Michigan bills consider tolls, local road funding aid

June 16, 2020

Keith Goble

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A bill package in the Michigan statehouse focuses on improving the effectiveness to fund repairs for state and local roads and bridges.

The legislative pursuit comes as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been unsuccessful in advancing her plan for a long-term road and bridge funding deal. The governor has called for a 45-cent increase to the state’s 26.3-cent fuel tax rate.

Study tolling interstates

One Senate-approved bill calls for setting up a panel to investigate the feasibility of charging tolls for roads and bridges.

Sponsored by Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, SB517 calls for state officials to hire an independent consulting firm to study the feasibility of collecting tolls on interstates.

Consideration would be given to the economic impact of toll roads, providing discounts to in-state drivers, toll amounts, and how to pay for the toll. The impact of tolls on out-of-state operators expected to use Michigan interstates would also be considered.

A written report on the firm’s findings would be provided to state officials within 18 months. At that time, the governor would be allowed to move forward with a “strategic plan” to implement tolls.

“SB517 is a bill designed to study tolls, not to institute tolls. It is simply to find the benefits and the disadvantages to tolling in our state,” Bizon said in testimony for the House Transportation Committee.

He added the state needs to find ways to get additional revenue from out-of-state drivers.

The Michigan Department of Transportation testified in support of the bill.

Road reporting

Two other pieces of legislation in the bill package also to clear the Senate cover road reporting requirements.

SB515 would require the Michigan DOT to develop a highway construction inflation index. The index would be used to measure inflation in highway construction costs.

The second bill, SB516, would expand asset management reporting requirements for local and state agencies. Essentially, the roads agency would be responsible for regularly updating its rolling five-year plan. Additionally, the agency would develop a 20-year plan that shows road construction strategy every 10 years.

The bills are in the House Transportation Committee.

Local roads

Two more bills halfway through the statehouse are touted to help maximize local road funds.

The first bill, SB518, would require all federal transportation funds received by the state to be spent by MDOT. An exception would be made for funds specifically allocated by the feds for local jurisdictions or funds allocated to local jurisdictions through a competitive process.

“With the state handling all federal transportation funds and reporting requirements, local agencies can then focus their resources more efficiently,” Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said in previous remarks.

The companion bill, SB519, would use state funds to replace the federal dollars directed to MDOT through SB518. Funds would be directed from the state to counties, cities, and villages.

Runestad said the two bills would give local transportation agencies improved flexibility to address pressing road repaving and repairs.

The bills also are in the House Transportation Committee.

More Land Line coverage of news from Michigan is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.