A Bump in the Road, Part 2

This is UGN News Director Mike Hoey.

Many of us in the U.P. are unhappy with the area’s road network, and we have reason to be.

But it’s a matter of money.

Yesterday, in Part 1 of my series, ‘A Bump in the Road’, I looked at the Marquette County Road Commission.

Tonight, in Part 2, it’s Negaunee’s funding situation and what the lack of money prevents them from doing.

Negaunee is one of many area communities where the roads badly need more money.

Back in 2001, they still got enough money from the state to cover the cost of the work they needed.

Negaunee Public Works Director Dan Czarnecki says that was $300,000.

But that state revenue coming to City Hall has declined 20% since then — $60,000 fewer.

If state road funding isn’t enough, cities, townships and villages have to dip into their own general funds to compensate.

But Czarnecki says the city’s general fund is seeing the same shrinkage.

What does that mean?

Road projects they’d like to do can’t get done because there’s no way to pay for them.

That includes work on Maas, Brown, Gold and Croix Streets in Negaunee.

Road funding comes from the state gas tax and auto registration fees.

So why is that revenue going down?

Marquette State Rep Steve Lindberg says it’s because vehicles now are considerably more fuel-efficient than they used to be, and especially last year, people have also been driving less.

Materials prices have been rising faster than inflation as well — in some cases, much faster.

Asphalt now costs Negaunee nearly 2 and a half times as much as it did 8 years ago.

Concrete is up 40%.

Fuel is up 47%, and that’s after the plunge in prices we saw a year ago.

Road salt prices have more than doubled, and sand is up nearly 30% as well.

Czarnecki says it’s all they can do to patch potholes and hope there’s not a major failure of a road.

If there is, that would mean a dip into the general fund, and if the failure were severe enough, Czarnecki says it would cripple the city financially.

There’s no doubt Negaunee and many other communities have it rough.

But how rough is the road situation when none of the roads in your hometown are paved?

That’s the case in Ewing Township.

And I’ll explore the situation there Wednesday night in Part 3 of ‘A Bump in the Road’.