|Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law a series of bills for a Regional Transit Authority in southeast Michigan. (Photo: Hayley Roberts, Michigan Suburbs Alliance)|
One topic will be high on the agenda when Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his annual State of the State address in Lansing next week: How we’ll pay for transportation in Michigan.
The Republican governor, who set out to change the way Michigan invests in its road and transit network, is expected to unveil more details of his long-term strategy for fixing the state’s broken transportation system.
“The challenge is simple. Michigan’s infrastructure is deteriorating from a lack of investment,” Gov. Snyder said in his 2011 special message on infrastructure. “If we are going to reinvent Michigan’s economy, we have to reinvest in Michigan’s infrastructure.”
Michigan still trails behind other states that are investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to compete in a global marketplace: quality streets, commuter trains, rapid transit, and first-class passenger rail. Those states take advantage of a mix of funding options from federal, state, and local sources. The Wolverine State’s residents, visitors, and business leaders, meanwhile, still face crumbling roads, congestion, poor transit service, and delays at major airport and train stations.
Michigan’s transportation officials, relying on woefully unstable and dwindling funds from gas taxes, are unable to plan long-term projects or maintain what it already has. In fact, one study that narrowly focused on roads and bridges estimated that Michigan will need another $1.4 billion dollars annually just to keep its roads in adequate condition.
Inaction this year is really not an option. The longer we wait to fix roads, the worse they’ll become.
The Transportation for Michigan coalition—a broad set of groups including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Environmental Council and the Michigan Municipal League—wants to see funding changes that allow Michigan to invest in the entire system, including transit and non-motorized, and that give local communities more ways to pay for their own priorities.
Public support for more options remains high. Voters over the past few years have shown overwhelming support for transit millages in local communities all around the state. Demand for busses in trains grows despite uncoordinated service and long delays. And more and more young people and seniors are living in places where they can rely less on the automobile and more on biking, walking and riding buses and trains.
Those market signals should send a clear message to state policy-makers that many voters only support funding proposals that include a complete transportation system, not just roads.
Next week the governor will likely resurface his proposals from 2011, which include switching from a retail-based gas tax to wholesale-based tax and increasing the state’s license plate registration fees. With both proposals, the governor failed last year to gain enough support from the Legislature.
This new effort will test the Governor’s ability to harness broad public support for transportation reform and to work on both sides of the isle on an issue that transcends political boundaries.
Then it will be up to the Legislature to work together to create long-term transportation strategy will finally move Michigan forward.
You can track MLUI’s website over the next couple months for a special series of articles on transportation funding.
Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address is scheduled for January 16 at 7 p.m.