What does Lansing’s road bill mean for GR?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After working for 18-hours, the state legislature passed a roads bill in Lansing early Friday morning.

The bill would raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and would generate $1.3 billion more into transportation infrastructure and at least $300 million more into schools.

However, the boost in funding is contingent on Michigan voters passing a ballot proposal this coming May.

“The disappointment for us is really two-fold. One, revenues don’t start coming to roads immediate which they would have under the Senate bill. And then secondly, it is still entirely dependent on a statewide vote on the constitutional question of raising the sales tax,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

In May, Grand Rapids voters approved a 15 year extension to the city income tax which will raise nearly $10 million a year for city roads.

“Our citizens have already done their job and now their being asked to vote again for money for roads,” Heartwell said.

The city already gets about six million a year from the state, but the mayor says the city needs $22 million a year to get the roads into good condition.

“Our plan is entirely dependent on the state meeting their responsibilities that are coming up with the revenue necessary to pay for their share of the roads,” Heartwell said.

If the ballot measure doesn’t pass this coming May, the city will fall about six million dollars a year short from what it needs for road repairs.

“If we don’t have the six million dollars we will just have to make do and we are still going to have streets that look like wagon wheel rutted roads from the old west,” Heartwell said.

But it’s not just the city that now has to sit and wait on voters. The Kent County Road Commission is in the same boat.

“We’re encouraged that a compromise was finally reached I guess we would all hope in the industry we would have seen something more certain,” said Steve Warren the Managing Director of the Kent County Road Commission.

It’s been estimated the road commission would get $18 million per year if the proposal passes.

“We certainly need those funds to revues the trend of deterioration and get our roads back into a safer better condition, county wide,” Warren said.

Warren said in 2004 the road commission considered about 90 percent of its roads in good condition. That is no longer the case.

“We’re at about 35 percent of our roads in poor conditions. So we went from about 10 percent poor to about 35 percent poor. So a substantial increase,” Warren said. “Without these additional funds we would anticipate that over half of our roads would be in poor condition over the next 10 to 15 years.”

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