FACT: One-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes are due at least in part to poor road conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Michigan’s Roads

Have a question that isn’t covered here?

Ask the Michigan Transportation Team and we’ll answer it!

Q: Does the 6% sales tax on gas go towards Michigan’s infrastructure?

A: No, not one penny of the sales tax that is collected on fuel sales is dedicated to roads and bridges…sales tax is constitutionally directed to schools and local units of government. (Source: House Fiscal Agency Memorandum, February 6, 2012)

Q. Where does all the extra money we pay for gas go?

A.  The Michigan gas tax is set at a flat rate of 19 cents per gallon. As the price of fuel goes up, no extra money flows into the Michigan Transportation Fund. The amount that is collected on sales tax goes up, because that is based on a percentage (6 percent). However, not a penny of the sales tax revenue is dedicated to transportation. (Source: House Fiscal Agency Memorandum, February 6, 2012)

Q: Why do roads in other states seem to be so much better than those in Michigan?

A: Michigan has a unique climate and geography that affects the condition of our roads. Other states fund their roads with higher user fees than those in Michigan and allow for many more local funding options. One cent of gas tax = $45 million collected; and, therefore, it’s easy to understand why roads in Wisconsin ($0.32/gallon) and Ohio ($0.28/gallon) have better roads than Michigan ($0.19/gallon). (Source: Common Sense Junction & American Petroleum Institute Gasoline Sales & Excise Tax by State as of July 1, 2011)

Q: Wouldn’t there be enough money if we just stopped wasting it in certain areas?

A: Often times funding is specifically dedicated to be spent in certain areas, such as cable guardrail (highway safety funding), bike paths (recreation funding) and sidewalks (safe routes to school funding). (Source: MDOT 2011 Citizen Guide)

Q: Why does it cost so much to fix the roads?

A: In real inflation-adjusted dollars the revenue that is collected is equal to that which was collected in 1974; and yet, the cost of construction materials such as steel, cement, asphalt, and diesel fuel have escalated dramatically due to global demand. (Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: AASHTO )

Q: Why can’t road agencies like MDOT just become more efficient and spend their money more wisely?

A: Most road agencies have made significant changes to become leaner and more efficient with taxpayer dollars. (Source: Michigan DOT Efficiencies and Innovations, 2012)

Q: Why don’t we just use the general tax dollars that are already collected for transportation purposes?

A: Michigan’s general fund dollars are not specifically earmarked to be spent on transportation purposes. Therefore, this cannot be considered a long-term solution because of all of the other pressures and challenges associated with Michigan’s annual budget process. (Source: MDOT 2011 Citizen Guide)

Q: Can’t we just put toll roads in Michigan and solve the problem?

A: Since most of our highways were originally built and financed with federal funds, federal law prohibits them from being converted to toll roads that benefit the state. Only new highways, or new lanes on existing highways, could be tolled. This could be considered a future option in our toolbox. (Source: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Road Funding: Time for a Change, April 16, 2007)

Q: Why can’t contractors build high quality roads like they used to?

A: Contractors build our infrastructure per the road agency specifications exactly the way that the engineers design them. It is similar to a pharmacist filling a prescription exactly the way a doctor prescribes. No changes or modification are allowed without express approval by the owner’s representative. (For more information on how roads are built, visit Michigan Department of Transportation: From Plans to Pavement: How a Road is Built)

Q: Why does it seem like Michigan’s roads are constantly under construction?

A: Because of inadequate funding, road agencies have been stretched to the point of being forced to take on a “band-aid” approach to maintaining their system, which requires short-term repairs more frequently rather than complete reconstruction when needed.

Q: Why are some highways in good condition while other roads are not?

A: There are 120,000 miles of roads in Michigan. The $3 billion a year that is spent on Michigan’s roads is divided between MDOT, 83 counties and 533 municipalities across the state. (Source: Michigan Department of Transportation Fast Facts, Feb. 2011)

Q: Are Michigan’s heavy trucks the cause of our bad roads?

A: Michigan’s unique axle loading law disperses the load weight to do less damage to our roads. Actually only less than 5% of trucks on Michigan’s roads exceed the national standard of 80,000 pounds.(Source: MDOT website)

On the Just Fix The Roads blog, we looked into the myth that heavy trucks are the cause of Michigan’s bad roads, if you’re interested in learning more. For even more detail, check out this comprehensive study from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Q: What happens if we do nothing?

A: If we do not increase investment in transportation, we risk a future fiscal crisis. Currently 32% of Michigan’s roads are ranked in poor condition. It is estimated that by 2018 this number will jump to over 65%. Bringing a road from poor to good pavement condition costs 6 times more than it does to bring a road from fair to good condition. (Source: Michigan’s Roads Crisis: What will it Cost to Maintain Our Roads and Bridges?)

Q: What is the average additional cost to each Michigan driver for repairs and time stuck in traffic due to the poor condition of our roads?

A: $357/annually. (Source: The Road Information Program (TRIP) March 2012 Key Facts )

Q: How does transportation investment help me?

A: The benefit of infrastructure investment comes in the form of improved public safety, tens of thousands of jobs created and the foundation in place for economic growth to occur.



Latest News and Blog Posts

Come back frequently for the latest news on Michigan's roads crisis, along with blog posts from members of our coalition and others who agree: just fix the roads now!

How Much is Legislative Inaction on Road Funding Costing Us?
September 17, 2014
Legislative inaction on road funding is costing Michigan taxpayers $2.7 million per day.
Pothole Damage Claims Increased 249 Percent This Year
September 9, 2014
It shouldn't surprise us: lack of investment in infrastructure has resulted in an massive increase in pothole claims to the state.
SEMCOG: Michigan Lawmakers Need to Get On Fixing State’s Roads Now
September 8, 2014
SEMCOG urges legislative action on Michigan's roads
Editorial: Lawmakers clueless on Michigan’s road to ruin
September 3, 2014
The Michigan Legislature needs to pay attention to Michigan road funding, not wolves, according to this editorial by the Detroit Free Press.
Salt Prices Soar – Another Hit for Cash-Strapped Road Agencies
August 26, 2014
State and local road agencies are bracing for a massive increase in salt prices this year as they prepare for winter.
Susan J. Demas: Detroit flood isn’t enough to push GOP Legislature to lead on roads

After essentially taking the summer off to campaign, leaders have thrown up their hands on roads, which voters say is their No. 1 issue.
Metro Detroit Floods Expose Underinvestment in Infrastructure
August 13, 2014
Detroit Floods: Persistent underinvestment in infrastructure has dire consequences.