How can Michigan’s economy move if its roads are riddled with potholes?

An economic development official describes Michigan’s roads as “Third World.”

The second payment in

our Michigan 10.0 series

explores why Michigan’s roads and bridges are in such poor condition and how to fix them.

Birgit Klohs, president of Grand Rapids-based economic development group The Right Place Inc., says Michigan’s road conditions make it difficult to attract businesses.

“You bring a company in, you put it in a car, and the first thing it does is hit potholes,” Klohs said. “We drive on Third World roads, and that’s supposed to be the impression they have of us?”

Michigan is near the bottom for state and local road funding per capita


Read the series: Our Michigan 10.0 series explores the top 10 issues holding back Michigan’s economy. This month, the focus is on Michigan’s struggling highway system.

Chat with us live: Join us for a live chat at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on the roads. Ask questions of Rich Studley, president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and Mike Nystrom of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.

Lend your mind: We perpetuate the fine tradition of political cartooning with a pothole cartoon. You write the caption.

press journalist

Kyla King’s story looks at some ideas for fixing our damaged roads

and, by extension, our economy. (Take the Sunday newspaper for the full package).

Suggestions include:

Raise the gas tax?
Funding for the roads comes from vehicle registration fees, the federal gasoline tax of 18 cents per gallon, and the state fuel tax of 19 cents per gallon. So while increasingly fuel-efficient cars are undoubtedly better for the planet, it means problems for road maintenance, as motorists end up buying less gas.

Most sources agreed that raising the gas tax would be, at best, a temporary fix. Chelsea State Representative Pam Byrnes introduced a bill to raise the tax. “In the immediate term, most cars will continue to use gasoline.”

Introduce a mileage tax?
U.S. Representative Vern Ehlers, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “I’ve suggested for years that a tax on mileage driven, rather than gas used, is the answer. .”

The idea caught on, and as consumers continue to move away from gas guzzlers (moment of silence for Hummer), expect to hear more of it in the years to come, and expect it to do controversy.

Why? As King reports in The Press:

This means charging for kilometers traveled, either by satellite tracking or with devices placed on cars that are read by transponders placed along the roads…

Consider logistical and confidentiality implications.

Start collecting tolls?
Michigan has never had tolls on its highways, but state leaders are starting to warm to the idea. As King reports, the concept of a toll road could refer to traditional toll highways like those in nearby Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Tolls could be applied to high-volume highways such as I-75 in Wayne and Monroe counties, I-275 in Oakland County, I-94 in Washtenaw and Macomb, and I-96 in Wayne.

Could any of these ideas help get Michigan moving again, both literally and figuratively?