Funding Preservation

Michigan is a national leader in pavement preservation and asset management. So why do we have some of the worst roads in the country?

What is the TAMC?

Learning the ins and outs of how Michigan’s public roads are managed requires getting to know the language used.

The Story of Preserving Michigan Pavements

Understanding how we got where we are today is key to answering the questions.

Funding Pavement Preservation

Michigan is a national leader in pavement preservation and asset management. So why do we have some of the worst roads in the country?

That’s Right! Funding!

For decades, Michigan has struggled to find enough funding to meet the needs of local and state roads. As the years have passed, road conditions have deteriorated and the cost to fix them keeps going up.

MDOT’s Capital Preventive Maintenance (CPM) program is one of the most robust programs in the nation. Yet, our road problem continues to grow as more roads become expensive to repair or to completely reconstruct. Michigan’s good roads stumble into fair condition while our fair roads fall into poor condition. 

Many assumed recent gas tax and registration fees would fix the problem. When the 2015 transportation funding package is fully implemented, won’t there be enough money? 

The following graphic from MDOT shows the pavement condition forecast for state-owned roads once the 2015 funding package is fully implemented.

The Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) 2018 Annual Report revealed that 41% of paved federal-aid roads are in poor condition, as compared to just 25% 12 years ago. That downward trend is projected to continue.

MDOT uses an asset management approach to guide spending decisions. Like all road agencies, MDOT has to balance priorities. 

These priorities include fixing roads motorists identify as poor, keeping bridges safe, improving traffic safety, reducing congestion and routine maintenance like snow removal. MDOT has a Capital Preventive Maintenance (CPM) budget dedicated to keeping Michigan’s roads in good and fair condition.

Every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition saves $6 to $14 in later repairs. Roads in worse condition are more costly to repair. 

There’s no doubt pavement preservation is a best practice and a wise investment. But, MDOT and local road agencies cannot ignore other road system needs to keep good roads good. 

It’s equally important to keep a fair road from falling into poor condition; which is typically the point of no return for less costly preventive maintenance options. Economic impact and traffic safety are also important factors considered by road agencies.  

The following chart shows MDOT’s investment levels in the Capital Preventive Maintenance (CPM) program. While the MDOT CPM program was one of the first with dedicated funding in the country, starting with an investment of $6 million in 1992, this historic funding chart begins with 2002. 

With PA 499 of 2002, the Michigan Legislature committed that all public roads in Michigan will be managed using the principles of asset management.  

From 2003 to 2006, MDOT’s CPM budget was increased as part of the Preserve First program. This helped MDOT achieve target goals for good and fair pavements. 

The target budget for preventive maintenance held steady at $89 million from 2007 to 2017.  From 2005 to 2018, in all but two years, MDOT invested more than $100 million annually into pavement preventive maintenance. As the 2015 road funding package guaranteed sustainable new revenue, MDOT nearly doubled the target level for CPM funding to $164 million over three years to prevent road conditions from getting worse. 

Unfortunately, without additional annual funding, MDOT cannot sustain this level of investment in their CPM program and still meet the increasing rehabilitation and reconstruction needs on Michigan’s interstates and other state trunklines. As more and more roads fall to fair and poor condition, this balancing act will become even more difficult. A strong Michigan economy requires MDOT to focus on reconstructing poor roads and replacing aging, weight-restricted bridges.

Without a significant increase in annual revenue for MDOT’s roads and bridges, the base target budget for preventive maintenance will return to $89 million in FY 2021.

The same level of funding budgeted for preventive maintenance in 2007!

How Much Money Is Needed Just for State Maintained Roads? 

The Transportation Asset Management Plan, released by MDOT in June 2019 describes the asset management process used in Michigan over the past three decades and the level of investment needed to reach the goals of 95% of interstates in good or fair condition and 85% of non-interstate National Highway System pavements in good or fair condition by 2028.  

Even with full implementation of the 2015 road funding package, based on current levels of deterioration, the Transportation Asset Management Plan includes projections that by 2028 the condition of interstate pavement would fall to just 60% good or fair condition, and other state highway conditions will fall to below 50% good or fair condition.