The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 16, 2016

Infrastructure shortfall amounts to $4 billion per year in Michigan

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's 21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report, released Dec. 4, highlights a state that is chronically underfunding and ignoring upkeep of its roads, bridges, water, sewer and electrical systems.

The state is to the point where it needs to spend an additional $4 billion per year on infrastructure work in order to close the gap with the U.S. average, the report says. Between 2010 and 2014, the average state spent 10.2 percent of their total expenditures on infrastructure investments, while Michigan spent 6.4 percent. Neighbors like Wisconsin (8.5 percent), Ohio (9.2 percent) and Indiana (9.3 percent) were much bigger spenders.

The report highlighted some of Michigan's deficiencies: the state has no less than 1,390 water systems, and most were built between 50 and 100 years ago and are in regular need of maintenance. Since 2008, an average of 5.7 billion gallons of untreated sewage flowed into the state's waterways every year. The state has 1,200 bridges that are deemed structurally deficient, and 39 percent of its roads are in poor condition.

"Michigan’s infrastructure investment gap exceeds $60 billion over the next 20 years with an annual investment gap of approximately $4 billion," the report says. "Relative to neighboring states and the U.S. average, Michigan under-invests in capital infrastructure spending at the state and local levels. Addressing this substantial gap will require a combination of local, state, federal, private, and user-fee investments.

“Our state’s infrastructure challenges are serious and wide-ranging, and we need to act with urgency to improve our infrastructure systems and make Michigan an even better place to live,” Snyder said. “Safe and reliable infrastructure is critically important to the health and well-being of the people of Michigan and will help support our growing economy in the future. Our state is poised to be a global leader in emerging technologies as we move forward in the 21st century, so it is essential that we have the infrastructure to match our goals.”

Michigan lawmakers have so far been snail-like when it comes to devoting greater resources to infrastructure work - but they're a leader in studying the issue. The state Legislature famously took four years to come up with a plan to raise gas taxes to fund road repairs in Michigan. And the plan they finally sent for Snyder's signature a year ago raises only $1.2 billion a year for road repairs - and that amount doesn't fully kick in until 2021. The state Department of Transportation said nearly double that amount is needed to undertake the necessary repairs.

Snyder's press release points out that Michigan is the first state in the nation to develop a list of comprehensive infrastructure recommendations. The 27-member commission’s report includes recommendations for all types of infrastructure systems, including transportation, water and storm water, wastewater treatment and drainage, energy, and communications infrastructure.

“The Commission was tasked with developing a visionary and bold plan," said commission Chairman Evan Weiner of the Edward C. Levy Co. "This plan is not just about what infrastructure we need to fix – it’s about where we want our infrastructure to be 30 to 50 years from now in order for it to be safer, more reliable, and more affordable for all Michiganders. Improved infrastructure systems mean better-paying jobs, healthier communities, and a stronger foundation for our kids in every region of the state. But if we keep waiting, the cost to update Michigan’s infrastructure and ensure a high-quality of life for years to come will only become more expensive.”