Our Legislative Priorities

Members of the County Road Association use a longstanding grass-roots process to identify legislative areas of concern. The following priorities reflect the needs and concerns of county road commissions and county road departments across Michigan.

 

Federal Road Funding


Alternate or emergency routes
CRA supports efforts to seek additional federal funds outside of the Act 51-mandated 25 percent for local jurisdictions, for use by eligible county road agencies that have state-designated alternate or emergency routes to the state trunkline system or the national highway system as these roads must be maintained at a higher standard.

Local match
When the federal highway bill (Fix America Surface Transportation Act, FAST Act) expires in 2020, Congress will again face a Highway Trust Fund that is unable to meet obligations; CRA urges Congress to find a long-term solution to ensure the fund remains solvent. CRA also supports legislation that eliminates the requirement for a local match of federal funds.

Revenue aligned budget authority
CRA opposes any proposal to use additional unanticipated revenues from the Highway Trust Fund outside the FAST Act formula.

Local Agency Bridge Program
CRA supports investment of additional portions of Michigan’s federal bridge dollars in the local agency bridge program, including amending Act 51 to deposit at least 25 percent of all federal bridge funds into the Local Agency Bridge Program Fund for county, city and village bridges.

Noncompetitive bidding when using federal funds
CRA supports increasing the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) $100,000-per-project threshold, as long as the local agency demonstrates work can be performed using 6 percent less federal dollars than if the work was performed through competitive bidding.


State Road Funding


1 percent nonmotorized requirement
With limited Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) dollars for roads, the 1 percent set-aside for nonmotorized transportation required by Act 51 is not the best use of this resource. While CRA supports the expenditure on nonmotorized transportation, CRA believes the Legislature should allow this to be met with sources other than MTF dollars or some type of capping – reserving MTF for roads.

Act 51 – 20 percent construction, winter operations
As road funding increases, county road agencies are challenged to spend 20 percent of MTF allocations on construction and winter operations, particularly as construction is defined by Act 51. CRA supports research on the 20 percent requirement or definition of terms to allow road agencies to meet the needs of their communities.

Act 51 – 90 percent preservation requirement
The mandate that county road agencies spend 90 percent of MTF dollars on road preservation has become too restrictive. County road agencies need the ability to prioritize and invest in capital improvements.

Act 51 – Alternatives for reduction of unfunded liabilities
Many county road agency budgets have unfunded pension liabilities due to a variety of financial market conditions. Yet county road commissions do not have the ability to bond as do other local units of government. CRA supports the option of road commissions to bond to pay off unfunded liabilities.

Act 51 – Distribution formula
CRA believes the documented imbalance between road conditions on the state system (good-fair) and the local system (poor-fair) is a direct result of the historic disproportionate distribution of funding. Several nontraditional funding sources for state roads have essentially changed the funding distribution without changing the Act 51 formula. Until a statewide needs study is completed, CRA believes the Act 51 formula should be adjusted, rather than rewritten, to better address the conditions of the entire statewide system.

Act 51 – Needs study
Act 51 provides for distribution of fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees collected in Michigan. After deductions of one cent of the 1997 gas tax increase for bridges, $50 million for state debt service and deductions for other state agencies, public transit, economic development, rail grade crossings, local bridge programs and other miscellaneous deductions, the balance is distributed by formula: 39.1 percent to MDOT, 39.1 percent to counties, and 21.8 percent to cities and villages. CRA supports legislative action to conduct a comprehensive, independent needs study of Michigan’s transportation infrastructure.

Alternative future road funding
CRA supports a study of alternatives to fuel taxes, road funding and legislation that collects revenue in an equitable manner across all road user groups.

Legislatively-appropriated road funds
Recognizing the Michigan Legislature increased the vehicle registration fees and gas tax rate to 26 cents beginning January 1, 2017, half of the $1.2 billion described in the 2015 transportation package will come from income tax revenue to be appropriated annually by the Legislature and deposited into the MTF for the three road groups. The ability of Michigan’s county road agencies to increase road repairs, maintenance and construction is at risk if these dollars are not appropriated in any given year. CRA supports legislation to convert this legislatively-appropriated road revenue to a long-term restricted or constitutional revenue source.

Rural Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds administration
Administration of Rural STP funds have become increasingly burdensome for most rural counties, requiring over 500 agencies in Michigan to expend significant resources to administer simple resurfacing or small-scale projects. CRA supports efforts to work with MDOT to simplify the bureaucratic processes and local government resources needed to spend available funds.


