potholes

Morgue File

 

The candidates for governor agree something needs to be done about Michigan's crumbling roads.

In our recent conversation with MSU economist Charlie Ballard, he reminded us that we're going to pay for road repairs one way or another. Maybe higher taxes or, in Ballard's case, paying now, with blown tires and bent rims.

But, is there some kind of silver lining to the crummy roads? Maybe for local repair shops?

Rick Kilbourn owns 4th Street Auto Care in Royal Oak. He's been in business since the 1970's.

Chelsea Oakes / Creative Commons

Most state leaders agree that Michigan needs to fix its roads. But they’re still struggling with how to do that.

In the meantime, local governments are taking matters into their own hands.

It is not exactly true that the Michigan Legislature can’t get anything done.

For example, our lawmakers did pass a bill to allow a fur dealer to hold a license to trap beaver.

Don’t you feel better about that? The governor signed it yesterday.

On the down side, they completely failed to get done the voters' most important priority, fixing our terrible roads.

You see, fixing the roads would cost money.

It would also require making hard choices, which many elected officials seem allergic to, especially in an election year.   

Some of our lawmakers seem dead set against raising any taxes, even though polls have shown this is the one thing voters are willing to pay for. Some can’t see past their narrow ideological blinders enough to simply get the job done.

I think the low point in my faith in democracy came late this winter, soon after I had lost one tire to a pothole. I got home after nearly losing another on the lunar surface of a suburban Detroit mile road, just in time to hear a state senator claiming we needed another tax cut.

Well, I thought, I am now living in a Third World country. But guess what? That senator heard from his constituents, big-time. Before long, he was retreating from his tax-cut talk, legislative tail between his legs. Why?

To quote the leader of his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville R- Monroe, “I’ve heard the message loud and clear that the roads are messed up, and I think the most common phrase I’m hearing from back home is 'just fix the damn roads.'"

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposal to greatly increase Michigan’s gas tax goes before a state Senate committee tomorrow.

The proposal has already cleared the state House. Among other things, it calls for taxing fuel based on price, instead of volume. It would generate about $500 million in new tax revenue. That's about a third of what Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed to fix the roads.  

I have a confession to make. I really am not very interested in your sex life, and see no reason you should be interested in mine. However, I am very interested in not being killed by a giant pothole, or concrete falling off an overpass. And somehow, I’d guess you feel the same way. I just wish our lawmakers did.

Today, the University of Michigan is releasing a new study showing that our model of funding road repairs based on how much gas is sold is out of date.

Cars get much better mileage today. Besides, I could drive 10,000 miles in my tiny little Fiat, and do far less damage to the roads than an overloaded, gravel-hauling tractor-trailer would do covering half that distance.

You don’t need to be Isaac Newton to figure that out. The report suggests getting money to fix the roads by setting a mileage fee.

There's all sorts of political news coming out of Lansing and Detroit this week, from the political fate of a long-time Michigan congressman, to a political move by a top Republican lawmaker to derail a ballot proposal boosting Michigan's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. And of course, there is news on that perennial Michigan topic of fixing our potholed, crumbling roads. 

There's so much political news that we decided to bring in Michigan Radio's "It's Just Politics" team of Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark to sort it all out for us. 

*Listen to the full interview above.

Pothole in a road. / Wikimedia Commons

While the debate over transportation funding continues this week in Lansing, a recent report finds most states are spending more to build new roads than they are in repairing the crumbling roads we already have.

A study from the nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense says that there are exceptions: states that are spending a significant percentage of their road money on repairs. One of those states is Michigan. 

Steve Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, joined us. 

*Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An income tax cut seemed inevitable just two months ago, as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers offered up and even began passing rival plans to use some of a budget surplus for tax relief before the 2014 elections.

Now plans for a tax reduction are waning and shifting instead to addressing pothole-ridden roads.

   Snyder says he's open to dropping his tax plan to set aside more money for transportation. He attributes the shrinking interest in tax relief among legislators to drivers who voiced frustration with crummy roads.

If you seek a pleasant pothole...

Apr 13, 2014
Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

It's spring, and hope springs eternal. Even the pothole pictured is reflecting on the possibilities. Granted, it's going to cool off in the week to come, with some snow possible on Monday, but we Michiganders are a hopeful bunch, and we won't let that stop us. To paraphrase the state motto, "If You Seek A Pleasant Pothole, Look About You"...or, if you prefer,  "Si Quæris Potholam Amœnam Circumspice!"

Pothole in a road. / Wikimedia Commons

As the snow and ice have melted, Michigan has come up with a bumper crop of potholes and crumbling roads – roads that were already badly in need of repair. And that has turned everyone's attention to fixing the roads and how to pay for it. 

State House Republicans are proposing an annual $500 million solution. 

Here to tell us more about that is Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Pothole in a road. / Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers like to say, "There are no Republican roads or Democratic roads" when speaking about Michigan's battered roads and bridges – battered to the point that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder wants more than $1 billion a year in additional road funding.

Chris Gautz, Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, has been digging into that statement, and is wondering if it's true, particularly when it comes to the funding of road repairs. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Virtually every city in Michigan has 'em, and lots of 'em. 

The extreme cold this winter created a bumper crop of potholes that are slowing traffic and causing accidents and flat tires.  

Some streets have degraded so much they're more pothole than driveable surface.  Commuting has turned into a real-life game of Frogger.

And here's the really bad news.  Some cities won't be back to a "normal" number of potholes until June.

Todd Nepper runs the city of Jackson's Public Works Department.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As we gingerly pick our way through Michigan's pothole-ridden and crumbling roads, state lawmakers are hashing out just how much money to spend on fixing the state's roads and highways.

Chris Gautz, the Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, gave us an update.

*Listen to our interview above.

They used to say that the definition of chutzpah was the boy who killed his parents and then asked the court for mercy since he was an orphan. But that was improved on twice this week.

First, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan began talking about making a bid for the Democratic National Convention two years from now.

That’s a nice “comeback kid” idea, but there are two major problems.

The entire metro area probably doesn’t have enough hotel space. Detroit could barely host the Republican Convention in 1980, and Democratic conventions have more delegates.

Plus, conventions are expensive.