Our Infrastructure is an Investment
Every day Michigan motorists take our roads and bridges for granted. Most don’t consider the investment it takes to keep these structures in good repair.
Our infrastructure requires continual maintenance and improvement for safety and longevity. The upgrades and upkeep must be funded.
Eaton County Road Commission (ECRC) projects are funded in several ways:
- Michigan gas tax and registration fees
- Special assessment districts
- Economic development funds
- Critical Bridge Fund dollars
- Surface Transportation (STP) funds
- Cost-sharing with townships
Michigan helps fund ECRC functions
The state gas tax is assigned to the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), funneling money to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), county, city and village road agencies. These funds are the main source of operating revenue for ECRC. Today, the state gas tax produces less income than it did several years ago.
To counter inflation’s bite, several states increased their gas tax and charge motorists highway tolls. Unlike other states, Michigan does not use the toll road system. In 1997, Governor John Engler signed legislation raising the gas tax from 15 cents per gallon to 19 cents per gallon. Before the legislation, Michigan had not changed the gas tax since 1984.
Although traffic volume has increased, gas tax revenue has dropped because cars are more fuel-efficient. The result is more wear and tear on the roads and funding shortfalls. Delayed maintenance can lead to irreversible road and bridge deterioration.
Special Assessment Fees Pave Way for Better Roads
Occasionally a special assessment is used for a particular project, such as road paving. This provides property owner contributions from those benefiting from the project.
Special assessment districts are set up in two ways:
Land Owner Petition
Property owners representing a minimum of 51 percent of the front footage sign a petition asking for the road to be improved. The Board of County Road Commissioners verifies the need and develops specifications and costs. The board holds hearings to receive public comment and to adopt the assessment role.
Township Board Resolution
In the case of a township-initiated project, two public hearings are held. The first determines need and gives property owners an opportunity to petition against the project. Such a discontinuance must be signed by landowners representing at least 51 percent of the front footage along the road in question.
The second hearing is for citizen comment and adopting the assessment role.
TRANSPORTATION ECONOMIC FUND BRINGS HOME THE DOLLARS
The Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) includes state dollars authorized by the TEDF Act and is administered by MDOT.
The ECRC applies for TEDF assistance for three types of projects:
- Projects related to economic development opportunities in target industries such as agriculture or food processing, tourism, forestry, high-technology research, manufacturing or specified office centers.
- Improvements to expand the all-season road network and avoid disruptions resulting from seasonal weight restrictions.
- Improvements to upgrade roads that are rural-urban links improving safety and all-season capabilities on routes with heavy commercial traffic.
Twenty percent of a given TEDF project’s cost must come from local monies.
STATE AND FEDERAL DOLLARS FUND BRIDGE REPLACEMENT
County road commissions, cities and villages receive state and federal monies to help fund the replacement of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges that cannot safely carry traffic. The funds are limited and awarded on a statewide competitive basis.
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION ACT HELPS INCREASE FUNDING
Some federal road funding is provided under the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). These dollars are awarded on a competitive basis and local road commissions must provide matching funds to cover 20 percent of the actual construction costs.
TOWNSHIP MATCH MONIES
Each year townships may apply to ECRC for participation funds covering local road maintenance, construction or special assessment projects. These funds are based on township population and miles of local road.
To receive these dollars, a township must provide matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This match money can come from the township’s own funds, a special road millage or unique private/public contributions.
The ECRC annually sets the total amount of participation funds. Other countywide funding options include: county millages, vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes.
Residents are encouraged to attend any hearings or informational meetings on road and bridge projects in their area. It is a great opportunity to meet ECRC staff, get project updates and discuss concerns.
My property taxes go up every year, so why doesn’t the Road Commission fix my road?
The Road Commission does not receive any property tax revenues. Most property tax revenue goes to the State of Michigan and local school districts to pay for school operations. Small amounts of your property taxes fund general County and Township government administration, and special voted millages fund specific governmental functions, including the County jail, Township libraries and Central Dispatch (911).
The only tax money the Road Commission receives for road maintenance is distributed through the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) administered by the State of Michigan. State collected fuel taxes, license fees and vehicle registration fees, including all of those that you may pay, make up most of the MTF and is divided by law among the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan’s 83 counties and 534 cities and villages. MDOT receives approximately 40% for State programs.
While these funds help ECRC provide basic services such as grading on gravel roads, pothole patching and snow plowing, this level of funding does not allow the Road Commission to make significant improvements on most County Local Roads.
ECRC actively seeks State and Federal grant funds whenever available, and encourages participation in road improvement projects by other agencies and Township governments. Unfortunately for most local roads, most grant programs target funding to the main Primary County Roads, which are generally already paved and in fairly good condition, and most Township governments operate on a modest budget that can not provide the level of funding necessary to upgrade or pave many roads.