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by Ron

What a Mess

I get to see a lot of road maintenance projects from the driver's seat and I'm certainly not complaining about that.  Unfortunately roads in some of our nation's most scenic areas have to be repaired in the summer when traffic is at its heaviest.  Since my work in the Michigan Department of Transportation was in finance, I know that funding plays an important part in road repairs. Many folks do not know that federal highway funds are only distributed to the states for construction and not for maintenance. That's the federal gasoline tax that we all pay.  Unless the system has changed since I retired, the federal government pays 90 percent on interstate roads and 75 percent on US routes.. They will pay to reconstruct a federal highway. Consequently some states will let a highway deteriorate to the point that it has to be rebuilt because they don't have the funds to maintain it properly. It's like  neglecting the maintenance on your car and then having to replace it. 

That is apparently what happened in eastern Montana along US 2 just west of Chester. The road (a main federal route) was totally obliterated  for fourteen miles. There wasn't even a gravel base or tracks to follow. You do the math. Ten miles per hour for fourteen miles equates to over an hour of mud, washboard and many choice words. Barb says that I should have slowed to five miles per hour. There were no workers on the site and no way of detouring. I would have taken a hundred mile detour to avoid that abuse to our RV. Why did they stretch that project to 14 miles and better yet why did they wait so long to replace the road. My guess is money. Doing a longer stretch is cheaper for the contractor hence a lower bid (probably required by the Federal Highway Administration). Never mind the inconvenience and vehicle damage endured by the traveling public. It would have been better to do one mile at a time.  A friend once said that, "It's expensive to be poor." When maintenance is deferred or eliminated it costs more later.

A few weeks later we were going to dinner with our daughter and her husband traveling on I-96 in Michigan near Lansing. We thought that surely there was an accident when we were backed up for five miles. A half hour later we discovered that they had taken this busy three lane highway down to one lane for maintenance. They must have saved some money because there was no one working. I do know that many gallons of gasoline were used by frustrated motorists as they sat in this traffic jam. 

I think that we have a wonderful highway system in this country and our states are doing the best that they can on limited budgets. Wouldn't it be great if the Federal Highway Administration would give them back their own money with no strings attached so they could use it for maintenance? We could maintain what we have instead of constantly building new roads. In the long run it will save money.    

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