The Story of Preserving Michigan PavementsThe following timeline is the story of pavement preservation in Michigan. Anyone who has driven on Michigan’s roads agrees: our crumbling streets and highways don’t fit the picture of Pure Michigan. Motorists are paying more each year in car repairs; businesses have higher transportation costs and major companies have opted to locate in other states with better transportation systems. How did our roads get this bad? Michigan is a national leader in pavement preservation and asset management. So why do we have some of the worst roads in the country? This isn’t a Republican or Democrat failure. The problem of funding Michigan infrastructure has been building over several decades and missed opportunities span multiple administrations. The question now isn’t, “who should we blame?” The question we must ask ourselves is, “how do we fix the problem?” Understanding how we got to where we are today answers key questions, like:
- Why didn’t the 2015 road funding package provide enough revenue?
- Why does it keep getting more expensive to fix the roads?
- Why did Gov. Whitmer propose such a high gas tax increase, in such a short time span?
“We’re not talking about routine maintenance, such as snowplowing and grass-cutting,” he said. “We’re talking about preventive maintenance – those activities that can dramatically extend the life of a roadway.” That includes such activities such as topping a cracked road surface with a seal coat before it deteriorates further, lengthening the time until more extensive and expensive repairs are needed. “Before ISTEA, funding for maintenance was an anathema,” Osborne said.
“The Preserve First program also involved advancing a number of preservation projects from 2004 to the 2003 construction season, and the development of $350.0 million to $400.0 million in new preservation projects over a three-year period, 2004 to 2007. These projects would include capital preventive maintenance projects, highway reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, and bridge projects. Funds needed to develop these projects would come from the deferral of capacity improvement projects as well as from bonding.”Gov. Granholm approved the delayed capacity projects to move forward in July 2003.
“MDOT expects to have 91 percent of state freeways and 84 percent of non-freeways in good condition by 2007 and today is four years ahead of schedule of having 85 percent of non-freeway bridges in good condition by 2008. MDOT expects to have 87 percent of freeway bridges in good condition by 2008. State Transportation Director Gloria J. Jeff said that the Preserve First strategy of redirecting less than 10 percent of MDOT’s highway construction investment to added preservation projects, along with MDOT’s strategy of applying a combination of long, medium and short-term fixes, has given MDOT the ability to strategically address system needs in the most cost-effective manner possible.” … “Our FY 2005 program will continue to focus on preserving Michigan’s existing transportation system,” said Jeff. “At the same time, we recognize the need to balance preservation with economic development concerns, congestion issues, and our responsibility to deliver mobility and access with a comprehensive transportation system that includes public transit, passenger rail, air transport and freight logistics.”Unfortunately, over the decade to follow, a sustained level of funding was not made available to keep these roads in good condition.
- “Current/do nothing”: Michigan will invest an estimated $3.2 billion per year on its road and bridge system (as indicated below, in 2010, this number will drop significantly, because federal funds will be lost).
- “Good”: To improve the road and bridge system (including MDOT, county, and local systems) would require an estimated annual investment of $6.1 billion.
- “Better”: To bring the entire system to a “better” condition, which is essentially the best possible condition that system managers across the state can realistically envision, would require an estimated annual investment of $12.6 billion.
- “Best”: It was concluded that attaining the best possible condition for the system represents a grand vision that was not immediately quantifiable.
“Where the program started with approximately $6 million in funding the first year, by the end of the 1990s funding had grown to over $55 million and in recent years has fluctuated in a range from approximately $80 million to $100 million annually. This level of activity makes Michigan’s CPM program one of the largest, and possibly most successful, in the United States.”The study proved the effectiveness of the MDOT CPM program.
- “The primary intent of the CPM program is to postpone rehabilitation and reconstruction activities by extending the service life of the original pavement.
- “The results show that MDOT’s CPM program has generated an average savings of almost $310,000 per lane-mile for flexible pavements, and around $265,000 per lane-mile for composite pavements when compared to a rehabilitation-only strategy while providing service life extension of around 16 years.”
- “The findings support the contention that MDOT’s practice of maintaining existing good roads in good condition is both economically and environmentally sustainable.”
