For a real roads fix, Michigan must be creative

Michigan doesn’t spend enough money on its roads.

Not even close.

That’s what Paul Ajegba, the new director of the Michigan Department of Transportation told the Free Press last month. “The issue is not enough revenue for our needs.”

This week, in her State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer framed the challenge as a historic one: “We didn’t get here overnight. 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 or the situation becomes truly unrecoverable.”

Our state is unique in that it has spent much less on roads than other states for many years.  Michigan ranks dead last among the states for highway capital spending (construction, replacement and major alternations) since 2000 as measured by the Census Bureau.

Michigan spent an average of $155 per person per year compared to a national average of $300. Even more telling, the average was $343 for the other Great Lakes states.

Just to bring highway capital investment up to the national average would require about $1.5 billion more every year going forward.