Sara Swanson

Road Commission proposal on Nov. ballot – candidates for state house weigh in on roads issue

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Proposed road repairs in the WCRC millage proposal passes in November.

Proposed road repairs in the Manchester area if the WCRC millage proposal passes in November. See link below for complete, interactive map.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) recently announced that on Tuesday, November 8, Washtenaw County voters will have the opportunity to vote on a four-year road and non-motorized path millage that would fund approximately 200 miles of road improvements at an average cost of $35 per year for homeowners. If approved, every municipality and township would see road repairs. The millage would also provide funding to expand the County’s pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure.

The WCRC initially intended this mileage proposal to go on the August ballot. Read an earlier Mirror article on this proposal here.

Washtenaw County levied a similar 0.5 mill road tax (using Public Act 283) in 2015 and 2016 which funded approximately 140 miles of road improvements and allowed the WCRC to rebuild some of “the worst roads in the county,” such as Scio Church Road, Golfside Road, and North Territorial Road.

To see what road repair projects in the county this millage would fund, click here.

While many Manchester-area residents drive on roads all over the county, commuting into Ann Arbor to work or driving into Chelsea to shop and are concerned with more than just the roads immediately in our area, it is worth noting that the WCRC reports that if this millage passes, all four Manchester area townships will receive back more money in roadwork than we will pay in.

  • Manchester Township will pay in $224,000. Of that $44,800 will go to non-motorized roads and paths, $179,200 will go to roads, and $240,000 will be spent on roads in the township.
  • Bridgewater Township will pay $164,000. Of that $131,200 will go to pay for roads (20% going toward non-motorized roads & paths) and $221,000 will be spent on roads in the township.
  • In Sharon Township, residents will pay $176,000. Of that, $140,800 will be used toward roads (20% going toward non-motorized roads & paths), and $210,000 will be spent on roads.
  • In Freedom Township, residents will pay $192,000. Of that $153,600 will go toward roads (20% going toward non-motorized roads & paths) and $260,000 will be spent on roads in the Township.
  • Manchester Village, as all the municipalities in the county, will receive back what it pays in proportionally, which is approximately $31,000 per year.

WCRC explained why this millage is necessary even though the state approved a road funding package last November. “Between 1997 and 2015, there were no increases in state road funding which comprises a majority of WCRC’s revenue,” according to a release. “During these years, no adjustments were made to the fuel taxes to keep pace with inflation or to balance the reduction in gas tax revenue due to cars’ increased fuel efficiency.

“In November 2015, state lawmakers approved a package that will increase road funding. Unfortunately, road agencies will not receive the full amount of funding until 2021 and half the funding outlined in the package is not guaranteed. The proposed millage will help fill the funding gap while Washtenaw County awaits the full phase-in of new funding. Additionally, the millage will provide the County with a funding mechanism to continue improving county roads if state lawmakers do not fully actualize the road package.”

The two candidates for the local 52nd district state house of representatives seat, Donna Lasinski and Randy Clark, both weighed in on the road issue.

Photo courtesy of Donna Lasinski.

Photo courtesy of Donna Lasinski.

Donna Lasinski, the Democratic candidate for the 52nd district of the Michigan House of Representatives, expressed her concern over the lack of road funding available for state roads in 2017. “Despite the funding increases that were promised by the Republicans’ road plan, which passed by a narrow margin last year, drivers in 2017 will be paying $460 million more than they did in 2016, and are expected to pay $600 million more in subsequent years. In return, there will be $4 million less available for funding state roads in 2017,” she stated.

“Michiganders deserve to see where their money is going, yet they won’t see any substantial fixes to our state’s roads until the plan is fully funded in 2021,” said Lasinski. “However, even transportation experts in our state agree that this plan will not generate enough funding to fix deteriorating road conditions, like those we’ve seen across western Washtenaw County.” She continued, “The road funding plan, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015, is insufficient to fix Michigan’s roads. Despite experts estimating that at least $1.2 billion is necessary to be dedicated as transportation funding each year, less than half of that will be added in 2017. Meanwhile, beginning Jan.1, the cost to fill a 15-gallon tank will increase by about $1.10 and the annual vehicle registration cost of $100 will increase, on average, by $20.”

“Time and time again, Republicans in Lansing have failed to keep their promises to Michigan families, students and seniors, and this time is no different,” said Lasinski. “When I go to the Capitol, I will hold myself accountable to not only Washtenaw County but all of Michigan’s residents, because we simply deserve better.”

Photo courtesy of Randy Clark.

Photo courtesy of Randy Clark.

Randy Clark, Republican candidate for the 52nd district of the Michigan House of Representatives agrees that last year’s state funding package is not enough. Clark stated, “It is my opinion that Michigan roads have been neglected for decades, the recent proposal from Lansing provided a weak attempt to patch our major decay of Michigan roads and bridges. It does provide an increase in gas taxes and the associated increase in spending phased in over the coming years. I am generally against tax increases because of the negative impact on Michigan residents and businesses, this directly impacts our ability to attract new industry and commerce, but if we only increase gas taxes then it is truly more of a user fee than a general tax. I hope that the Governor’s office has taken the steps to ensure that MDOT is operating the most efficiently as possible, this is a huge department that moves slowly and creates plenty of red tape. Of course MDOT only deals with the highways and major trunk lines, all others are under the jurisdiction of the local county road commissions and cities.”

Clark explained, “I have met numerous times with Doug Fuller the chair of Washtenaw County Road Commission, it is his opinion that the state needs to spend at least three times the amount on an annual basis than what was just recently approved in Lansing. The question is where, does this multi-billion dollar pot of money come from? The people of Michigan spoke loud and clear on the recently defeated ballot proposal, that you just can’t expect the citizens of Michigan to shoulder the burden with newly levied taxes!”

“Regarding the county ballot proposal we are voting on this election cycle, the people of Washtenaw will decide if they are willing to tackle some local road issues without the State’s help. I think that the county road commission has the ability to get more work done with less cost than dealing with the large bureaucracy like MDOT,” Clark stated, and continued, “I look at the recent agreement to replace the Bemis Road Bridge which is a joint venture between Freedom and Bridgewater Townships, the county road commission along with county money being paid using the water resource commission. This type of multi-jurisdictional project is going to have to become the new normal if we are going to get these projects accomplished. I applaud the parties involved for coming to the table, stop the finger pointing and getting the job done! This is the type of working together that I would like to take to Lansing and attack the many statewide issues we are facing.”

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