Local Government


Township matching program
Recognizing that townships contribute over $186 million annually in matching funds for road and bridge projects, CRA supports townships’ input on mutually funded county projects that follow asset management concepts.


Operations


Government Tort Liability Act, County Road Law clarifications
A 2016 Court of Appeals ruling has upset two decades of case law regarding the precedence of the Government Tort Liability Act and the County Road Law, which have differing requirements for county road agencies that must defend an injury on the roadway. CRA supports amending current laws to create consistency and clarity in the specificity and timeframe for reporting accidents.

Haul route permits
CRA supports legislation allowing county road agencies to issue permits and require bonds, deposits, fees or other agreements to recover costs or repair damage to public roads resulting from intensive, repetitive trucking.

Highway liability
CRA supports legislation to reduce county road agency liability by statutorily limiting the definition of the improved portion of the highway to the physical structure of the traveled portion of the roadbed actually designed for public vehicular travel.

Implements of husbandry
CRA recognizes the importance of farming in Michigan, although modern equipment and methods are damaging many county roads. CRA supports a study to review the existing Implements of Husbandry portion of the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Lengthen installment loan period
County road agencies have a backlog of fiscal needs across all operational areas including facility improvements. To spread out costs for facility construction and/or improvements, CRA supports amendments to the law that lengthen installment loan periods from 15 to 30 years for road commissions.

MISS DIG exemption
CRA supports legislation to exempt county road agencies from Act 174 of 2013. This is consistent with the exemption of MDOT or the marking of a county or intercounty drain by drain commissioners or drainage boards.

No-Fault exclusion from personal protection benefits
Michigan’s insurance laws can require insurers of road agency vehicles involved in a collision with a non-occupant motor vehicle (e.g. snowmobile operator, pedestrian) to pay the non-occupant’s personal protection benefits, even if he/she was driving drunk or committing another misdemeanor or felony. This is an injustice to the county road agency. CRA supports legislation excluding these benefits for non-occupants committing such violations at the time of the collision.

Overweight/oversize permits
CRA opposes any legislation to exempt vehicles from meeting legal weight limits on county roads.

Seasonal roads
CRA supports legislation to require real property transfers to disclose that the property is located on a seasonal road, and that this road will not be maintained November through April.

State highway road closures
CRA supports multi-agency collaboration on road closures and detours, including federal funding for detours and improvements, so as to best serve the public and avoid unexpected local road deterioration.


Natural Resources


Large dead animals on roadways
CRA supports legislation addressing “dead animals” with consideration to assigning the responsibility to the MDNR. The state should provide an ecological disposal system in each county. Local agencies choosing to pick up animals from roadways should be reimbursed from funds other than dedicated transportation revenues.

Minerals on state-owned land
CRA supports legislation to exempt road authorities from paying royalties for materials to be used for road work that are mined from state, county or privately-owned pits with state-owned mineral rights.

Off-road vehicles (ORV) in public road rights-of-way
CRA supports legislation that would grant county road agencies authority to approve or deny any section of roadway proposed for ORV traffic, based on analysis of traffic safety criteria. CRA recommends 25 percent of ORV fees be distributed to county road agencies that have roads open to ORV use, based on actual miles.

Snowmobile crossings
CRA supports creation of an interagency task force to identify sources for funding and repairing damaged highway crossings, identify all trail crossings through a statewide permit process, and that funding made available for trail/roadway crossings be shared by county road agencies and MDOT.


Environmental


Permitting – Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
CRA supports meeting with MDEQ to develop a new memorandum of understanding regarding treatment of wetlands, including development of a training program on wetland handling, and additional exemptions.

Wetland banking
CRA supports good environmental practices; however, current restrictions on the use of wetland sites make it difficult to fully utilize the opportunities wetland mitigation offers. CRA supports revision of the state and federal wetland mitigation practices to allow the most efficient use of road funding.


State Government


State construction and maintenance equipment surplus to locals
CRA supports legislation directing all state agencies to give local agencies first-purchase rights to used state equipment, which have already been paid for by taxpayers. If no local agency submits a bid, the item(s) shall be advertised to the general public.


Economic Development


Land development
CRA supports legislation allowing each county road agency to review all new development having access to county roads; legislation requiring townships and developers of real estate adjacent to county roads to provide a dedicated right-of-way; and supports state and local efforts to develop effective access management plans for roadways throughout the state.

Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Program
CRA supports continuation and increased appropriation for TEDF, expanding eligible projects in Category A to include funding for any road improvements that expand Michigan’s Gross Domestic Product. CRA opposes diversions from TEDF.