MDOT Director: Roads getting worse as lawmakers argue over funding

Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan’s top transportation official said the state Legislature cannot wait much longer to boost funding for roads.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said the state’s infrastructure continues to crumble while lawmakers debate the issue. He testified Wednesday in front of a joint House committee studying the issue.

“They’re going to continue to get worse every year,” Steudle told reporters after the hearing. “So the worst part is, the longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost us to go forward.”

He said history is repeating itself.

“In (1994), ’95, people were screaming, saying we need to fix these,” said Steudle. “It got so bad that the general public said, ‘do something, raise the gas tax, do whatever, these roads are terrible.’ So we did. So we spent the next 20 years getting them into good condition, and now we’re just going to let them all deteriorate because we can’t take care of them.”

Officials said the state needs to boost funding for roads by more than a billion dollars a year just to keep them from getting worse. State lawmakers have been debating ways to raise that kind of money for two years.

But Steudle said he’s optimistic a deal can be reached.

“I was encouraged by the fact that we had a meeting,” he said. “This is good, everybody’s back, they’re here, they’re engaged. We’re not so much talking about, ‘boy you really don’t need this.’ I think even lawmakers said, ‘yeah, we need this, we need to do this.’ Now it’s, how do we do this?”

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder proposed increasing the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees to raise the money. That plan did not get support in the Legislature, and talks seem to have stalled.

Copyright 2013, MPRN