Road funding suggestions coming

November 7, 2008
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A statewide transportation funding taskforce will release its recommendations Monday on what needs to be done across Michigan to raise many more dollars for transportation infrastructure and transit services.

The Rapid CEO Peter Varga, a member of the taskforce, wouldn’t reveal any details of those recommendations. But he did say that the taskforce offered “an array of funding options” and that the cost to bring all the state’s roads and bridges back into good condition would take a doubling of the state’s $3 billion annual transportation budget.

Varga also said that if the state doesn’t increase funding immediately, Michigan stands to lose $1 billion in federal road money next year because the state’s coffers won’t have enough matching funds to be able to collect those dollars.

“There is not a simple answer. We can’t just look at the gas tax,” said Varga, who was appointed to the task force by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“We all know this is not the best climate to raise revenue in the state, but essentially, there is no choice. This is going to be one of the most important and courageous decisions we have to make,” he added.

Some earlier funding recommendations focused on turning over much of the revenue-raising task to local governments, such as counties, that would add things like surcharges to the gas tax and new fees to driver licenses. That new revenue then would be spent on transportation- and transit-related matters in a county.

“This requires communities to look at the issue and make some choices,” said Varga.

Varga said the state didn’t get itself into this transportation funding crisis by misspending dollars in previous years, because the state never had enough money to properly fix the problem. And he said that crisis extended to all aspects of transportation, including air travel and public transit.

“All of the things are in a serious crisis. We’re all traveling down the same road and it isn’t good,” he said.

Varga said the taskforce report will be available Monday on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Web page, which can be accessed at www.michigan.gov.

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