A Rural “Map” To Fix The Damn Roads

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance released a 5-part plan with recommendations on generating and distributing new state revenues for road and bridge construction in Michigan.

The Alliance’s “2019 Road Funding Principles” document calls on state lawmakers to dedicate new fuel taxes or fees to road and bridge construction under regional funding models that are equitable for Northern Michigan. The priorities were drafted in the wake of renewed calls in Lansing for more dedicated revenue – including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax 45 cents per gallon to raise an additional $1.5 billion for roads.

“The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance has strongly and consistently advocated for strengthening Michigan’s infrastructure including its road and bridges,” Chamber Alliance Government Relations Director Kent Wood said. “As state lawmakers begin to discuss new and expanded revenue streams for road construction, it is critical that these measures are soundly administered and distributed to ensure that Northern Michigan receives sufficient funding for its transportation network to accommodate our area’s large visitor influx, and help deliver goods and services outside our region.”

The Alliance’s recommendations cover five specific areas in the road funding debate and the various proposals being discussed in the Michigan Legislature. They include:

  1. Dedicating New Revenue
  • The Alliance states that any new revenue from an increase in fuel taxes or related fees be specifically dedicated to roads and bridges.
  • To ensure maximum impact of new revenue into construction, pre-construction costs should be properly aligned with the private sector.
  1. Ensure Regional Funding Models
  • If new funding is not distributed through the state’s traditional road funding formula of Public Act 51, the distribution model should account for rural highways, arterials and connectors that feed our regional economy including tourism, agriculture and delivery of other goods and services.
  • New revenue formulas should also consider our environmental factors including our longer, colder winters, added snow plowing and salt application, our extended frost/freeze cycles and deeper frost lines.
  • Any review committees or advisory boards on transportation funding should include sufficient representation from Northern Michigan.
  1. Develop a Plan for Local Roads

Road conditions chart_RED circle

  • As nearly 50 percent of Michigan’s local roads are rated in poor condition, additional fuel taxes and road revenues should be available for major local roads and corridors. This will ensure better equity for businesses and residents of rural communities who are assessed with a statewide fuel tax increase and that rural taxpayers see improvements in their local road conditions.
  1. Address the Road Construction Workforce Shortage
  • As Northern Michigan’s major road construction companies have been at capacity for the previous two construction season, it’s imperative to address the work force shortage to ensure that new road revenues will actually lead to additional road construction.
  1. Maintain Michigan’s Top 10 Business Tax Structure
  • New road funding should not impact Michigan’s position as a recent Top 10 state for business taxes. It’s imperative that we maintain a predictable business tax structure for small and medium-sized businesses that are the foundation of Northern Michigan’s economy.

About the Alliance

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance spans 14 counties and represents nearly 8,000 members of Northern Michigan’s business community. It’s composed of the Chambers of Commerce in Traverse City, Alpena, Benzie County, Cadillac, Charlevoix, Gaylord, Manistee and Petoskey and the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County. Associate members include the chambers in Elk Rapids, Harbor Springs, Boyne Area, Cheboygan, Sault Area and East Jordan.

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