Approved road funding brings $4.48M to Macomb County, more to cities

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2018

 Potholes along Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores  have drivers slowing down to avoid popping a tire.

Potholes along Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores have drivers slowing down to avoid popping a tire.

File photo by Kristyne Demske

MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County drivers may see slightly better roads after the Michigan Legislature approved spending additional money on road repairs across the state, even if some think it is not enough.

The House of Representatives approved a $175 million bill on Feb. 21 with a unanimous vote that was then unanimously approved a week later by the Senate. The bill will see about $4.48 million be sent to Macomb County, with additional funds being issued to cities and villages in the county.

Macomb County is receiving the third most money of any county in the state after Wayne and Oakland counties. The three metro Detroit counties combine for more than a quarter of the total $68.4 million allocated for counties.

Another $38.1 million was allocated for cities and villages, but townships will not receive any funds, as they fall under the county road commissions. The remaining $68.4 million will be used for state roads.

The money is left over from a previous state government budget cycle, meaning the funding will not require budget cuts or additional taxes.

“I’d be hard-pressed to oppose any increase in funding for our local roads,” said Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township. “In Macomb County, our roads are beat-up and in terrible condition. This is the worst I have seen it, and I can’t imagine the wear and tear on people’s vehicles.

“When you see people going 10 mph down Mound Road and pumping their breaks to stop from going into a crater, that is absolutely unacceptable, and we deserve a heck of a lot better.”

Still, Marino said it is only a start, as it would probably take more than $1 billion to completely fix Macomb County roads. And for Marino, who represents Harrison Township as well as portions of Clinton and Macomb townships, his district won’t get money because they are townships.

“When you look at the entire package, townships won’t receive a dime, and Clinton Township has over 100,000 people, so overall, I would call it a start,” Marino said. “The 2015 roads package is designed to put $1.2 billion into the roads, but our roads have become so dilapidated, and conditions are even more critical.”

Warren will received the most money of the cities and villages in Macomb County, with an estimated $924,337 earmarked for the city. Sterling Heights will receive around $810,000, while St. Clair Shores will get nearly $378,000.

Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, said along with the $175 million, he also supported pulling more money from the state’s rainy day fund that was not approved. Hertel also represents Eastpointe.

“What we are experiencing right now is decades of neglect with the infrastructure across the state,” Hertel said. “The 2015 roads plan, experts said that would help to maintain our current roads, but not actually improve them. The longer we wait to fix the problem, it only becomes more expensive.”

Hertel said there is a “complete underfunding” of the state’s infrastructure, and recent commercial tax breaks haven’t helped the matter. Overall, he said, investing in the infrastructure would benefit every resident and business

“We know this is a problem, but the question is, ‘How do you address it right?’ and we need to invest,” he said. “I think we have to look at a much larger picture that works for everybody here in Michigan.”

In February, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that asked Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and state leaders to focus on improving roads before looking at improving regional transit.

Around the same time, several Macomb County officials met in Sterling Heights and discussed the road conditions in the county.

Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, represents Richmond, most of Macomb Township and other neighboring townships. Yaroch said it made sense to make the move now to advance road funding as opposed to waiting until next year’s budget.

Yaroch said he is working on legislation that would help townships get money, but right now, he said, local, county and state governments need to work together to address the problem.

“We all need to be partners in dealing with our roads,” Yaroch said. “With our roads, we needed more assistance out quicker. I know we have a real problem in Macomb County, so I wanted to help get the money out there now.”