Michigan county road leaders disappointed state leaders won't reach road funding deal

Bridge improvements underway on M-89 over the Kalamazoo River in Allegan. (WWMT/Mike Krafcik)

The governor and legislative leaders agreed over the weekend to make finishing the 2020 budget their first priority, even if it means a road funding deal is not reached before Oct. 1.

Several leaders of local county road commissions in Michigan said they're disappointed in the legislature's decision to table road funding before the state budget is done. County and local roads make up 75% of Michigan's transportation system and many are in need of serious repair.

“I don’t think we can kick the can down the road much longer as a state,” said County Road Association of Michigan Associate Director Denise Donohue said

Calhoun County Road Commission Managing Director John Midgley said the inaction by leaders could impact his department's budget.

“Our budget for 2020 is being developed right now. It will affect us in future years if it is not addressed,” Midgley said.

The Allegan County Road Commission receives about 35% of its revenue from the state transportation fund.

Allegan County Road Commission Managing Director Craig Atwood said it was depending on additional state funding to help fund repairs for resurfacing roads in tough shape. The department is currently in the process of finalizing a $34 million budget for 2020.

"We had high hopes for the next few years to do some roadwork. This puts a damper on it," Atwood said.

In May 2019, the County Road Association of Michigan released a report that concluded $2 billion more would need to be invested to improve Michigan's county roads and bridges.

The report, entitled the County Road Investment Plan, comes from the County Road Association of Michigan. The association is made up of county road officials who oversee about 75% of Michigan’s roads.

According to the County Road Investment Plan, the data shows more than 64% of local and primary county roads (31,000 miles) ineligible for federal aid are in poor condition.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders agree more road funding is needed, but still can't agree on a solution.

"My hope is they'll continue discussions and come up with a solution for the future that’s sustainable," said Atwood.

Michigan Department of Transportation Southwest Region spokesperson Nick Schrippa said the department has a five-year plan designed around the funding they get each year.

"We will continue to deliver as many of those projects and address as many needs as possible with the funding we’ll receive this year." said Schrippa.