Last time we spoke about Michigan roads was when I found out that increased road funding for 2016 was supposed to come from the General Fund but was then backed out after Michigan legislators passed an infrastructure bill.  The question about that discussion was what did or will they do with the 400 plus million that was backed out of road funding and but back into our General Fund.  One of my listeners asked why we are not building better roads that will last longer.

Well here is your answer.

Michigan is considering using building methods and materials that could make Michigan roads last longer but at a much higher cost.

According to a published report from the Detroit Free Press The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is now attempting to find out whether it is cost-effective to build better roads that will last longer.

In the article we find out that most Michigan freeways are built for a 20-year life. MDOT is looking to possibly implementing some pilot projects this year which will build some sections of roads expected to last 30 and 50 years.

These experimental stretches of road are to be built in Genesee and Kent counties and are expected to provide smoother rides and require less maintenance.

MDOT is estimating that a 30-year road could cost 50% to 100% more, and a 50-year road could cost 85% to 150% more.  The cost difference depends on whether they are rural roads or urban roads.

The difference in building methods comes from the fact that a 30-year road will have at least 36 inches of sand and gravel to resist frost, up from 24 inches in the 20-year road.  The higher cost is linked to the increased amount of building materials that are needed.

Also the longer-life roads are to be built for better drainage and improved frost resistance.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, was one of the lawmakers who pushed MDOT to look at more durable roads in return for extra road funding.  Senator Colbeck stated on Friday that MDOT should be looking at new ways in which to make Michigan’s road last longer and he knows of a product that other states use to improve their states roads via an improved sealant to keep water from getting beneath the roads.  Senator Colbeck stated this improved sealant is expected to cost those states about 15% more but produce roads that last up to four times longer.

A MDOT spokesmen stated that MDOT is constantly looking at new innovations, but he's not aware of any states using a product similar to what the Senator described. He was quoted in the article stating:

If somebody broke the code and figured out how to do it cheaper and better, wouldn't everybody be doing it?

Michigan should do a cost benefit analysis to determine if we can build our roads better in the climate Michigan faces each year and at what cost.  If in the end it saves Michigan taxpayers money then we should choose to spend the increased amount to eventually save all of us taxpayer’s money.

The Live with Renk Show airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon. To let me know your thoughts during the show please call (269) 441-9595.