2018-01-17 / Editorial

Funding shortage delays bridge repairs

Michigan’s roads and bridges are in bad shape. That’s hardly breaking news. We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know from your commuting experience on many of Lapeer County’s roadways and bridges, but what’s even more troubling is that conditions may get worse before they get better.

The bottom line is that there’s not enough money to do all the work that’s necessary, and when chunks of concrete fall from bridges onto vehicles below that tends to alter where scarce road dollars are allocated.

Released last spring a report issued by TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based national transportation advocacy organization, said 20 percent of state-maintained roads were in poor condition in 2016 and are expected to deteriorate significantly over the next three years, projecting 46 percent will be in poor condition by 2020.

According to the report, the Michigan Dept. of Transportation estimates the number of bridges rated in poor condition will increase by 50 percent between 2016 and 2023. This means the number of bridges in poor condition will increase from 236 to 354 in that time frame.

The 2015 legislation did not include needed reforms like lower and more uniform weight limits for heavy trucks, stricter enforcement of weight limits, improved design and construction specifications to ensure roads are more durable and last longer, and a more equitable formula for transportation dollars collected by the state and transferred to counties and local communities like Columbiaville.

Without the reforms, the additional revenue generated by the higher taxes and fees on Lapeer County drivers will not be nearly enough to improve the condition of our roads and bridges.

Despite the 2015 funding boost, numerous needed transportation projects in Michigan remain unfunded including repairs to the Second Street bridge in Columbiaville. The Village of Columbiaville has been applying for state grant money to apply toward repairs or replacement of the bridge over the Halloway Reservoir for 15 years, and the wait continues. Local officials were recently notified the Second Street bridge didn’t make the cut for funding through 2020. They hold out hope the word from Lansing will be in their favor in 2021, but they’re not holding their breath.

That’s a problem. Columbiaville Clerk Denise Baker said as a result local businesses are rerouting their delivery trucks to use the Marathon Road bridge and LakeVille Community Schools is not running their buses over the bridge in an effort to prolong it’s life. It’s estimated it will take about $3 million to repair the Second Street bridge.

The Village has lowered the maximum weight to 15 tons on the bridge that was built in 1934. The bridge received a rehab in 1990, but the years are catching up on the aging infrastructure. While it’s still safe to cross, it’s on the high end of its usable life and the repairs need to be made soon or Columbiaville could lose one of its main access roads if it should be forced to shut due to further deterioration.

According to Baker, a key element of each year’s grant application are letters of support from area business owners and residents. She encourages anyone who utilizes the bridge to file a letter of support, addressed to the Bay Region Bridge Council of the MDOT. Letters are due in May and can be dropped off or mailed to the Village of Columbiaville Office at 4605 Pine St.

It’s pitiful that taxpaying citizens should have to lobby their own state government to fix a bridge before it falls into greater disrepair.

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