Current Road Funding Plan “Not Enough” Says Westland Mayor: Is It Time For A Regional Approach?

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Roads are a contentious issue in Michigan. Although it looks like the Michigan Legislature is on its way to allocating some money for road maintenance and improvements ($400 million in this current budget) it’s nowhere near the $1.2 billion-plus experts say is going to be needed to truly take care of Michigan’s roads on an annual basis.

Westland Mayor Bill Wild thinks that the various mayors of the Detroit region should have a seat at the table. According to the current the road funding formula under Act 51, the road improvements (even if more revenue is raised) aren’t going to hit main street very much.

We asked Mayor Wild directly if what the legislature is doing is enough, and if they don’t act, should the region act on its own, as well as about the idea that the money as it’s distributed now wouldn’t necessarily go to main street and be more focused on freeways and the like.

Daily: So let’s talk about how you think mayors in the Detroit region should be involved in the road funding process.

Wild: What I’ve been trying to say is that as the state legislators cycle back to take another bite at the apple on road funding is that they need to bring mayors to the table. Mayors are the folks that are closest to the residents. They’re the people that were on the street the day people were voting so I think we have a unique perspective on how the voters feel so what I’m trying to say is that I think mayors need to be at the table as we craft the plan B.

Westland Mayor Bill Wild at the Mackinac Policy Conference
Westland Mayor Bill Wild at the Mackinac Policy Conference


Daily: With mayors at the table, what are the kinds of things that mayors would advocate for? 

Wild: Well the one thing I think that’s going to be very important is the messaging of the second plan. Another thing too is a lot of residents, as we talk $1.2 billion in roads, they think that the road in their neighborhood’s going to get fixed so we need to be taking a look at that Act 51 formula too so that as we put together this plan, we figure out how besides just the highways and the expressways and bridges, we getting those roads fixed back on main street as well.

Daily: Let’s talk about Act 51. What does that mean to the uninitiated?

Wild: That’s the formula where roads money is collected through the users tax and the gas tax. That money comes back to Lansing and it’s sent out throughout the state in a formula. That’s why what you see is that sometimes roads maybe in the northern part of Michigan that the roads are replaced every couple years where maybe down in southeast Michigan you see the roads continue to deteriorate. Under the current formula, it’s all based on being fair and there’s nothing wrong with that but I think as we fix the roads we have now, we gotta take a look at putting the money where the need is.

Daily: How could regional cooperation play a role in funding roads?

Wild: I’m a big believer in regional cooperation and we share services with a lot of different communities. I think mayors in general are collaborative. The roads are one of the big issues that we need to be working with the state on because mayors can play a big role with that. At the end of the day, if the state can’t come up with the solution on roads, perhaps it’s going to take a regional solution and I think that mayors could play a part on that as well.

Daily: What would a regional road funding solution look like?

Wild: That’s something that at some point we may have to investigate. At this point, if you take a look at that Act 51 road funding, perhaps that’s the way that a regional [approach] could become part of the solution as well.

Daily: So bottom line. Is the plan in the legislature right now enough?

Wild: I don’t think so, I think what we’re talking about now is a short term solution. I do see that legislature carved out some money in the current budget. While that’s a good start, we were talking that we need $1.2 billion annually. So while it’s a good first start, it is only one time money.

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