through millages. While one mill in some counties might generate sufficient revenue to pave a mile of road, one mill in another would generate several million. Reconstructing a mile of local road can cost $250,000; putting a one-inch asphalt overlay on that same mile costs $50,000.

“We’ve talked about this issue in Lansing long enough,” Donohue said. “Now it’s time for action. Michigan residents support high-quality roads. Counties, townships, cities and villages are doing what they can at the local level. Now is the time for Lansing to secure a comprehensive solution that will support improvements to all Michigan roads. Our economy and the quality of life for Michigan residents depend on good roads.”

The County Road Association of Michigan represents the interests of Michigan’s 83 county road agencies that collectively maintain more than 75 percent of Michigan roads – more than 90,000 miles and the fourth largest local road system in the nation.