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Michigan County Road Investment Plan Concludes $1.84B Additional Annual Investment for County Road and Bridge Network

LANSING, MI — The County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan recently released its 2021 Michigan County Road Investment Plan, developed to give a comprehensive overview of the financial needs and investment necessary to maintain and restore Michigan’s county road and bridge network. Michigan has the nation’s fourth-largest local road system, and county road agencies are responsible for 75 percent of Michigan road miles and 52 percent of the bridges. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has 8 percent of the road miles and 42 percent of the bridges; and cities and villages have 17 percent of the roads and 6 percent of the bridges.

The 2021 Michigan County Road Investment Plan concluded:

  • The statewide target investment for counties’ 90,000-mile, 5,700-bridge local network now stands at $3.63 billion annually. This is up marginally over 2019’s $3.58-billion figure — despite two years of inflation.
  • Of that $3.63-billion total, $1.73 billion was directed to county roads in FY 2019, according to Public Act 51 reports. This means a $1.84-billion additional annual investment is needed now to achieve county road goals. This is down from 2019’s $2.05-billion additional figure — reflecting modest gains on the system through FY 2019 due to new road funding.

“When our work group gathered to review the plan, we were pleased its findings show that the 2015 Transportation Package has had a positive effect on slowing the rapid decline in the condition of Michigan county roads,” said Denise Donohue, CRA Director. “The additional dollars on primary and local roads — that county road agencies began receiving in 2017 — are making a difference with improved paved surface condition ratings being reported. It appears this is a result of treatments applied that are extending the service life of the road system and optimizing the investment on the roads.”

CRA has established the same condition goal for paved county roads as MDOT is utilizing:

  • 90 percent good/fair on federal aid-eligible roads by 2031. These roads (31,000 miles) currently have an average rating of 52 percent good/fair across all counties.

For the paved local road system CRA has set the following goal:

  • 60 percent good/fair on local, nonfederal aid-eligible roads by 2031. These roads (23,000 miles) currently have an average rating of 46 percent good/fair across all counties.
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The report studied six areas of need by county road agencies: bridges; buildings/maintenance facilities; maintenance work; equipment; federal aid-eligible roads; and nonfederal aid-eligible roads. The biggest improvements in condition showed up in the federal aid- and nonfederal aid-eligible roads. Costs were up slightly for buildings, equipment, and maintenance. Bridge costs were up, due largely to improved methodology by the consultant.

Counties’ 36,500 miles of unpaved roads are not included in the report’s ratings; however, the investment plan does include the cost of adding aggregate and grading. The investment plan addresses only funds needed to preserve and restore the current system, and does not contemplate system improvements (e.g., additional lanes, roundabouts, or paving gravel roads).

The Michigan County Road Investment Plan examined the financial needs of maintenance and capital investment on 90,000 miles of federal aid-eligible and nonfederal aid-eligible roads; more than 5,700 bridges; as well as the buildings, facilities, and equipment that are critical components to running an efficient county road agency. It is CRA’s second investment study conducted since 1985, when the state discontinued its Michigan Highway Needs Study. CRA’s first report was in 2019, and the association expects to update the report regularly in the future.

A licensed professional engineering consultant was engaged to perform the study for CRA during the first quarter of 2021, with assistance from a team of CRA member counties representing Baraga, Barry, Kent, and Oakland county road commissions.

“We are confident this data accurately reflects the current condition and investment needed to maintain and restore Michigan’s county road infrastructure to a condition acceptable and expected by the traveling public,” said Ed Noyola, CRA Deputy Director and Legislative Liaison. “Creating a road map — if you will— of realistic goals for maintaining and restoring the 75 percent of roads under county control requires good, current data, and we are pleased to be bringing this report to the table.”

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