MICHIGAN — Thursday morning, Governor Gretchen Whitmer's road funding plan got the stamp of approval from the Michigan State Transportation Commission. Wednesday night, Whitmer announced her decision to borrow billions of dollars for road repair during the State of the State address.
The criticism she faces for that decision comes from lawmakers who want to know how the bond money will be repaid. Thursday, all six members of the transportation commission agreed that, however it’s paid for, the funding is needed.
Whitmer's Rebuilding Michigan plan calls for $3.5 billion dollars in bond money. That's borrowed money that will go towards fixing state roads and bridges. On Wednesday, she said she took action since the legislature couldn't agree on a solution as the roads continue to deteriorate.
George Heartwell, a state transportation commissioner said, "Sometime between 5 and 10 years that curve -- road condition curve -- overtime begins to dip down. Roads begin to decline if you don't invest in them, and then after 10 years that curve accelerates."
He says the worse a road's condition is, the more expensive it is to fix. Michigan Department of Transportation chief administration officer Laura Mester says injecting billions into road funding, an estimated $7.3 billion over the next five years, will save taxpayers money in the long run.
"There is a cost savings related to inflation, interest rates are low, and the impact on the public," she said.
However, commissioners acknowledge the bond resolution is a short term fix and are still depending on the legislature to act.
Mester said, "I'm hopeful that before we get to five years that we have new long-term sustainable revenue source."
Mike Nystrom with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) spoke during public comment. He wanted it made clear that the money will not go to fix local and municipal roads.