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Road commission uses millage dollars to meet future goals

In 2013 less than 20% of Grand Traverse County roads were considered to be in good condition, and less than 35% were in fair to good condition.

In 2013 Grand Traverse County voters approved a one-mill three year road improvement millage that raised taxes and generated around $3.5 million a year to help improve the roads.

Since it passed, the road commission set a goal to get the majority of Grand Traverse County roads in fair to good condition with 20 years. Because voters said ~yes, TM Road Commission Manager Jim Cook says they are well on their way to meeting that goal.

In 2013 less than 20% of Grand Traverse County roads were considered to be in good condition, and less than 35% were in fair to good condition.

Cook says those numbers are now significantly higher.

If you just look at where we TMve come in two years, we TMve gone from less than 35% being rated fair to good to about 54% rated fair to good, said Cook.

In 2014, the road commission spent around $5.5 million on road projects totaling up to around 53.25 miles.

In 2015 they plan to spend around $9 million to fix around 34 miles of road.

Cook says their priorities are with the roads that have the highest traffic volume, highest speeds, and ones that are considered most unsafe.

I think most reasonable taxpayers could look at what we TMve done and say, ~okay, yeah I TMve seen improvements, I see that you TMre doing responsible things with our taxpayer dollars, TM said Cook. But there are some people out there who disagree with our asset management plan because they don TMt believe in the concept of the idea that you have to prioritize. I mean it all comes down to where they live and again I totally appreciate that.

The plan doesn TMt necessarily target the roads that are in the worst condition, because Cook says those are the one that end up costing the most to fix.

We TMre trying to really focus on roads that rated say from a 4-6 because those are the roads we can fix the very very cheapest and extend the life you know five years or longer, said Cook.

So was it worth it for taxpayers to vote ~yes TM on the millage and pay the extra dollars toward fixing the roads?

Kent Wood from the Traverse City area Chamber of Commerce says the return on investment is seeing better road conditions, which also leads to cost savings down the road.

Something that we TMve heard from the Highway Safety Federation is that for every dollar that you do invest into the roads or into transportation, folks are likely to see up to $5.20 worth of savings, said Wood.

Wood says the savings can come in many forms.

Increase in productivity, it comes from not spending money on blown tires, not spending money on your axles and different things that can happen to your vehicle that are a result of poor roads, said Wood.

Wood says in a place like northern Michigan where ground transportation is so important, government and personal investment into our roads is key.

Because we rely so heavily on our roads for moving people, moving goods, moving services, we have to have a world class road network up here in order to grow and maintain a world class economy, said Wood.

Cook says the road commission is already committed to several projects for 2016. He says he estimates they TMll be spending another $9 million that year.

He says they have not made any decisions yet whether or not they TMll ask voters next fall to renew the millage.

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