ESCANABA - Some form of additional funding is needed to help finance local and state roads since the bodies governing them are sinking deeper in the budget pothole.
That was the message from Marty Fittante, spokesperson for Sen. Tom Casperson. He addressed the issue of road funding during the monthly joint governmental meeting of community leaders at Escanaba City Hall Wednesday.
Delta County Road Commission Manager Rob VanEffen posed the question, asking Fittante where road funding stands in the state. During the past two decades, the local road commission has downsized facilities and employees while roads have increased in the county and are getting in worse shape, he said.
Fittante said legislators have been working on how to move forward with road funding but no consensus has been reached. A task force has been developed and a proposal was created but nothing concrete has been decided as legislators backed off from the issue, he added.
Fittante said Casperson, who is chair of the transportation committee, and others have been looking at reforming Public Act 51 which governs state allocations for transportation programs. No other reforms are available and the only alternative is additional funding, added Fittante.
Gov. Rick Snyder also believes PA 51 is not serving its purpose, according to Fittante, who says a $1.4 billion deficit in the program is likely going to get worse.
VanEffen suggested a temporary fix of allocating a 10-cent road tax on gasoline "just to get us through."
Fittante said legislators continue to consider options which represent only a small part of the solution. More options need to be identified, such as surplus property sales, he said.
"We need a more comprehensive solution," Fittante added.
Escanaba City Manager Jim O'Toole noted the city budgeted for $250,000 worth of paving this year, which amounts to 4,000 feet of road.
The next joint meeting is scheduled for Nov. 7 at city hall.