Road Funding Problems

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Public Act 51

The state road funding formula, Public Act 51 (PA 51), determines how existing Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) dollars are distributed. Unfortunately, it's a law that has not substantially changed since 1951. Outdated provisions of PA 51 disproportionately divert MTF dollars to rural communities and dramatically disadvantage Southeast Michigan and other highly-populated areas of our state.

MTF Funding

The primary funding sources for the MTF are car registrations, fuel taxes, and state general fund transfers. While Michigan has systemically underfunded transportation infrastructure compared to surrounding states, more fuel-efficient cars and the emergence of electric vehicles mean that a significant funding source of the MTF is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Centerline Mile vs. Lane Mile

PA 51 dictates that MTF dollars be distributed based on the length of a road, not its width. This means that five-lane roads in developed areas receive the same funding per mile as two-lane roads in rural counties. As a result, developed counties like Macomb have been severely underfunded for many decades.   

No Funding to Developed Townships

Per PA 51, MTF dollars are roughly distributed as follows:

  • 39% to MDOT for work on M (state) roads
  • 39% to Counties for primary roads
  • 22% to Cities and Villages

PA 51 places the responsibility of primary roads under the jurisdiction of the Macomb County Department of Roads (MCDoR), which requires local communities to provide a 50 to 60% match. While cities and villages can allocate MTF dollars to meet match requirements, townships are forced to use scarce general fund dollars to match. 

Growth Matters

Developed communities like Clinton Township are confronted with aging infrastructure, limited revenue growth, and a declining fund balance. They are then forced to compete for limited road funding with high-growth townships to the North—where new and expanded roads mean further residential development, an expanding tax base, an increasing revenue stream, and, eventually, a more extensive road network to maintain.

Exploring the Cause of Potholes

Why are concrete roads, built in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, now cracked and full of potholes? Is it the quality of materials and the standard of workmanship? Or is it the equipment being used today? To some extent, it's all three! To find out why, read a former civil engineering president's explanation in this WHITE PAPER.

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