While pilot projects were approved for both 30-year and 50-year pavements, the study brought the conversation within the Legislature back to declining pavement conditions.
The following graphic provided by MDOT shows that even with full enactment of the 2015 road funding package, state-owned highway conditions will continue to deteriorate.
In March 2016, Gov. Snyder signed an Executive Order creating the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission.
In December 2016, a comprehensive 21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report was released.
The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission studied the comprehensive infrastructure needs of the state, not just transportation. Building on the successes of the TAMC, asset management was a significant focus of the commission.
“Asset management is not a new concept for Michigan; we have been recognized by the Federal Highway Administration as a national leader in statewide transportation asset management data collection and planning, through the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC), but additional work is needed to make the state a leader in systematic, holistic infrastructure asset management and planning (U.S. DOT FHA 2014).
A comprehensive review of transportation system needs always comes back to preservation! Keeping good roads good is the most cost-effective option. But, as the Commission found, it’s not the only benefit. Economic impact and traffic safety were also important outcomes.
“Investment in transportation infrastructure provides a significant economic impact. On average, every $1.00 invested in the transportation sector infrastructure has an estimated economic impact of $4.24. The sizeable economic benefits associated with infrastructure investment are not the only reason to invest. There is also a case to be made for making infrastructure improvements sooner rather than later because deferring infrastructure investment will actually make a project more expensive as the costs of infrastructure repair and or replacement increases as quality declines. As shown in Exhibit 12, spending $1 on pavement preservation when a road is in fair condition eliminates or delays spending $6 to $14 on reconstruction when it is in very poor condition.Value for money is important, but providing safe transportation systems is critical.” The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission suggested a goal of 95% good or fair for Interstates and principal arteries, 85% good or fair for other state highways; and 85% good or fair for county primary and major city roads. The Commission estimated that reaching these goals would require an increased level of investment of $2.2 billion annually to meet these pavement conditions and make critical bridge repairs.
- $1 billion of state funds annually for Interstate and U.S. freeways and bridges;
- $600 million of state funds annually for other state highways and bridges; and
- $600 million of state funds annually for other highly used roads and bridges under local jurisdiction.
In 2007, Michigan achieved established goals for the condition of state highways and bridges (90% good/fair) through asset management planning; however, the state has not been able to sustain that high level of performance. Through the roads package passed by the Michigan Legislature in 2015, beginning in 2017, an expected $450 million in new revenue from state gas taxes and vehicle registration fees will be distributed to more than 700 transportation agencies. That number rises to $600 million in 2018, and the full distribution of the entire $1.2 billion revenue package will occur in 2021. But even with these investments, an estimated $2.2 billion annual gap will remain. Closing this gap is essential to reach the state’s goals for road condition—95% good or fair condition for Interstates and principal arterials; 85% good or fair condition for state highways and bridges; and, 85% good or fair condition for local roads and bridges— and to ensure Michigan is building and maintaining 21st century transportation infrastructure.
Public Act 323 of 2018 was signed into law creating the MI Infrastructure Council to implement the recommendations of the 21st Century Infrastructure Council. Jessica Moy became the first executive director of the Council
As part of the FY 2020 budget process, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined the Fixing Michigan Roads Plan.Citing various studies that put the additional annual need for Michigan roads between $2.2 and $2.7 billion, Gov. Whitmer laid out a plan to incrementally increase the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon. This plan would generate $2.1 billion in additional revenue for a new Fixing Michigan Roads Fund which would distribute money based on national functional classification. This would ensure new revenue goes where the majority of vehicles travel. $1.5 billion of the $2.1 billion would go to MDOT. State roads are currently at only 78% good or fair condition and are forecast to get much worse. Within the next five years, MDOT roads in poor condition will double from 22 to 44%! In a Michigan Public Radio interview, Gov. Whitmer said, “The fact of the matter is, it’s a $2.5 billion problem today. We are at 78% of our roads in ‘good to fair’ condition. In just three years, that number is going to be closer to 50/50, and the price tag is going to be closer to $3.5 billion,” Whitmer said. MDOT has a sound asset management plan in place and a preventive maintenance program that continues to be a national model. Unfortunately, without the funding necessary to maintain and improve roads, the cost to bring the state’s pavements back to a combined good or fair condition increases each year. Gov. Whitmer’s plan provides a sustainable long‐term solution to improve state road conditions to 90% good or fair in 10 years. _____ Additional reports indicate the need is significant, and at least as high, if not higher than the dollar amount proposed in the FY 2020 Executive Budget proposal. In January 2019 the Michigan Consensus Project, led by former Republican Senator Ken Sikkema and Democratic Senator Bob Emerson, called for a 47-cent gas tax increase to be implemented over a period of years. The proposal would generate $2.7 billion in new revenue when fully implemented in 2028, meeting the recommendations of the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission. The Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan report, Evaluation of Michigan’s Options to Increase Road Funding made the following determinations.
