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Posted: 03/19/14

FIXING ROADS. Above, the Macomb County Department of Roads crew members patch up holes on 32 Mile Road leading into the Village of Romeo. County and state officials are seeking funding to repair roads ravaged by this year's winter.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Funding on its way for
winter-ravaged roads

Observer Staff Writer
      Michigan's 2013-14 winter may be leaving with its record snowfalls and cold temperatures, but is leaving behind one of the worst pothole seasons to date.
       County and state officials, though, are looking for solutions not only to patch up potholes, but the way the state funds its roadways. Relief is in sight as state lawmakers have agreed to spend $215 million on road maintenance and long-lasting repairs.
       Macomb County Department of Roads Director Bob Hoepfner said his crews have been working nonstop to patch up potholes, but believes the worst damage hasn't reared its head.
       "We haven't even seen the full extent of the repairs necessary yet," Hoepfner said. "Once we go through our good thaw, I believe we'll find out where all the problems are."
       Daily drives have transformed into obstacle courses, with drivers swerving to miss potholes on main and subdivision roads. In the northern end of the county, the Department of Roads will have to deal with the "washboard" effect on dirt roads as they thaw.
       "The citizens of the county are concerned about (roads), and rightfully so," Hoepfner said.
       The Macomb County Department of Roads has an annual budget of $100 million. Of that, $35 million is provided by the state, while other funds come from local governments and the federal gas tax.
       County Executive Mark Hackel agreed that the biggest issue residents have spoken about are the roads and how to fund them. He said additional funding from the state would go a long way to repairing roads.
       "It is the legislator's responsibility to figure out how do they deal with this funding, not wait for somebody else to come up with an idea," Hackel said. "My job is to fix the roads and maintain them if and when the money comes my way."
       Hackel said it would cost millions, if not a billion dollars, to repair roads and bridges in Macomb County alone.
       "Filling potholes is not the solution," he said. "We have some of the poorest roads in the entire country, and we have one of the lowest per-capita on spending for roads."
       State lawmakers passed a supplementary budget on March 12, the middle of the budget year, to use $115 million on shovel-ready projects and $100 million to relieve road departments with their stressed budgets.
       Roads are among the topics discussed when figuring out how to spend a nearly $1 billion surplus. District 33 Rep. Ken Goike said he would like to see as much of the state's extra general fund moneyĆ„ go directly to road funding, especially to county governments.
       "We have to be more responsible with our departments in Lansing so we can get more dollars under local control so that stuff can be fixed," he said.
       District 11 Senator Jack Brandenburg agreed the state's roads are a problem. For a more permanent solution, he said the formula for road funding<Public Act 51<should be reviewed and reworked to fix road funding.
       "We have to find a new funding mechanism for our roads," he said.
       For the surplus, he said he would like to use the surplus to roll back the income tax rate by a 10th of a point until it falls to 3.9 percent.
       "It would be $143 million dollars that would be posted against that surplus, so you'd still have $850 million to do whatever you want," he said. "It leaves $143 million in the hands of the private sector that doesn't have to be sent to run government."
       Both state legislators expect the state's budget to finish by June, which would decide how the surplus would be spent.
       In the meantime, the county is maintaining its guarantee to fix nasty potholes. Hackel said any calls from drivers that go through 911 to report an accident or damage from a pothole are reported to the Department of Roads. From there, the department will respond in an hour's time to repair the offending pothole.
       To report a pothole in the county, call (586) 463-8671.
       The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Retrieved 7/1/2015 at 12:42:09 PM.
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