A Bump in the Road, Part 5

This is UGN News Director Mike Hoey here.

As I’ve been exploring all week, roads are in rough shape all over Michigan.

I’ve examined the situation at the local level.

But what sorts of big-picture solutions can be found to address the problems that we all agree are out there?

That’s the final part of my series, ‘A Bump in the Road’.

This week, I’ve looked at the Marquette County Road Commission and 2 individual communities, Negaunee and Ewing Township.

But what can be done to improve the entire region?

Last year, Marquette County Board member Bob Struck was on a statewide task force that Governor Jennifer Granholm assigned to come up with some answers.

He says the Michigan Transportation Funding Task Force, or TF2, had some suggestions in terms of administrative reforms that can make more efficient use of the existing money.

They recommended that Michigan at least double the $3.2 billion it spends on roads right now.

Some of the ways they suggested to come up with that money included a tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as possibly raising vehicle registration fees.

Struck says while he can tell the legislature and the governor have been listening, not much has been done, if anything.

Those recommendations came out last November.

So why has nothing been done?

Marquette State Representative Steve Lindberg says it’s because as soon as those recommendations came out, the state budget fell apart and the Big 3 automakers teetered on the edge of extinction.

He thinks transportation funding must be addressed this fiscal year because stimulus money for road work will run its course by 2011.

Lindberg thinks the gas and diesel fuel tax needs to be looked at.

But he opposes a hike in the other major area.

Lindberg says the registration fees are already high enough that some people in the area who need to have multiple vehicles — needing to keep a truck with snowplow in the driveway in winter, for example — are already having trouble paying the fees.

One of the things Struck and Lindberg agree on is that it’s time for all of us in Michigan to ask ourselves as a state — do we want good roads or not?

Struck says we have to ask that because there’s no magic genie that’ll suddenly materialize out of nowhere and give Michigan billions of dollars.

Lindberg says it’s a situation of, as he calls it, pay-me-now-or-pay-me-a-lot-more-later.

I also contacted Ishpeming Township State Senator Mike Prusi’s office in Lansing several weeks ago to arrange an interview for this story.

However, the exact same thing that happened when I tried to reach him in April for my ‘Lest We Forget’ series happened again this time.

Neither Senator Prusi nor any of the staff members who arrange his schedule ever replied.

Mike Hoey, UGN News.