A study from a trade group says Michigan is facing a $3.9 billion funding gap for its lousy roads. (Bridge file photo)
  • Michigan is underfunding road repairs by up to $3.9 billion per year, study by construction trade group finds
  • Solutions may not be popular: It’s either one tax or another
  • Gov. Whitmer has been wary of tax increases after her gas tax proposal bombed early in her tenure

LANSING — Michigan officials need to spend up to $3.9 billion more per year to fully fund road repairs, according to projections released Tuesday by a construction trade group.

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

The estimate from the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association is an update from the $2.2 billion gap projected in a 2016 study of needs commissioned by then-Gov. Rick Snyder.

The study explored several remedies, none of which likely would be politically popular, including big hikes on the gas tax, raising the sales tax, allowing communities to pursue sales tax increases and assessing a tax on vehicle miles driven.


Even when accounting for additional state and federal funds put toward infrastructure spending, the estimated annual funding gap is now $2.1 billion to $3.9 billion per year, the study concluded.

Failure to fix and maintain existing roads before they deteriorate further would significantly increase the state’s additional road funding needs, potentially up to $11 billion annually, the study concluded.  

Currently, 33 percent of Michigan state-operated roads eligible for federal aid are in poor condition, according to the state’s Transportation Asset Management Council. Local roads funded by cities and counties are in worse shape, with 45 percent in poor condition. 

Michigan’s infrastructure is primarily funded by a 27.2 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. The state has the seventh-highest per-gallon tax in the country, in part because the 6 percent sales tax applies to fuel.

State gas taxes and registration fees increased slightly under a road funding plan signed by Snyder in 2015, and a 2019 bonding program initiated by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer raised $3.5 billion for highways. 

Michigan is also poised to receive $7.3 billion in one-time funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Other efforts to raise more money in the last decade have fallen flat. 

A 2015 ballot initiative to raise new revenue for roads was walloped at the ballot box, and a proposal by Whitmer to raise the gas tax by 45 cents was panned by lawmakers. 

Funding options explored in the study, conducted by the firm Public Sector Consultants on behalf of the association, included:

  • Raising the gas tax by 39 cents per gallon to 74 cents per gallon
  • Increasing the sales tax by 2 percent to 3 percent to fix roads, which would require a constitutional amendment 
  • Implementing a tax of 3 cents to 5 cents per mile for every vehicle mile traveled

Whitmer, who won office in 2018 on a pledge to fix roads, told Bridge Michigan last year that she’s not planning on pursuing another major gas tax hike. But she expressed interest in other taxes, including a fee on vehicle miles.

Michigan officials are also mulling a tolling study that in theory could generate up to $1 billion per year for maintaining roads if 14 of the state’s 31 highways were converted into toll roads.

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1 Comment

  1. Of course a construction trade group’s study is to spend way more on roads. The issue is that we’ve overbuilt our road networks without a plan to maintain them. Then we’ve also got bad deals where developers hand off responsibilities of road maintenance to cities and counties only for them to find that the bump in tax revenue doesn’t sustain long term maintenance.

    Article doesn’t mention that though. They only mention how we need to keep pouring dollars into roads. We’ll find that by doing that we will spend more on roads than anybody and then we’ll all be pointing fingers as to why the roads aren’t fixed up like we were promised.

    We’ll never build our way out of this without bankrupting the State. We need to think smarter about how we do this and stop reaching out our hand for federal money to save us from our perpetually bad financial decisions.

    First step is to halt expansionist plans for roadways in my opinion. It has been proven that they don’t solve the traffic issues and they cost us in the long term.

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