We've done a lot of roadtripping with the new (to us) camper this year. We've been to four state parks. In addition, we're currently up for a week at a rental cottage, and next month we'll be celebrating our five year anniversary by hitting a couple of touristy cities.
We're happy to be doing all of this traveling in the great state of Michigan. Our state hasn't gotten a lot of great press over the years, but it is a beautiful place. We have access to lakes everywhere. The Upper Peninsula, or U.P. as it's known, has miles of beautiful forests and lakes. Visiting just a few of these places has been great.
And it's been a little too easy.
For many years, the joke was always that there were two seasons in Michigan: Winter and Construction. If there wasn't snow and ice on the ground, there were orange barrels.
This year, with all of our travels, we've hit very few of them.
This is a good thing from the aspects of fuel, time, and avoiding keeping two kids in the car any longer than we have to.
But, there's a downside: It means our roads are getting older and more worn out.
In the 1990's our governor made a pledge to have 80% of the roads in ‘Good' or better condition. This promise was put into place and allowed for a tax increase at the pump, where there was a 19 cent per gallon gas tax (that was raised from something like 10, if memory serves). This brought in a lot of extra money and the roads steadily improved.
All was well until inflation hit. The problem with a flat per-gallon tax is that it never went up. Back when that tax was put in, gas was around $2 per gallon. Now, it's closer to $4 and the $0.19 stays the same.
The $0.19 also doesn't go as far as it used to. Everything costs more than it did in the 1990's. including roads. So, the pool of money that the tax brought in was able to fund fewer projects each year.
Oh, and about that pool, it actually started going down. A lot. Two reasons: Michigan started seeing population loss, meaning there were less people to fill up. That, and cars started getting a lot better fuel economy, meaning that people required less fuel.
All that has contributed to a lot less road construction. Those days of 80% of roads in ‘Good' condition is long gone. So, we have to figure out a way to start all over again. In fact, the situation is so grim that we may lose federal funding. See, the feds will kick in a good chunk of money as long as the state comes up with a certain amount. With that requirement inching up and our revenues inching down, we could lose even more federal matching.
That would be bad. Our governor actually brokered a deal where we have a second bridge to Canada being built that the Canadians are paying for. And, even though they're paying for it, the costs will be considered ‘expenditures' for the purposes of federal matching. Meaning, for at least the next couple of years, we'll be able to use Canadian money to help the money flow in from the feds.
Still, the system needs to be fixed.
I love driving without all the orange cones, but at the same time I realize that if those cones don't start reappearing, it's going to mean bad things for our infrastructure. So, I may be the only person in the world saying this, but I'm hoping that this lag in construction is only a temporary thing.
How are the roads where you live? Have you seen any slowdown in construction activity?