Michigan road construction is funded by a patchwork of federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars. Funds are raised through the federal fuel tax, state fuel tax, license and registration fees. In some areas of the state, like Washtenaw County, a small portion of property taxes, collected through a millage, also helps fund roads. Click here to learn how this money is distributed.

Historically, Michiganders have underinvested in the maintenance and construction of roads and bridges. Between 1997 and 2015, there were no increases in state road funding, WCRC’s primary source of revenue. When coupled with impacts of the economic recession, road agencies across the state were forced to cut back services and many roads fell into even poorer condition.

Over the past 5 years, the funding situation has started to improve but it will take years for Michigan to work itself out of the hole dug by underinvestment.

How does WCRC fund road improvements?

WCRC typically draws from five main funding sources which are described in greater detail below. There are many more sources of funding available under limited circumstances. Certain types of funding can only be spent on specific road or bridge projects, and unpredictable events (such as bad winters) can use up funding that could have been spent on summer road maintenance and construction. Click here to read WCRC’s latest budget.

The Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF)

WCRC’s largest source of revenue comes from the state, primarily from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. The revenue generated from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees is placed into the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) and the funds are distributed by formula to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), counties/county road commissions, cities, and villages. WCRC received approximately $32.25 million in MTF funds in 2021.

Federal Funding and Grants

Another source of funding is federal transportation funding and grants. WCRC must apply for grants with a certain project in mind. There are different grants for specific types of projects, these grants are typically federal funds, administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Examples include bridge replacements, congestion mitigation, guardrail and intersection safety. Click here to see a summary of the grants that WCRC has applied for the current and future construction seasons.

County Millages

In August 2020, Washtenaw County voters renewed the County-wide Four-Year Roads and Non-motorized Millage. Funds collected through this .5 mill tax are collected each year and applied directly to road and non-motorized projects the following construction season. WCRC receives approximately $4 million per year from this millage. Click here to learn more about county-wide millages.

Contributions from Townships

While state and federal funds provide a majority of WCRC’s revenue, these funds generally go towards the improvement of primary roads, not local roads. (Click here to see certification maps showing primary roads and local roads).

Local roads makeup 64% of WCRC’s road network (over 1,000 miles), including most subdivision roads. The amount of state funding allocated towards local roads is often only enough to fund winter maintenance and pothole patching. By law, any improvements beyond this routine maintenance, such as resurfacing or ditching, on local roads must be matched by a source other than WCRC, typically a township. Annually, WCRC offers each township matching funds through the Local Road Matching Program to promote partnership and encourage investment in local roads. Historically, townships invest $5-7 million annually in the road network. Click here to learn more about the township’s role in road funding.

Special Assessment Districts (S.A.D.)

Another tool to fund local road improvements are Special Assessment Districts (SAD.). An SAD. is a designated area where a majority of property owners agree to allow a government agency to levy a special property tax to improve a public road. If approved, WCRC or the local municipality will front the cost of the road improvement and property owners agree to pay the cost over a period of years. Click here to learn more about SADs.

State Trunkline Maintenance Contract

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) hires WCRC to maintain state highways within the county. State highways are routes designated with an I, M, or a US, such as I-94, M-14, and US 23. MDOT reimburses the WCRC for the cost of maintenance on these routes.

I pay property tax! Why is it not enough to fix our roads?

Many residents believe that their property taxes fund a majority of road work, but that is not true. The property tax you pay is primarily used for local and county governmental units and schools.

The majority of WCRC’s budget is funded by the State of Michigan via the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), which includes revenue from gas tax and vehicle registration fees. While the county and some townships have imposed small property taxes (millages) or use general funds to improve roads, a majority of WCRC’s revenue comes from the MTF.

What can I do to help get my road resurfaced?

Unfortunately, this question usually comes down to funding availability. Because the needs of our road system far outweigh the funding available each year, there is no petition process or “list” to get added to for resurfacing. On the primary road system, WCRC makes road improvements decisions using the principals of Asset Management. Click here to read WCRC’s 2021-2023 Transportation Asset Management Plan.

On the local road system, any improvement beyond routine maintenance (such as a bridge replacement, road resurfacing, ditching and forestry) by law, must be funded, at least in part, by a source other than WCRC, typically a township. Residents are encouraged to reach out to their township officials and WCRC to share their concerns on local roads. Click here to read the local road report created for each township every winter.

Thanks to improvements in road funding at the state and local level, WCRC has been able to make a lot of progress, especially on the primary road system. Click here to check out the Current Projects Map to see if improvements are planned for your road this year.

My neighbors and I are interested in funding improvements our neighborhood. Where can I learn more?

Special Assessment Districts (SADs) are a designated area where a majority of property owners agree to allow a government agency to levy a property tax in exchange for a specific service. In the case of the Washtenaw County Road Commission, the specific service is the improvement of public roads.

Click here to visit the Special Assessment Districts (SAD) page to learn more about how to fund improvements in your neighborhood or subdivision.

Current Projects

Click to learn more about the road improvements planned for this construction season.

Road Millages

Click to learn more about Washtenaw County’s road & non-motorized path millages.