- “Michigan’s roads are in relatively bad shape and without an infusion of new resources, they are destined to deteriorate further. In 2018, only 77% of state-operated roads were graded in “good” or “fair” condition. By 2025, that number is expected to drop below 50%.”
- “In the interim, road funding needs have grown. The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission estimated that road infrastructure needs $2.2 billion annual funding beyond the 2015 package to bring most roads up to at least fair condition.
- The Senate Fiscal Agency recently released a report that says even that might be an underestimate, as the state has continued to underinvest
in roadssince that report.”
- “Michigan’s roads now require an additional $2 billion dollars annually to fix because there are 20% more roads in poor condition today than there were in 2015.
- MDOT Pavement forecasts contained in the report indicate, “without additional funding the percentage of trunkline and local roads in poor condition will nearly double within 10 years, and could possibly include two-thirds of the State’s entire roadway system by 2028.”
- “To meet the SOGR for NHS bridges, an average additional investment of $32 million per year would be needed through 2028. This investment improves the condition of NHS bridges to 95% good or fair based
- To meet the SOGR for NHS pavement, an average additional investment of $1 billion per year would be needed through 2028. This is comprised of an additional $179 million per year for the Interstate system and an additional $821 million per year for the Non-Interstate NHS. This investment improves the condition of the Interstate routes to 95% good or fair, based on RSL, and improves the Non-Interstate NHS pavement conditions to 85% good/fair, based on RSL and PASER.
- Under the constrained investment strategy, however, the condition of Interstate pavement would fall to just 60% good or fair and Non-Interstate NHS condition would fall below 50% good or fair, based on their respective condition measures.”
In ConclusionIn a February 12, 2019 interview with Gongwer News Service, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said,
“Solving this crisis will not be easy. This is a challenge 30 years in the making, the result of underinvestment across multiple administrations. We need to act now before a catastrophe happens, and the situation becomes truly unrecoverable.”No matter what your politics are, we should all be able to agree on one thing. Michigan roads should never be allowed to become so damaged it’s impossible to bring the system back into good condition. As a state, we need to ask the question that was asked of the Michigan Legislature by the Transportation Funding Task Force in 2008. What kind of future do you want for Michigan? MDOT has asset management, pavement and bridge preservation plans in place that are regarded as a national model. The TAMC is working with local agencies to ensure all Act 51 agencies are implementing asset management plans. It’s just the funding piece of the puzzle that is missing! Without $2.5 billion in new annual funding, Michigan’s road agencies will not be able to reverse the trends and pavement and bridge conditions will continue to decline. MDOT’s documented need is at least $1.5 billion. This does not include additional needs of local road agencies and a multi-modal transportation system. This timeline does not look at bridges, but improvements to both MDOT and local agency bridges are critical. Without intervention, the deterioration of bridge conditions could soon leave Michigan in a position where we are required by the federal government to allocate federal aid to improve bridges instead of implementing the planned 5-year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This would restrict federal aid use by MDOT and local agencies, delaying planned improvements. Just 15 years ago, Michigan was on the cusp of 95% good condition on freeways and 85% good on non-freeway state highways. Today, it will take at least $2.5 billion annually over 10 years to reach a combined good and fair condition on those same roads! The cost to bring the most important roads to our economy back to the “good” condition they were in a decade ago is likely out of reach. Further deterioration will make an overall “fair” condition more difficult to obtain with each passing year. We cannot continue to delay difficult decisions!
Michigan should not be known for potholes.
We should be known for preventing them!