HOW CLOSE IS MICHIGAN TO HAVING A PITTSBURGH BRIDGE?
It’s hard not to discuss the state of roads and bridges in the United States after we heard of Friday’s collapse of a bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
It is sad and ironic that on the same day the bridge collapsed, President Joe Biden traveled to Pittsburgh to tout the implementation of his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which only allocates $110 billion (9.17%) for what would be considered traditional infrastructure, U.S. roads, bridges and related projects.
The Wall Street Journal recently estimated 43,000 bridges in the United States need of repair at an estimated cost well above the $40 billion currently allocated for bridge repair in President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. The funding for roads and bridges is spread out over 10 years and is woefully inadequate. Hundreds of billions of dollars in the president’s transportation bill that are being spent on less-needed green energy initiatives and other programs could easily be reassigned to shore up this nation’s roads and bridges in a more timely fashion.
The three of us happen to live in Michigan, and on a daily and weekly basis, we drive across numerous urban and rural bridges, and as a result of what happened in Pittsburgh, we are greatly concerned about our safety and that of all Michiganders.
The Pittsburgh bridge collapse triggered us to dust off and read the Nov. 18 Reason Foundation’s annual highway report. Using the most current federal transportation department data, the report ranks all 50 U. S. states as to the safety, cost and upkeep of our nation’s roads, highways and bridges using a number of metrics (1 = best and 50 = worst). Below we explain how Michigan ranks both nationally and within the five Great Lakes region states for 10 of the metrics.
Michigan ranks No. 32 nationally in the amounts disbursed per mile for bridge and road maintenance. We are third among the Great Lakes region states, spending nearly $93,000 per mile annually. This is well above the national average of $83,714.
Michigan ranks No. 35 nationally in the cost to build new state-owned bridges and highways and upgrade or repair already existing bridges and highways. We are third among the five Great Lakes region states, spending $53,099 per mile annually. This also is well above the national average of $41,850 for this category.
The cost of procedural repairs to state-owned roads and bridges (such as repaving, filling in potholes, repairing guard rails, etc.) in Michigan is $13,849 per mile. That is less than the national average of $14,570, but well more than Ohio ($9,672) and Wisconsin ($11,752).
Michigan ranks 42nd nationally in terms of rural interstate pavement condition. We are fourth among the five Great Lakes region states, with 3.23% of our roads in this category in poor condition for the year. We also are well above the national average of 2% of roads in poor condition for this category.
Michigan ranks even worse for urban interstate pavement condition. Urban interstates are large, multi-lane highways within urban areas. These conditions are typically much worse than those of rural interstates. Michigan ranks 45th nationally and last among the five Great Lakes region states.
Michigan is No. 46 nationally in urbanized area congestion (how many hours an average auto user spends in congested traffic conditions in any given state annually). Most states attempt to accurately evaluate this using a peak hour volume-to-capacity ratio, as outlined in the U.S. Highway Capacity Manual. We are fourth among the Great Lakes region states for peak hours spent by commuters in urban traffic congestion at 42.07 hours, which is nearly double the national average of 23.83 hours for this category.
Regarding structurally deficient bridges, Michigan ranks 43rd nationally and last among the five Great Lakes region states with 10.82% of its bridges deemed to be structurally deficient. Michigan was considerably above the national average of 7.46% for this category. It is important to note, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in this category.
Michigan’s overall fatality rate ranks 14th nationally and third among the five Great Lakes region states with a fatality rate of .96% per 100 million vehicle miles driven annually. This is more than Wisconsin (.85%) and Illinois (.94%), but less than Indiana (.98%) and Ohio (1.01%). Michigan was below the national average of 1.11% fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven.
Michigan’s rural fatality rate ranks seventh nationally and best among the five Great Lakes region states, with .66% fatalities per hundred million rural vehicle miles driven. Michigan was substantially better than the national average of 1.26% for this category.
Our urban fatality rate ranks 25th nationally and fifth among the five Great Lakes region states, with a .74% fatality rate per 100 million urban vehicle miles driven. This is higher than Wisconsin (.49%), Ohio (.58%), Indiana (.61%) and Illinois (.72%). Michigan performed better than the national average of .82% for this category.
Michigan ranked No. 34 overall when considering all 13 metrics in 2021— down 10 spots from 2020
Michigan was fourth in the Great Lakes Region overall, ahead of only Illinois.
When one reflects more carefully on the Reason Foundation report, and the state of roads and bridges in Michigan, three thoughts come to mind. First, we have a governor who ran for office four years ago, with a major campaign slogan stating she would “fix the damn roads.” That clearly has not happened, and our roads have gotten worse based on the best available data. Our state Legislature bears responsibility for the current state of our roads and bridges as well. We need to demand more from our government, as we deserve better.
Second, Michigan was the 10th highest taxed state based on taxes and fees levied on a gallon of gasoline in 2021 according to the Tax Foundation. Are said tax dollars being used most effectively on our roads?
Third, there are thousands of miles of private roads across the state of Michigan like those inside the corporate campuses of companies like Dow, DuPont, General Motors, Whirlpool, and elsewhere. We should study how they build and maintain roads and bridges and to what degree they do a better job, which can hopefully help reduce the cost and help the state produce and maintain less costly and stronger, more durable roads and bridges. It is also important to note that many countries around the world have privately-run subways, toll roads, etc. that should be seriously explored here in Michigan and across the United States. This would reduce costs and improve quality while injecting competition into building and maintaining roads in Michigan and elsewhere.