Aerial view of Michigan highways

Aerial images of I-496 construction, in Lansing Michigan.

(The Center Square) – A report from the Reason Foundation released Thursday morning ranks Michigan’s state-managed roads 24th in the nation.

The 25th Annual Highway Report benchmarks the condition and cost-effectiveness of state highways in 13 categories, which include pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending per mile based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government for 2018.

“In safety and performance categories, Michigan ranks 14th in overall fatality rate, 41st in structurally deficient bridges, 26th in traffic congestion, 46th in urban Interstate percent in poor condition, and 42nd in rural Interstate pavement condition,” according to the report.

“On spending, Michigan ranks 15th in total spending per mile and 19th in capital and bridge costs per mile.”

Baruch Feigenbaum is lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation.

“To improve in the rankings, Michigan needs to improve its pavement condition and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges,” Feigenbaum said in the report.

“Michigan is in the bottom 10 for urban Interstate pavement condition, rural Interstate pavement condition, and structurally deficient bridges,” Feigenbaum continued.

Although Michigan’s highways are overall better than 32nd ranked Indiana and Pennsylvania, ranked 39th, they are still ranked below 22nd ranked Wisconsin.

“Michigan is doing worse than a comparable state like Ohio (ranks 13th), but better than others like Illinois (ranks 37th),” Feigenbaum said.

James Hohman is director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He noted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer campaigned heavily in 2016 to “fix the damn roads.”

However, he wrote in a blog post last week, spending on roads in the state has decreased significantly from historically high levels since Whitmer began her first term as governor.

Prior to January 2017, Hohman said road funding jumped 62% in the years immediately preceding Whitmer assuming office.

“Spending on road funding, excluding federal transfers, increased from $2.0 billion to $3.6 billion between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2018-19, a 62% increase when adjusted for inflation. Part of the increase came from a $600 million tax hike in 2015,” he wrote.

According to Hohman, road spending in the years immediately preceding the current administration was higher than the state’s previous peak during the 1970s. Road funding decreased by $43 million under Whitmer’s watch, he said.

In an email to The Center Square, Hohman elaborated.

“Michigan lawmakers have been spending a lot more on roads, and this shows up in Reason's rankings,” Hohman said. “Michigan's improved from 35th in 2008 to 24th overall in the most recent report. Unfortunately, progress has stalled under the state's road funding governor, and Michigan spends less than it did when she started.”

The report concludes North Dakota, Missouri and Kansas manage the top-three state-highway systems, while New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, and Massachusetts have the worst-performing state highway systems.

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.