Beyond Detroit’s auto show


This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit offers more evidence that the government’s decision to save Chrysler and General Motors five years ago was the right thing to do.

Despite bitter cold, attendance at this year’s show, which runs through Sunday, was ahead of last year’s. The crowds ogling the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Ford’s redesigned F-150 pickup are ample proof that the Detroit Three are alive and well.

But nobody can say the same for Michigan’s roads — or the irresponsibility of the politicians who refuse to fix them. This week, The Road Information Program (TRIP), a nonprofit transportation research group, released a study that concluded the state’s atrocious roads cost Michigan residents a staggering $7.7 billion a year in car repairs, wasted fuel, and lost time. This figure will only get higher, if something isn’t done soon.

To his credit, Gov. Rick Snyder gets this. Last year, he asked the Legislature for $1.2 billion a year for a decade to fix the state’s roads. That money would largely have come from a sensible increase in the state’s gasoline tax.

His fellow Republicans in the Legislature refused to consider his proposal seriously, even after transportation experts told them the price would be twice as high in a decade. The discouraged governor barely mentioned roads in his State of the State speech last week.

The conventional wisdom is that no tax increase can get through a GOP-controlled Legislature in an election year. In this case, lawmakers — and voters — need to understand that doing nothing will cost residents far more in the not-very- long run and will harm economic development and job creation.

Businesses don’t want to relocate where roads are potholed nightmares and bridges are structurally deficient. If Michigan lawmakers refuse to act, the state’s voters ought to consider Ronald Reagan’s famous test for judging elected officials: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Michigan motorists are not likely to answer in a way incumbents would like.