The disrepair of our roads has been discussed here many times, and new reports on the problem keep coming. One from inside the state and another from outside.
We especially enjoy the latter report coming from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which we have posted below.
Inside the report, Michigan is given some special attention: "The Michigan DOT Asset Management program encompasses all the physical transportation assets in the state, including more than 9,700 miles of road, 5,679 bridges, 450,000 signs, 4,025 traffic lights, 8 million linear feet of guardrails, 83 rest areas, 13 travel information centers, 85 roadside parks, 27 scenic turnouts, and more.
The program is built around five major functions: policy goals and objectives, information and data collection, planning and programming; program delivery, and monitoring and reporting.
[MDOT Chief Kirk] Steudle said the program begins with setting a broad policy about the current condition of the asset and then setting a goal for where you want that asset to be within a specific time frame. For Michigan, the goal was to increase the condition of all its roads and highways, moving from 65 percent of state roads in good condition in 1997 to 90 percent in 2007. Pavement preservation was the primary tool for achieving that goal.
The department met its 90 percent goal and improved to 92 percent in 2008. A similar goal-driven asset management process is now underway for the state’s bridges. "
We appreciate that the state has met its goals. But how ambitious were these targets? Anyway, it continues:
"Michigan has a statewide Transportation Asset Management Council, which brings together all the agencies in the state that have jurisdiction over roads. Its purpose is to broaden the use of transportation asset management throughout the state and ensure that groups are working together, sharing methodology, collecting the same data, and speaking the same language."
To read this, you'd think things were going pretty well here. But we question the association’s heed to the head of a somewhat failed department, MDOT.
The association sees higher taxes/more revenue as a solution for the ailing roads as it sits with net assets - this is the association we're talking about - of $14 million in its FY 2007 tax filing. It paid out over $20 million to one consultant that year, Info Tech of Gainesville, Fla. And the association's executive director, John Horsley, was paid a package worth $400,000. And this is the group that just let us know that, well, our roads are pretty bad and transportation departments need more money.
It's hard to understand sometimes, these lofty places that hand down our public policy. Perhaps they could do a better job of explaining, and perhaps we could try a little harder to grasp their ideas. And ask more questions, hard questions, that force an actual response rather than a buck-passing non sequitur.