Federal Highway Administration match money not approved

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County had to put up $3 million in match funding to get $15 million from the Federal Highway Administration to repair roads and bridges in the county. Unless the state pitches in, the county will have to defer maintenance on other roads to afford making Paradise Road, (above) and others severely damaged in the flood, passable at all.

Among the many bills that the state legislature passed in the last month was a special appropriations bill that included money for several projects in the Upper Peninsula, but did not include Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) match money that cities and road commissioners had been pushing for.

“We’ll keep working on it,” Houghton city manager Eric Waara said.

To get the $3 million in FHWA money, the city had to put up 20 percent, or $600,000, in matching funds. Houghton County had to put up $3 million in order to secure $15 million in FHWA funds. Both Waara and Houghton County Road Commission engineer Kevin Harju credit Rep. Scott Dianda and Sen. Tom Casperson for working together to try and get the money for the region.

“It just fell short,” Harju said.

That has left the road commission wondering how they will fund an extra $3 million, when their distribution from the Michigan Transportation Fund for road and bridge maintenance in the county is just over $5 million a year.

“Currently, we took out a SIB (State Infrastructure Bank) loan,” Harju said.

But if the match money does not come from the state soon, the county will have to begin deferring planned maintenance projects and equipment updates to keep roads passable while they pay back the loan.

“It would be devastating for us,” Harju said. “We’ll have to keep working with the legislature.”

The city of Houghton has a smaller sum to finance, but if the money from the state does not come through, Waara said it would still mean less work on city streets.

“It may require a shifting of resources,” Waara said.

He is also concerned that there may be latent damage to streets that will not be revealed until the spring thaw. It could mean more damages that were not included in FEMA estimates and funding.

Waara and Harju are not sure if the new legislature taking their seats in January will be more likely to provide match funding or not, but they both said they intend to make it a priority for 2019.